Björk – Utopia
No one else makes music like Björk, and she’s making sure it stays that way with her ninth studio album. It’s another push out into the unknown.
The first track ‘Arisen My Senses’ smacks us with an explosive, dizzying array of harps, multilayered vocals and enormous, violent, crashing beats.
‘Blissing Me’ and ‘The Gate’ are more refined, though you couldn’t accuse them of being laidback. There’s a consistent kind of urgency and tension through all Björk’s work; some find it confronting, some find it oddly relaxing, but it’s all over this album once again.
Musically, Björk and collaborator Arca throw everything at this record. The title track introduces a cornucopia of woodwind, the almost ten-minute-long ‘Body Memory’ employs a stunning gothic choir, ‘Sue Me’ is packed with terrifying, oddly warped vocal samples.
Throughout, Björk’s trademark voice, that immediately identifiable voice that sounds like no one else, spins tales of love and the loss of it. Faith and the loss of it. Rejection, legal battles, the past, the future, the present and holding onto hope. And that’s barely scratching the surface. Ther’es a lot to process here.
On first listen, it’s hard to figure out whether any of these songs will break out and become fan favourites, or whether they’ll forever best be enjoyed in the context of this dense, lengthy work.
Any semblance of traditional pop song structure has been well and truly done away with here in favour of lengthy journeys through wondrous soundscapes that are affecting in the moment, but difficult to recall once they’ve passed. Perhaps that’s the point – it’s a journey to be lived in the moment, not necessarily recalled later.
If you’re a Björk fan, then you won’t find anything challenging about this record. Rather, you’ll relish in her exciting new sonic explorations. If you’re not a Björk fan, you probably stopped listening to her long ago and I don’t recommend you come back now. The thought of her venturing seemingly without much direction for 71 minutes is not going to make you happy.
Is it a masterpiece, or is it too freeform to truly connect? Like all Björk’s work, we are going to need some time to digest it properly. But, on first impression, Utopia is as ambitious, beautiful and emotionally affecting as we could have hoped.