Bjork’s magical ninth mixes up female flute choirs and sounds of the natural world
The last material we heard from Björk was a bit of downer, wasn’t it? 2015’s ‘Vulnicura’ was a sweeping, majestic break-up album that saw her creating a raw, emotive narrative within her otherworldly soundscapes. It was incredible, but damn it was gloomy. Happily, the febrile ‘Utopia’ sees her on more upbeat – but no less creative – form, coming on like new age titan Enya if she signed to Hyperdub, home of pioneering dubstepper Burial.
Earlier this year Björk smirkingly described her ninth record as her “Tinder album”, dealing with the process of falling in love again after experiencing monumental heartbreak. This is most evident on the twinkling harp-swathed ‘Blissing Me’, where she dreamily sings of “two music nerds, obsessing” and “sending each other MP3s, falling in love to a song”. In keeping with the ‘Utopia’ of its title, Björk has created a paradise-like world here, with birdsong dotted throughout the album, transporting the listener to a magical sonic rainforest, with tracks like ‘Saint’ having more in common with a David Attenborough nature documentary soundtrack than a pop song. Most evocative of all though, is the sound produced by a 12-piece Icelandic female flute orchestra, the lushness of which lifts every track with a lightness that is at once hopeful but haunting.
‘Sue Me’ gets more murky however, as crunchy electronics and scattershot beats gallop under her cooing lyrics about the “sins of the father”, likely a reference to her ex – the artist Matthew Barney – suing for custody of their daughter after their split. ‘Utopia’ is where art, real life and deep experimentation intersects, and it’s utterly compelling.