Biophilia (album)

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Biophilia
Studio album by Björk
Released 5 October 2011 (2011-10-05)
Recorded 2008–11
Genre
Length 49:34
Label
Producer
Björk chronology
Mount Wittenberg Orca
(2010)
Biophilia
(2011)
Bastards
(2012)
Singles from Biophilia
  1. "Crystalline"
    Released: 28 June 2011
  2. "Cosmogony"
    Released: 19 July 2011
  3. "Virus"
    Released: 8 August 2011
  4. "Moon"
    Released: 6 September 2011

Biophilia is the eighth studio album by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. It was first released on October 5, 2011, by One Little Indian Records and distributed by Nonesuch Records in North America and by Universal Music Group for the rest of the world. The album, composed during the 2008–11 Icelandic financial crisis, is considered a concept album, with references to the linking points between nature, music and technology. The album was announced as a multimedia project, being released alongside a series of application softwares that linked the themes of the songs, which deal with nature, to musicology concepts. Drawing inspiration from the singer's childhood dream to open a music school, the album and its accompanying tour were followed by a series of educational workshops in four continents.

An electronica album in its pure definition, Biophilia features influences of avant-garde music, alternative dance and experimental music in most of its tracks. The album, billed as the first "app album", received critical acclaim for the scope of the whole project, moreover appreciating the composition and the blending of electronic and acoustic instruments. Hence, it was included in different year-end lists as one of the best albums of 2011. Despite the warm critical reception, Biophilia became the first studio album of Björk's career (barring her eponymous 1977 album, considered juvenilia) to not peak in the top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. Nevertheless, the album debuted in the top 40 of every single worldwide chart it entered, topping the chart in Taiwan and peaking in the top 5 of Iceland, France and Denmark. Biophilia garnered, among others, two nominations at the 55th Grammy Awards in 2013, winning in the Best Recording Package category. In 2014, it was announced that Biophilia would become the first downloadable app to be included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Four singles were issued before the release of the album. "Crystalline", co-produced with English dubstep duo 16bit, was released as the lead single on June 28, 2011, and was accompanied by a music video directed by longtime collaborator Michel Gondry. "Cosmogony", "Virus" and "Moon" were released in the following months, and out of these, Björk produced only the music video for "Moon". The singer promoted the album with the Biophilia Tour, which debuted at the Manchester International Festival in June 2011, coming to an end in September 2013. Further promotion came from the release of two remixes series in 2011 and 2012, which were collected in the remix album Bastards (2012), along with the production of two music videos for two album tracks, "Hollow" and "Mutual Core". The recording of the album was chronicled in the 2013 documentary When Björk Met Attenborough, while the tour was documented by the concert film Björk: Biophilia Live, which premiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.

Background[edit]

"I was off all my record deals, [...] so I felt I was off the grid, [...] so in that sense it was kind of crossroads project for me. On another level, at the end of the last project I lost my voice, [I] had a vocal nodule, [...] I didn't even know if I could sing again, so I had to redefine different techniques. And then, all these situation were happening in Iceland, the Bank crush, so I got really involved in environmental stuff [there]. So, on so many different levels, there was this message that all the old systems don't work anymore, you gotta clear your table and start from scratch."

—Björk on the background of Biophilia.[1]

In 2007, Björk released her seventh studio album, titled Volta, which comprised collaborations with regional musicians like Toumani Diabaté and Min Xiaofen, along with producers such as Timbaland and Danja. The album was followed by the 18-months Volta Tour, a production which featured electronic musical instruments like the ReacTable, the Tenori-on and the Lemur, which were all played by Canadian music producer Damian Taylor, who previously collaborated with Björk as a sound engineer on Selmasongs (2000) and Vespertine (2001). Both the tour and the album were well received by critics and public alike, with Volta becoming Björk's highest charting album on the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at number 9. During the second leg of the tour in 2008, Björk, along with fellow Icelandic band Sigur Rós, organised a free concert, billed as the Náttúra concert, to raise awareness on the exploiting of Iceland natural resources through Aluminium melting plants.[2] The special concert was the largest live event held in Iceland, with more than 30.000 people showing up, nearly 10% of the total population.[3]

Following the end of the tour in August 2008, the singer retreated to her home in Reykjavík to rest. There, she become interested in Iceland political situation, as the nation was undergoing a serious financial crisis. She founded the organisation "Náttúra", which aimed to promote Icelandic nature and grassroots industries. The singer also released a single to promote the organisation. The song, aptly called "Náttúra", was released on October 20, 2008. A week later, Björk wrote an article for The Times discussing the state of the Icelandic economy and her thoughts on the proposed use of natural resources to get the country out of debt. She, in collaboration with Audur Capital, set up a venture capital fund titled "Björk" to support the creation of sustainable industries in Iceland.[4] She also wrote the foreword to the English translation of the Icelandic bestseller by Andri Snær Magnason titled Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation. Björk got involved once again in the Icelandic political situation when she got into an altercation with the renewable power company Magma Energy. In 2010, the company acquired 98.5% of shares in the Icelandic geothermal power company HS Orka.[5] This deal created an opposition in Iceland.

A Geothermal boiler in Reykjahlíð, Iceland. While composing Biophilia, Björk engaged herself in a series of political activities to preserve Iceland's natural resources.

On May 21, 2010 Björk wrote an open letter in the newspaper Reykjavík Grapevine, calling on the Icelandic government to "do everything in its power to revoke the contracts with Magma Energy".[6] The deal was ultimately approved by the Icelandic Government,[7] but the singer subscribed a petition asking the government to consider revoking the takeover.[8] She promoted the petition against Magma Energy by giving a press conference along with a performance at the Nordic House in Reykjavík on July 19, 2010. On June 30, 2010, Björk and Dirty Projectors released a joint EP called Mount Wittenberg Orca only as a digital download album, which proceeds were destined to the creation of marine protected areas.[8] On August 30, 2010, she received from the hands of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden the Polar Music Prize.[9] She also penned a song with Sjón as the title theme for the 2010 movie Moomins and the Comet Chase.[10][11] The song, titled "The Comet Song" was released as a charity single on September 6, 2010 and all the benefits were donated to the victims of the 2010 Pakistan floods.[12][13]

Björk continued to work on her next project until the end of the year, when she first publicly confirmed that she was working on a new album.[14] In an interview published on Fréttablaðið the singer stated that the project was midway through the completion and that she hoped to go on tour before the end of 2011.[15] On January 6, 2011, she started a three-day public karaoke marathon to protest against the Magma Energy deal and the accompanying petition was ultimately signed by 47,000 people.[16] Following that, the petition was welcomed by Iceland prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.[17] The app Solar System, made by Touch Press, came out in January 2011, and featured a new instrumental track by Björk as an introduction. The demo track was confirmed to be a part of the upcoming Biophilia project.[18] The details of the project were announced when the first Biophilia live show was announced to take place at the Manchester International Festival in June 2011. Biophilia was stated to encompass music, apps, internet, installations and live shows.[19]

Composition[edit]

A 28-second audio sample of the album's lead single, "Crystalline".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Björk had revealed that Biophilia was partly composed on a tablet computer;[20] she has said that because she does not play conventional instruments like the piano or the guitar, this way of composing appeals to her.[21]

"Crystalline", the first single released, is a mostly electronic song, featuring a continuous "gameleste" base and electronic beats and rhythm. After the bridge, the song features a gameleste solo, and ends with an uproarious breakcore section which uses the Amen break.

"Special" instruments were created for the album. The "Gravity Harps", which Björk conceived for the album, are mostly present throughout "Solstice".

New musical instruments were specially developed for the album, and specially for the shows at the Manchester International Festival that took place in mid-2011 to introduce the album. The Tesla coil was used as a musical instrument on the song "Thunderbolt". A "gameleste", a mixture between a gamelan and a celesta which was programmed in order to be played remotely by a tablet computer, was also used in "Crystalline" and "Virus". A group of pendulums were put together, creating patterns with their moves, transmitting the movements of the Earth to the sound of a harp, making the song "Solstice".

For the music, Björk related the phenomenon the song describes to a musical structure or resource. For example; the song "Moon" has different musical cycles that repeat throughout the song;[22] the song "Thunderbolt" contains arpeggios, inspired by the time between when lightning is seen and thunder is heard;[23] and in "Solstice", the counterpoint makes reference to the movement of planets and the Earth's rotation, and the pendulums used on the song make tribute to the Foucault pendulum.[24]

The Tesla coil is used as a musical instrument on the song "Thunderbolt".

The lyrics also present metaphors to those phenomena. "Dark Matter" features heavy gibberish since the dark matter phenomena are directly "unexplainable".[25] "Virus" describes "fatal relationships" such as the relationship between a virus and a cell,[26] as Björk explained: "It's like I have this new neighbour that I have to sort of learn to live with"; "Solstice" presents the relation between the gravity effect on celestial bodies, comparing the solar system to a Christmas tree.[24] and in "Hollow", Björk took inspiration from her "ancestors and DNA, that the grounds open below you and you can feel your mother and her mother, and her mother, and her mother, and her mother 30,000 years back. So suddenly you're this kinda tunnel, or trunk of DNA… All these ghosts come up so it ended up being a Halloween song and quite gothic in a way… It's like being part of this everlasting necklace when you're just a bead on a chain and you sort of want to belong and be a part of it and it's just like a miracle."

Björk also breaks the typical 4/4 time signature structure for many of the songs on Biophilia. For example, "Solstice" features 7/4 and 6/4 time signatures;[24] "Hollow", "Crystalline" and "Moon", all feature a 17/8 time signature; "Mutual Core", 5/4 time signature and "Virus", 3/4 time signature. In addition, "Dark Matter" is in free-time, it lacks a regular pulse.[27]

Release and artwork[edit]

When the first details about Biophilia emerged, the album was expected to be released around the beginning of the residency at the Manchester International Festival in June.[28] Eventually, the album was confirmed for a Fall 2011 release.[29] The album was originally announced for a September 27, 2011 release in the United States.[30] Pre-order for the album started on July 19, 2011.[31] Along with the standard edition album, who would be available in physical and digital formats, three additional editions were announced. The first, the deluxe edition, available in digipak format in its physical form, would contain three additional tracks.[32][33] The second special edition, billed the Manual edition, was announced to include the standard edition of Biophilia and a bonus disc, both contained in a "48-page, full-color, hardbound, cloth-covered, and thread-sewn book, tipped on lenticular panel to the front cover, with foil-blocked spine and back cover".[30] The last edition, called the Ultimate Art Edition, included the Manual Edition of Biophilia in a wooden box, which was filled with 10 chromed tuning forks, each one adjusted to the tone of a Biophilia track, covering a complete octave in a non-conventional scale.[34][35] Differently from the standard and deluxe edition of the album, those two latter editions were available to pre-order until August 12, 2011.[30] Moreover, the Ultimate Art edition was limited to only 200 copies, each one numbered and made to order.[36] The singer was criticized for the cost of this latter edition, which was around 500 pounds.[37] Björk unveiled the track listing for Biophilia on August 19, 2011.[33] It was later confirmed that the second disc included in the Manual edition would include a live recording of the Biophilia show in Manchester.[38][39]

The "musical compass" symbol designed by M/M Paris, which features on the cover of every Biophilia-related releases and in the app.

On May 10, 2011, Björk relaunched her official website.[40] Using a HTML5 constellation designed by M/M Paris, the website shifts around as the visitor moves the cursor.[41] In June 2011, the singer started posting photos of different minerals and crystals on her Facebook official page. One of those images, which was accompanied by the comment "...introducing" was used as a placeholder cover art for the pre-order of the album and mistaken for the official album cover.[30][42] Eventually, Björk unveiled the cover for the album on August 17, 2011.[43][44] The cover artwork, designed by M/M Paris and shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, features Björk, wearing a Iris van Herpen haute couture brown and golden dress, taken from the designer's Synesthesia 2010 collection, along with a "harp-belt" made by Threeasfour, and a red wig, resembling a nebula, created by British hairstylist Eugene Souleiman, holding an orange crystal while being surrounded by the Biophilia constellation which appears in the app.[45][46][47] According to the singer, she was inspired by the protagonist of British-Mexican surrealist novelist Leonora Carrington's book The Hearing Trumpet to create the persona of a "frustrated music teacher" which always has her "head in the clouds" to explain her concepts to people around her, an attitude she thought she had while explaining her idea for Biophilia to her collaborators, and that's why she decided to wear wigs throughout the whole Biophilia era and promotion.[48]

On September 1, 2011, the singer announced a postponement of the album's release date, pushing it back two weeks after the former date.[49] This was because of Björk's dissatisfaction with the final mastering of the album.[50] Björk explained in a statement published on her Facebook page that she felt the album version needed more depth than the version featured on the app.[51] The singer called long-time collaborator Leila Arab to work on the tracks, and in turn Arab recommended her mastering engineer Mandy Parnell and drum & bass artist Current Value.[51] Parnell flew to Reykjavík to work on the record in Addi 800's mastering studio, where she spent different hours with Björk discussing the changes to made on the album.[50] At the end, Parnell remastered all of Biophilia songs, while Arab added beats and sonic sculpting to "Crystalline", "Thunderbolt", "Dark Matter" and "Virus".[50][52] Current Value added beats to "Sacrifice", which was originally played completely acoustic during the Manchester residency.[52] Björk also decided to use a live recording of "Solstice" instead of the studio version.[50][53] Three weeks before the supposed release, the album was leaked on the internet.[54] Björk called the leak "frustrating but predictable".[55] NPR officially offered a streaming of the album on October 5, 2011,[56] the same day in which it was first officially released in Japan.[57] Biophilia was worldwide released in the following days, most notably on October 10 in the United Kingdom[58] and on October 11 in the United States.[59]

App[edit]

Welcome to Biophilia: The love for nature in all her manifestations. From the tiniest organism, to the greatest red giant floating in the farthest realm of the universe. With Biophilia comes a restless curiosity, an urge to investigate and discover the elusive places where we meet nature. Where she plays on our senses with colours and forms, perfumes and smells, the taste and touch of salty wind on the tongue. But much of nature is hidden from us, that we can neither see, nor touch, like the one phenomena that can be said to move us more then any other in our daily lives: Sound. Sound harnessed by human beings, delivered with generosity and emotion is what we call music, and just as we use music to express parts of us that would otherwise be hidden, so too can we use technology to make visible much of nature invisible world. In Biophilia, you will experience how the three come together: Nature, music, technology. Listen, learn, and create. Travel the cosmos lying at your finger-tips, touch the galaxies, and move through their three dimensions. Discover the different song apps as they are introduced into the constellations and explore their extra features. And should you feel lost in space you can always use the musical compass icon to take you home. Now, forget the size of the human body. Remember, that you're a gateway between the universal and the microscopic. The unseen forces that stir the depths of your innermost being and nature who embraces you and all there is. We are on the brink of a revolution that will reunite humans with nature through new technological innovations. Until we get there: prepare, explore, Biophilia.

— The introduction to the Biophilia app, narrated by David Attenborough.[60]

Description[edit]

Biophilia
Biophilia app opening screen.png
App opening screen
Developer(s) Second Wind Apps
Publisher(s) One Little Indian
Well Hart
Producer(s) Scott Snibbe Studios
Designer(s) M/M Paris
Artist(s) Björk
Platform(s) iOS
Android
Release date(s) iOS
July 19, 2011[61]
Android
July 17, 2013[62]
Genre(s) Music
Distribution Digital distribution

The Biophilia app consists of a series of 10 separate apps, one for each song, all included in a "mother app" which contains a menu made up by a three-dimensional constellation which the user can shift, zoom and orbit by swiping his fingers to open the apps.[63] The first time the app is opened, an introduction by David Attenborough describes the application and the project itself.[64] This introduction was also used to open the Biophilia Tour residency concerts. On the up left corner, the "musical compass" icon serves as a home button to return to the menu.[64] If the icon is touched when the user is already facing the menu, a list of the application, including two pages for "how to navigate" and "credits", would appear.[63] Every app is named after the corresponding song and includes different options, along with a description of the song and application.[65] This short description link to an essay written for each song by Nikki Debben. The first option in the apps is to play the app, the second is the score, in which the user can look at the composition of the song, use it as a karaoke machine as the score has got no vocals in it, or turn off the music and use it as sheet music.[64] The animation option links to an animation of the song created by Stephen Malinowski, in which different forms of different colors, linked to a specific instrument in the song, including Björk's voice, zoom in or out depending on whether they starts or fade.[64][66] The fourth option shows the lyrics of the song, which are not available in the "Dark Matter" app as it is sung in gibberish and thus has no lyrics at all.[64][67] The last option is to scroll the credits, which name the people who have worked in the app. The "mother app", "Cosmogony", is the constellation that includes all the other applications, and thus contains no particular game or instrument to play.[63][65] Nevertheless, it contains two other options, which are the possibility to replay the intro narrated by Attenborough and to play the song in its entirety.[63] When the user plays the song, whether they would click on the compass icon they would return to the main menu immediately. Tapping in an empty space of the constellation would also make the user return to the main screen. The apps are roughly divided into two kinds: the ones in which the user play a sort of games, and the other ones that work like a musical instrument.[68]

Gameplay[edit]

Apps frames
The "Solstice" app
The "Thunderbolt" app
The "Dark Matter" app.

The application called "Moon" works as a music sequencer, using a string of little pearls linked to a central spine topped by a moon,[69][70] the user can decide whether to play the original version of the song or to modify it by rotating the pearls to adjust the notes. Rotating the moon would instead modify the number of notes that are played in the sequence. The user can then decide to save the composition, to load one already saved beforehand, to reset the song or to play the original version.[70] Similarly to the "Moon" app, the "Solstice" application works as a instrument, in which the user can pull strings out of a central sun, create orbits around the sun and rotating planets by touching the screen and using the planets to pluck the strings like it was a harp.[69][71] The user can also change the direction and speed of the planets and create multiple layers of orbits.[71] The instrument can also be played in "tree" mode, where the system would stretch to become a tree.[71] The "Sacrifice" app features a keyboard that allows the user to type letters linked to different snippets of the song.[69][72] Both these two latter applications allow players to save or load their composition.[72] In the "Thunderbolt" app, the user can create electric sparks by tapping his fingers on a black screen, or create an arpeggio, depicted by an electrical line, by using two or more fingers at the same time, to compose arpeggios while Björk sings the song or indipendently.[69][73] The player can also adjust the fade time and the drawing lenght of the lightnings.[73]

The other apps work like more conventional video games.[68] In the app for "Virus" the user shall protect a cell from the attack of various bacteria that try to infect it, as the song plays in the background.[74] But if the player prevents the infection, the song plays in a loops, so the user must lose the game in order to make the song continue.[75] The instrument mode in the "Virus" app let the player use the Cell nucleus and the bacteria as percussion by tapping and jolting them.[69] In "Dark Matter", the actual song plays in part until it stops and the user must mimic the pattern of lighting of some orbs to continue in the song,[76] while in the instrument mode the orbs let the user play different scales.[69][76] The "Mutual Core" app features a video game in which the player arranges geological layers in the same way as an accordion[77] to play chords.[77][78] During the verses, the player tries to unite the hemispheres, because the energy keeps them apart[69] while during the chorus the app shifts to a cutaway of a planet, and the player can touch the layers of the planet's interior to open it up and touch the core.[69][77] The player may also change the resistance of the chords to increase the difficulty.[77] "Crystalline" features a video game in which the player, in the form of a crystal, travels through different tunnels, depending on where the player tilts his device, with each tunnel corresponding to a part of the song.[69] The player may decide to repeat the same part of the song endless times if he goes through the same tunnel.[79] As the crystal travels through the pipes, the player can catch other crystals scattered around, and in the end save the resulting crystalline formation.[79] The "Hollow" presents a video depiction of the body interior, starting from the blood tissue descending into showing the DNA and the replisome.[69][80] The "Hollow" instrument let the user tap different enzymes depicted in the background to play time signatures and build a drum machine.[78][80]

Release and availability[edit]

It was firstly released on July 19, 2011, when the "Cosmogony" and "Crystalline" apps were released.[61] On the same day, Björk teased the release of the app by posting a video in which the introduction by Attenborough can be heard.[60] The other app were added later, with "Virus" being added on August 9,[81] "Moon" on September 6[82] and the rest of the apps were released alongside the album on October 10, 2011. The application was originally made available only on Apple devices. Björk refused to undertake a partnerships with Apple so the company only accorded her the availability of a page on the iTunes store that would show the app and the singles extracted from the album all on the same page and Apple did not fund the project.[83][84] Scott Snibbe commented that he was not sure if the project would be ported into some other platforms.[85] Björk stated she hoped pirates would crack Biophilia into other platforms.[86] The app was effectively cracked into a virus by cyber criminals from eastern Europe, that tried to spread a malware into Android devices that would download the fake application.[87] A holiday edition of the "Solstice" app, with different sound samples and colors, was released on December 21, 2011.[88] The same special edition was offered for free during Christmas 2012.[89] On January 17, 2012, Björk updated on her YouTube channel a series of videos in which she and Snibbe explain the contents of the different apps and offer a tutorial on how they work.[90]

Björk expressed her will to transport Biophilia on other devices by using a crowdfunding initiative.[91] On January 28, 2013, Björk started a crowdfunding on Kickstarter to port the Biophilia app on Android and Windows 8 platforms.[92] The singer also released a video in which she explained the reason behind the funding and thanked for the help.[93] The crowdfunding was canceled on February 7, 2013, after only £15,370 were collected out of the £375,000 goal.[93] While this was early interpreted as a sign of failure of the initiative,[94] the singer later explained that the team had find a cheaper and faster way to transport the apps on Android thanks to a company named Apportable.[95][96] The apps were ultimately released on Android devices on July 17, 2013.[62]

Promotion[edit]

Appearances and interviews[edit]

Björk promoted Biophilia extensively by giving different interviews on music criticism websites. Most notably, she explained the concept behind the project during interviews with Stereogum,[97] Drowned in Sound,[98] Pitchfork[99] and Rolling Stone.[29] She was featured on the cover of the 200th issue of Dazed & Confused, for which she also served as a guest editor.[100] The volume featured behind the scenes and interviews with Björk's collaborators in the project, including the choir Graduale Nobili, 16bit, Scott Snibbe and Stephen Malinowski.[101] The singer was also featured on the cover of the Billboard magazine.[83] Björk also gave various radio interviews with BBC Radio 1,[102] BBC Radio 6 Music,[103] XFM,[104] The Strand,[105] CBC Radio[106] and Studio 360.[107] She restrained from giving televised interviews but she filmed an interview for Associated Press which was published on YouTube.[1] On November 22, 2011, she appeared on BBC2's show Later... with Jools Holland to perform "Crystalline", "Cosmogony" and "Thunderbolt".[108] These two latter performances were broadcast on November 25.[109] The three performances were later included in the reissue of Björk 2003 DVD Later with Jools Holland, that was released on June 18, 2012.[110] On January 31, 2012, the singer performed "Cosmogony" on Comedy Central's late-night satirical program The Colbert Report, where she also answered some questions from the show's presenter Stephen Colbert.[111] On May 22, 2012, Björk made an appearance at the New York Public Library, alongside Scott Snibbe and Curver, to announce the Biophilia educational workshops at the Library and at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, and to answers some questions.[112] On May 16, 2013, it was announced that Björk would serve as one of the speakers at the Wired 2013 Conference,[113] where the singer was interviewed by Jefferson Hack on October 18, 2013.[114] The singer also attended the premiere of Björk: Biophilia Live at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26, 2014, where she took part in a Q&A alongside the film directors Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton.[115]

Singles and videos[edit]

Björk's molecular-based headscan in the "Hollow" music video.

"Crystalline" was released as the lead single from the album.[116] The single release was preceded by two video teasers; the first, entitled "Road to Crystalline", featured Björk driving on her van through a road in Iceland while playing an excerpt of an en early version of the song, and was released on May 27, 2011.[117] The second one, released on June 13, 2011, showed the gameleste, the celesta-gamelan hybrid created for the Biophilia project.[118] The single version of the song, namely the Serban Ghenea mix, leaked onto the Internet on June 25, 2011.[119] The single was officially released on June 28, 2011.[120] The music video, directed by French director Michel Gondry, was released on YouTube on July 26, 2011.[121] After "Crystalline", three songs on were released in iTunes as singles beside the expansion app. The second single-app released was "Cosmogony" on July 19.[61] On the same day, the "mother app" and the application for "Crystalline" were released.[61] The next singles were "Virus", released on August 9,[122] and finally "Moon", on 6 September,[82] after being leaked on August 22.[123] Both accompanying apps were released on the same day.[81][82] A music video for "Moon", directed by Björk alongside M/M Paris, Inez & Vinoodh and James Merry, recorded during the photo sessions for Biophilia, was released on September 23.[124]

Even though it wasn't released as a single, a live performance of "Thunderbolt" from the Manchester International Festival was released as a music video on Spotify on November 2, 2011.[125] On March 6, 2012, a promotional music video was released for "Hollow", directed by biomedical animator Drew Berry.[126] The video, previously used in the "Hollow" app, features a three-dimensional exploration of Björk's molecules and also a molecular complex based on Björk's headscan, influenced by the works of Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.[127] A music video for "Mutual Core" was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and has been directed by Andrew Thomas Huang.[128] The video was released on November 13, 2012 on the museum's YouTube channel.[129]

Remix series[edit]

The experimental hip hop group Death Grips performing in New York. They provided two remixes for the Biophilia Remix Series which were both later included on Bastards (2012).

Leading up to the album release, Björk issued a series of remixes of "Crystalline" and "Cosmogony", titled The Crystalline Series.[130] The remixes were released on digital download, LP and in a limited CD edition.[130] The first part, which contained the two single versions of the songs by Serban Ghenea, was released on July 19, 2011, coinciding with the digital release of "Cosmogony".[131] The second part included two remixes of "Crystalline" and "Thunderbolt" by Syrian musician Omar Souleyman, alongside an original song by the musician, called "Mawal", was released on July 26.[132] This release was anticipated by a video teaser, which showed Souleyman during the recording sessions for the remix of "Crystalline". The third and fourth parts, containing remixes of the two tracks by British electronic musician and producer Matthew Herbert, were released on August 2, 2011.[133][134]

On March 6, 2012, One Little Indian announced the upcoming release of another eight-part series of remixes.[135] Billed as the Biophilia Remix Series, each part was announced to come out starting on April 16, 2012, each every two weeks after the other, on digital download, CD and LP.[136] The deluxe edition of each release consisted in a limited edition package with micro textured blue minerals papers and embossed foil lettering, designed by M/M Paris.[137][138] The first entry featured remixes of "Crystalline" and "Solstice" by Current Value.[139] The second part, released on April 30, 2012, included remixes of "Thunderbolt" and "Sacrifice" by experimental hip hop band Death Grips.[140] On the third part of the series, Hudson Mohawke remixed "Virus" and El Guincho reworked "Cosmogony"; this entry came out on May 14, 2012.[141] The fourth part once again featured remixes by Current Value, who this time remixed "Thunderbolt" and "Hollow", and was released on May 28, 2012.[142] The fifth entry was released on June 11, 2012, including a King Cannibal remix of "Thunderbolt" and a remodel of "Dark Matter" produced by Alva Noto.[143] Matthew Herbert remixed "Virus", "Mutual Core" and "Sacrifice", and his remixes were included in the sixth entry, released on June 25, 2012,[144] while the seventh part consisted of two remixes of "Mutual Core" and "Hollow" by 16bit.[145] The eight and last part of the series was delayed for unspecified reasons.[146] It was ultimately released on November 13, 2012, and included a remix of "Moon" by The Slips, and a remix of "Mutual Core" by These New Puritans.[147]

On October 8, 2012, Björk announced Bastards, a collection of remixes of Biophilia tracks which were previously included in the two series.[148] Every remix was remastered by Mandy Parnell.[149] The compilation was released on November 19, 2012.[150]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 79/100[151]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[152]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[153]
Entertainment Weekly (A−)[154]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[155]
NME 9/10[156]
Pitchfork 6.2/10[157]
PopMatters 8/10[158]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[159]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[160]
Tiny Mix Tapes 4.5/5 stars[161]

Biophilia received very positive reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 79, based on 36 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[151] Critical acclaim came from BBC Music's Mike Diver, who described the album as "mesmerizing" and "an amazing, inventive and wholly unique eighth album from an artist without peer", praising both her voice as a "controlled presence" and her composition work: "Björk has crafted sounds which are entirely hers alone".[162] Möhammad Choudhery of Consequence of Sound praised the "asteroid-bass volley" of "Mutual Core" and "apocalyptical breakbeat coda" of "Crystalline" and stated that "they blend archaic instrumentation with blistering electronica" and even if he labelled Biophilia as "hardly easy listening", he found that "it'll stand as one of the more rewarding albums of her storied career".[163] Biophilia was named "CD of the week" by The Daily Telegraph, whose writer Helen Brown described the album as "wilfully weird" yet "surprisingly accessible, hypnotic and beautiful if you give it time and concentration: the audio equivalent of looking through a microscope at crystals growing".[153] According to NME '​s Luke Turner, "[looking] past the techno wizardry, the grand designs and the brainy philosophy", Biophilia is "intimate, playful and beautiful" and "a wonderful distillation of ideas, playful and serious, intimate yet the most fantastic journey. [...] A record so particular to Björk's own artistry that no-one could ever hope to replicate it."[156] Now magazine's Kevin Ritchie praised the album as "one of Björk's best and most challenging records" and that "[i]ts accompanying iPad suite [...] isn't required to enjoy the album, which has a satisfyingly messy and unhinged quality, much like the natural wonders that inspired it".[164] Similarly, Gareth James of Clash felt that the album "sounds beautifully warm and compellingly human", and stated that "while much of the fuss around the album has centred on its innovative and hugely interactive app release, this music really doesn't need any window dressing because it's as good a collection of songs as she has put her name to in ten years".[165]

Kyle Andersen of Entertainment Weekly stated that Biophilia is "an ingenious marriage of faerie and machine. But the singer's greatest strength remains the glistening natural resource flowing from her throat".[154] For Heather Phares of Allmusic, "Biophilia is easily her most ambitious project as a whole", whose "boldest innovations are in its presentation rather than in the actual music" and "sometimes feels like a soundtrack", but further adds that "just because the music is only one part of the Biophilia experience doesn't mean it's unsatisfying". Phares eventually gave the album 4 out of 5 stars, also citing its "blend of education and emotion." [152] Daniel Paton of musicOMH viewed Biophilia as a "synthesis of Björk's work thus far", yet "it sees her continue to pursue her own radical and individual path with unshakeable conviction." He also complimented her language, "English [...] always sounds so enticing and odd when delivered in her syntax."[166] Rolling Stone '​s David Fricke compared the album to Nico's work, "[with its] organ, squishy electronics and the high sighs of a women's choir in stark fields of echo, [Biophilia is] like a haunted digital sister of Nico's 1969 album, The Marble Index".[159] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian wrote that "Biophilia never feels like hard work, however much the accompanying bumf tries to convince you it is." Despite his skepticism over interactive music and apps, he stated the quality of the music is "far less questionable".[155] PopMatters music editor Arnold Pan complimented Björk as being "innovative by nature and eager to take risks" and praised Biophilia '​s songs, despite claiming "there are some moments on Biophilia that are too atmospheric and subtle [...] especially the low profile 'Dark Matter' and the overly abstract 'Hollow', with its cold modern classical stylings".[158] A more mixed review came from Pitchfork Media's Mark Pytlik, which felt that the singer "prioritized the superficial aspects of Biophilia '​s presentation over, well, the music", further adding that "she combats the lack of any real structure or melody by over-singing, or lapsing into one of her familiar and increasingly lazy-sounding house vocal runs." He also wrote that "[a]s an innovator, she's as vibrant as ever, but as a songwriter, she sounds tired".[157] Andy Gill of The Independent gave the album a negative review, dubbing it as "hard to love" and added that "at times, it's hard not to conclude that the music and lyrics were devised totally separately, and then forced together in forms it's difficult to acknowledge as songs".[167]

2011 Year-end list entries
Publication List Rank Ref.
BBC Music Top 25 Albums of 2011 11 [168]
Clash Top 40 Albums of 2011 12 [169]
Fact 50 Best Albums of 2011 44 [170]
Gigwise Top 50 Albums of 2011 22 [171]
guardian.co.uk The Best 50 Albums of 2011 17 [172]
La Presse Top Pop-Rock 60 albums et chansons de 2011 8 [173]
Mojo Top 50 Albums of 2011 32 [174]
musicOMH Top 50 Albums of 2011 8 [175]
NME 50 Best Albums of 2011 38 [176]
Q Top 50 Albums of 2011 23 [177]
Rough Trade Top 100 Albums of the Year 59 [178]
Uncut Top 50 Albums of 2011 27 [179]

Commercial performance[edit]

Biophilia debuted at number twenty-seven on the US Billboard 200 on the issue dated 29 October 2011.[180] The album also opened at number one on the Dance/Electronic Albums, number two on the Tastemaker Albums, number five on the Alternative Albums, number eight on the Rock Albums and number nineteen on the Digital Albums.[180] It debuted at number twenty-one on the UK Albums Chart, becoming Björk's first album not to break the top ten. In Japan, the album debuted at number eighteen with first-week sales of 6,525 copies.[181] The following week it plunged down to number twenty-three, selling additional 4,412 units.[182] In Taiwan, Biophilia debuted at number nine on the G-Music Western Albums Chart for the week of 14 October 2011, sharing the rank with Joe Jonas's album Fastlife, with 1.03% sales volume; the album managed to outrank her previous album, Volta, which debuted at number fourteen on the same chart over four years before.[183] The limited edition of the album debuted at number sixteen on the Gaon International Albums Chart in South Korea, while the standard edition debuted at number twenty-two.[184] After a year of its release, the album reached number one on the G-Music Western albums chart in Taiwan, coinciding Bjork's concert on the territory.

Accolades[edit]

Björk and Biophilia received numerous nominations after the announcement of the project. The singer was nominated at the 2011 Q Awards for Greatest Act of the Last 25 Years, losing to U2.[185] At the 2011 O Music Awards she was awarded the Digital Genius honour,[186] while at the AIM Independent Music Awards she was honoured for her Oustanding Contribution to Music.[187] The singer also received a Lifetime Achievement at the 2011 Lovie Awards.[188] At the 2011 Antville Music Awards, the "Crystalline" music video was nominated for Best Art Direction.[189] Apple picked the Biophilia app as one of the top 5 music apps of 2011.[190][191]

Björk performing during the Biophilia Tour at the Cirque en Chantier in Paris, France, on 27 February 2013.

M/M Paris were awarded a Tokyo Type Directors Club Award for their work on Biophilia artwork, manual and app.[192] Biophilia was one of the twelve albums nominated for the 2011 Nordic Music Prize.[193] At the 2012 BRIT Awards, Björk received a nomination for International Female Solo Artist.[194] Björk received five nominations at the 2011 Icelandic Music Awards, being nominated for Pop, Rock, Jazz or Blues Performer of the Year and Pop, Rock, Jazz or Blues Female Singer of the Year, winning the former. Biophilia was nominated for Pop/Rock Album of the Year and "Crystalline" received a nomination in the Pop/Rock Song of the Year. The Biophilia Tour live at Harpa won the Musical Event of the Year award.[195] At the 2012 NME Awards Biophilia received a nomination in the Best Album Artwork category.[196] Björk appeared at the 2012 Webby Awards to receive the Webby Artist of the Year from the hands of Scott Snibbe, where she stated "A E I O U" in fashion of the five words-limited speeches of the ceremony.[197][198] "Crystalline" was nominated for Best Female Video at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards Japan.[199] The Biophilia Tour show at the Cumbre Tajín festival was nominated for the Alternative Performance award at the 2012 Lunas del Auditorio.[200] Björk received another two nominations at the 2012 Antville Music Awards, where the "Mutual Core" video was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects, winning the latter.[201]

At the 2013 Music Producers Guild Awards, Björk received The MPG Innovation Award, which Emma Birkett accepted on her behalf.[202] Biophilia received two nominations at the 2013 Grammy Awards, for Best Alternative Album and Best Recording Package, winning the latter.[203] The award went to the art directors, M/M Paris, and not to Björk herself.[204] The "Mutual Core" video was nominated in the Music Video of the Year category at the 2012 Icelandic Music Awards[195] and was nominated at the 2013 Webby Awards in the Online Music & Video — Music category. The video won the People's Voice Webby in that category, as voted by the people on the internet, but lose the Webby bestowed by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences to "Fjögur píanó" by the Sigur Rós.[205] The video received two nominations at the 2013 UK Music Video Awards for Best Visual Effects in a Video and Best Art Direction in a Video, winning none.[206][207] However, Andrew Thomas Huang was nominated for his work in the video as Best New Director and went on to win the award.[207]

Legacy[edit]

In 2014, The Museum of Modern Art in New York included Biophilia as the first downloadable app in its Architecture and Design Department collection.

On June 11, 2014, the Museum of Modern Art located in New York announced that the Biophilia app would have been the first downloadable app in the museum permanent collection.[208] The app inclusion was requested by Senior curator Paola Antonelli, that commented:

Björk has never ceased to experiment and surprise. The multidimensional nature of her art—in which sound and music are the spine, but never the confines, for multimedia performances that also encompass graphic and digital design, art, cinema, science, illustration, philosophy, fashion, and more—is a testament to her curiosity and desire to learn and team up with diverse experts and creators. It was just a matter of time before she would invade and conquer the territory of design. [...] With Biophilia, Björk truly innovated the way people experience music by letting them participate in performing and making the music and visuals, rather than just listening passively.[209]

Track listing[edit]

Biophilia – Standard edition
No. Title Lyrics Music Producer(s) Length
1. "Moon"   Björk
Björk 5:45
2. "Thunderbolt"  
  • Björk
  • Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir
Björk Björk 5:15
3. "Crystalline"   Björk Björk
5:08
4. "Cosmogony"   Sjón Björk Björk 5:00
5. "Dark Matter"    
Björk 3:22
6. "Hollow"   Björk Björk Björk 5:49
7. "Virus"   Sjón Björk Björk 5:26
8. "Sacrifice"   Björk Björk Björk 4:02
9. "Mutual Core"   Björk Björk Björk 5:06
10. "Solstice"   Sjón Björk Björk 4:41
Total length:
49:34

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Biophilia album liner notes and bjork.com.[213][214]

Choir
Brass

Charts[edit]

Release history[edit]

Country or Region Date Label
Japan[57] 5 October 2011 Universal Music
Netherlands[249] 7 October 2011
Poland[250]
Sweden[251]
Germany[252] Polydor
Ireland[253]
United Kingdom[58] 10 October 2011 One Little Indian
Iceland Smekkleysa
France[254] Universal Music
Hong Kong[255]
Australia[256] 11 October 2011
Italy[257]
Canada[258] Nonesuch
United States[59]
Argentina[259] 14 October 2011 Universal Music
South Korea[260]
Taiwan[261]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Biophilia - The Manual Edition, with essays by Nicola Dibben. Wellhart Ltd. (2011)
  • Biophilia: Live, with essays by Nicola Dibben, edited by James Merry. Wellhart Ltd. (2011)

References[edit]

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External links[edit]