Venue: Roseland Ballroom, New York
March 2, 2012
Björk is a master of universes big and small.
As evidenced by her latest project, Biophilia, she finds beauty in the microscopic and the cosmic, the ordinary and the sublime—at the same time taking risks and exploring technology in ways that make less savvy musicians look like fools. She is not to be taken lightly, even while wearing a sparkly blue inflatable balloon dress.
Biophilia is itself a wonder. Recorded partly on iPad, it’s the world’s first “app album”—released as a series of 10 iPad apps, and housed within one “mother app” that allows the user to interact with the songs and manipulate them to create your own versions. For the user to participate in the experience is only fitting for an album that explores the intersections of science, music and nature, and man’s role in all three.
The tour juxtaposes classic, gorgeous elements like harp and an Icelandic women’s choir with uncommon additions, including a 3-piece hang drum kit and MIDI/sampler controlled entirely by a panel of iPads. (New instruments were also created for the album: a “gameleste” and a Tesla coil used during one of the tracks.) Not to mention Björk’s commanding voice, innocent and clean but with the self-assurance of an old soul who knows what it all means.
At times during the show I felt the enormity of it all: epic passages with galaxies sweeping by on 360° image panels, only to be brought quickly back to a small moment—a laugh, a squeak, a dissonant chord resolving itself into one note.
In the face of such feats, an artist could simply look silly. But there’s an fearlessness to Björk that gives her an irresistible power and allows her, in her impish charm, to stay always present in the now. She closed in the simplest way, humbly: “Thank you for tonight.”