Björk – review

The Guardian, 4 septembre 2013

Accompanied by David Attenborough voiceover and Icelandic choir, Björk dazzles on the final stop of Biophilia’s world tour

Sir David Attenborough has spent a lifetime translating nature. But, in a recent Channel 4 documentary, even he struggled to sum up the exotic warblings of pop’s most avant-garde performer – and the naturalist’s unlikely collaborator – Björk. "Your voice," he told her gravely, like a doctor about to break the worst news, "is a very odd voice."

The Icelandic star as been defying description for a long time. Two decades on from her game-changing solo album, Debut, she has brought her latest project, Biophilia, to London for the final stop of a two-year world tour.

A voiceover by Attenborough starts the show, guiding us through the app-based concept album, which explores the relationship between music, nature and technology. The ambitious idea is matched by in-the-round staging that gives this aircraft hanger-like venue the intimacy of a theatre. An octagon of flatscreen TVs hover above a platform where Graduale Nobili, a 24-strong, all-female Icelandic choir wear self-conscious smiles and unflattering hooded tunics. Huddled around a central Tesla coil, they look like a cult imagined by Sofia Coppola, but sound wonderful as their voices soar over Óskasteinar.

When Björk appears, she doesn’t look much older than the fresh-faced teens, despite being 48. What sets her apart – aside from the huge, pastel-hued afro wig and a dress that looks like a lumpy pupa – is her boundless capacity to perform. Bouncing on her heels, her voice picks up on each twinkling tremor of Moon and every shuddering beat within Crystalline, her hands moving and head twitching in sync.

Björk’s childlike vocals – innocent, strange and full of abandon – are complimented by two talented musicians, MD Matt Robertson and drummer Manu Delago, and some very bespoke instrumentation. A pendulum-strung gravity harp provides Solstice’s hypnotic bassline and the Sharpsichord – a harp/barrel organ hybrid – gives Sacrifice its melancholy otherness.

But with such innovation comes technical hitches. The night is being filmed for posterity, and Bjork is keen for "everything to be right", which means singing some songs twice and, at one point, leaving the stage entirely while a glitch is fixed.

Although the repeated performances are a bonus for fans, resulting in uncharacteristic chattiness from Björk – who admits to being "really mushy and all emotional" – the organic flow of the show is lost. Rather than being transported through the universe, it sometimes feels like a dodgy Top of the Pops recording. However, when Björk’s left to get on with it, treading the intense waters of Isobel, skewed pop of Possibly Maybe and punk ode Declare Independence, there’s no one to rival her talent for magic – her voice not odd but, like her talent, simply out of this world.

par Betty Clarke publié dans The Guardian