The Skinny

Björk – Utopia ★★★★

Utopia has been described by Björk herself as her dating record ; her Tinder record, in fact, as it was jokingly referred to in a recent interview with Dazed. However, unless the average response to using said app is equivalent to cascading waves of beauty, melody, and soul upon first sight – akin to that of opener Arisen My Senses – then the Icelandic ambassador to the cosmos appears to be selling her ninth album, and indeed herself, woefully short.

Of course, there is a considerably more profound sentiment to be found buried within that press-friendly nugget, and it appears to be one of hope after hurt ; moving on after the pain of divorce and allowing oneself to be open to love again after loss. Utopia consequently finds Björk in a seemingly happier place, or at least a more optimistic one, following the soul-bearing emotional stock-take of its predecessor, Vulnicura.

The album’s prevalent themes of positivity, wonder and hope have also come to represent the importance of a brighter vision for the future in general as we continue to address some pretty uncomfortable truths about ourselves and the world we inhabit. Or as the artist puts it herself when announcing Utopia’s arrival : "if we’re gonna survive not only my personal drama but also the sort of situation the world is in today, we’ve got to come up with a new plan. If we don’t have the dream, we’re just not gonna change. Especially now, this kind of dream is an emergency.”

Drawing inspiration from Björk’s well-known affinity with the natural world and its many forms, Utopia not only plays on themes of peace, paradise and new beginnings as its title would suggest, but also explores the concept of air ; as a healing force ; as a constantly moving entity ; as an essential component of life, hidden in plain sight.

Mixing personal field recordings of birdsong and an ever-present 13-piece flute section, the album’s 14 Arca-produced tracks rise and fall like migrating seabirds, soaring in unison and scattering across the sky before settling into moments of quiet solitude. Utilising ideas of breath, space and breeze to thrilling effect, this is Björk at her most reflective and inquisitive. There are no clear cut ’hits’ as such, and the album clearly begs to be enjoyed as a whole entity rather than have its innards plucked and picked at. However, if given your full attention, it will transport you to paradise.

Ryan Drever

publié dans The Skinny - 20.11.2017

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2017

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