Björk moves from hi-tech to supernatural – The new album Utopia will be out in November


Before we indulge ourselves in Björk’s latest venture let’s take a quick step back and get a sense on where we are in terms of Björk’s musical explorations. When Vulnicura was released in 2015 we saw Björk continue pioneering in new ways on how to construct the material. The most arresting thing about Vulnicura was the almost operatic nature of the form, and the intensely personal combination of the lyrical narrative and Björk’s performance. Björk has always been one of the greatest risk-takers in music, but with Vulnicura we saw her make one of her bravest steps. To create something so deeply personal and raw, so unyielding in its confession. It was exciting to witness an artist 30 years into her career make one of her boldest records yet.

Björk albums are plates, and it’s best to hear them in a full length format. And once you’re done listening you might not want to hear it again right away, because you need some time to digest what you’ve heard. Vulnicura was the follow-up to Biophilia, an album in the grand pop tradition of songs about plate tectonics and human biorhythms. If you wanted evidence that Björk’s work had become even more rarefied since her mid-90s commercial heyday, then there it was, in the form of a series of iPad apps narrated by David Attenborough.

While the promotional and conceptual packaging around Biophilia was as forward-thinking as ever, the sheer quality of Björk’s songwriting remains problematic. It felt, once again, as if she prioritized the superficial aspects of Biophilia‘s presentation over, well, the music. So with this in mind it will be interesting to see how the upcoming album from Björk will be received. So far what we have is the newly released video “The Gate”.

The impressions so far is that the experimental side of Björk is still dominant and being the first track out from the new album it sure is a bold step as it is far from easy to digest. It is a transcendental journey, almost hallucinatory and low in rhythms. If The Gate is representative for the rest of the album it will most likely only appeal to her die hard fans. Her fascination with the theatrical is always intriguing but it will not hide the fact that this is on the stretch of what the general public would consume. But on the other hand we do need artists who dare to go against the conventional and Björk is doing just that.

The video, which features Björk as a supernatural being in a custom-made Gucci gown, was showcased over the weekend in a London Fashion Week installation by NOWNESS. Director Andrew Thomas Huang previously worked with Bjork in production of the music videos for Stonemilker, Black Lake and Mutual core. The video for ‘The Gate’ received creative direction by Bjork, Alessandro Michele and James Merry.

The singer told NOWNESS: “The Gate is essentially a love song, but I say ‘love’ in a more transcendent way… It’s about rediscovering love – but in a spiritual way, for lack of a better word”.

“The Gate” video channels the song’s introspective but strangely emotionally detached quality perfectly. Andrew Huang—who previously worked with Björk on the “Stonemilker” 360 degree panoramic video—returns to film a strange cinematic environment that seems abstracted from space and time. Björk, clothed in a luminous gown, interacts with a shapeshifting orb that draws her into a strange cosmic choreography with another figure inhabiting the space.

Creating @bjork’s custom #Gucci gown for her new single #TheGate. The design by #AlessandroMichele took approximately 550 hours to make, and an additional 320 hours for the embroidery. The dress’s fabrics include 5 meters of pleated iridescent PVC plastic material, 3 meters of PVC iridescent strips and 20 meters of pleated lurex organza. #AlessandroMichele also collaborated as the film’s creative director, to be shown on Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm at The Store Studios in London, free public admission. From Monday 5am BST @nowness will screen #björk’s video online for 48 hours. Video director: @romana_meggiolaro Music by Karlheinz Stockhausen: Excerpt from SIRIUS Electronic music and trumpet, soprano, bass clarinet, bass (CD 26 of the Stockhausen Complete Edition, www.stockhausenCDs.com) © Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Germany (www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)

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Huang has spoken about the video as the first video rendering of Björk’s concept of utopia,  “a prismatic portal channeled between the chests of two lovers. Not lovers in the quotidian romantic sense, but in a broader cosmological way. As a throughway into Bjork’s new album, ‘The Gate’ is a declaration of hope sung by a woman refracted and re-formed into a luminous whole.”

‘That Gate’ is available digitally now and for pre-order on limited edition single-sided 12” vinyl via One Little Indian from September 22.