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Biophilia is Björk’s interactive iPad app that is half album—written by Björk, of course—and half science class. Biophilia combines songs about subjects like viruses, thunderbolts and constellations, with lessons not too far off from the kind you might learn in your fourth period astronomy elective, or on a class trip. Björk was just rewarded with a Webby Award for Biophilia.
I got an insider’s tip to start this app experience off with the song “Cosmogony.” Honestly, had I not been determined to find it, “Cosmogony” and I may never have crossed paths as the app is a little hard to navigate at first. But once we did meet, things started to become clearer. One tap on the “intro” button led me to the voiceover of a man whose vibe and accent could have landed him in a Harry Potter movie. This voice gave me the rundown on what this app is all about, and from there, it was time to go out on my own. And so my journey through Björk’s wonderful world of nature and outer space began.
The basic formula is pretty much the same for every song. It breaks down like this: each song has a page and each page has a bunch of options on it. “Play,” offers a video or a clever little game to accompany the song at hand; “Animation,” is a rather generous name for a feature that’s pretty basic; “Score,” displays the music score for each instrument as the song plays; and lyrics and credits are both self-explanatory.
As expected, some songs (and all their accompanying accoutrements) are cooler than others. For instance, “Hollow” is hands-down the best song to listen to and to interact with. A mini movie plays cascading 3-D images of skin tissue, prophase cells, mitotic spindles, cytoplasm, and chromosomes across the screen while Björk wails with a sound that’s clearly influenced by the album she did in 2010 with indie band Dirty Projectors, Mount Wittenberg Orca. If “Hollow” is number one, then “Mutual Core” is a close second. There is not one, but two games to go with this song, each one slightly more fun than the next.
For all the songs I enjoyed discovering and playing around with, there were still several, like “Dark Matter” and “Sacrifice,” that I could have done without, not because the songs themselves weren’t good, but because the bonus features were sub par. When you have dancing nucleosomes and DNA just one click away, why settle? While I wouldn’t say Björk’s latest album is one I would put on while cleaning my apartment or lounging around on a Saturday, as a concept record, this one definitely gets an A for effort.