Secret Meeting score: 79
by Philip Moss
Anyone with even a passing interest in Bjork knows the back story to her new album, Utopia. Following 2015’s ‘break up’ record, Vulnicura, the Icelandic anti-pop queen has – after a period as a divorcee – lustily fallen in love again. And this isn’t just great news for her personally, as her ninth studio album doesn’t just represent a metaphorical reawakening, but a musical one, too.
Blissing Me – a modern and deeply personal love song – highlights this perfectly. Evoking Joanna Newsom, it documents the excitement she’s found in her new love. Bjork unfurls how her mind has been sensually reawakened by excessive text messaging, sharing mp3s and the ‘cliffhanger like suspension’ of longing that has formed deep within her. Described as somewhat of a fantasy, this new beginning is deep-rooted in the rediscovery of her first love – music: ‘I just fell in love with a song. Did I just fall in love with love?’ A rumination which is further emphasised on penultimate song, Saint – ‘Music heals too.’
Together with finding the perfect romantic partner, Utopia sees Bjork pair back up with the perfect creative partner, Venezuelan producer, Arca (Kanye West, FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean) whose grubby mitts are all over the record. However, the album finds its utopia when it’s at its most understated and vulnerable. Album finale, Future Forever, which closes the record in a delicately optimistic tone as, is a case in point. With her layered vocal pushed right to the front of the sparse mix over rumbling and shimmering synths, she breathes, ‘hold fort for love forever.’ Despite understanding that ‘we’re just momentary vessels’, Bjork wants an impenetrable relationship, not only on her terms, but ‘their’ terms. Something, it seems, that has previously been awry.
Utopia is a mesmeric collage of orchestral electronics, drum machines, harps and birdsong; a kaleidoscope of joyful emotion where the picture becomes clearer through repeated spins. Oh, and if you really want the full, immersive experience, do yourself a favour and give it a listen on headphones. Let your ears feel the love too.