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Björk - Fossora CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.54 | 20 ratings

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4 stars Most prog fans are probably happy if their long standing heroes don't go in a more commercial, watered down, easy listening direction, but rather remain inventive and complex. For sure with such attitude Björk's development needs to be appreciated, except that I suspect for most even on this site she has actually opted for too little accessibility in her later work. For quite some time now she refuses to do anything anywhere near to "catchy" or at least working as a standard song. This might disappoint those in particular who appreciate earlier trademark songs such as Human Behavior, Joga, I've Seen It All, or Hyper-Ballad, which were indeed wonderful. Also as prog fans we love great melodies and great vocals, don't we?

As a friend of an experimental and adventurous approach, even I have to admit that I find it often difficult to get into Björk's more contemporary oeuvre. This is in the first place due to Björk's idiosyncratic esthetic; in other words, she does things in a way that at least at first listen runs counter to my (and probably also many other's) musical intuition, and all too often when I think I have nailed what this is about, she goes elsewhere.

Fossora wasn't up to a good start for me. Atopos isn't really a bad track. Actually it has quite some energy and is maybe meant to work in an Army Of Me kind of way, but I find the loud and monotonous electronic drums on this one massively annoying. Surely they don't help getting into what Björk is up to here. In fact, the instrumentation and sound, with lots of clarinets plus electronics, is quite interesting, but unfortunately overshadowed by the beats.

Ovule, the second track, makes it somewhat easier to arrive in the sound world rolled out here. Still I was somewhat estranged listening to this for the first time, but things get better when the album goes on and with repeat listens. Mycella is a stunning experiment with voices only (be it for some manipulation). It sounds like a modern painting looks like, painted with light touch but sense of adventure, jumping around but hard to pin down. Sorrowful Soil is another vocals only track, but very different, a more emotional choir piece rooted in folk music.

For Ancestress, the instrumentation is back, strings and percussion and the omnipresent electronics this time. It is a slow and slow progressing piece where Björk's vocals slowly and tentatively tiptoe forward to reach some more intensity later. There is a small and nice melodic interplay before Victimhood, where the clarinets are back for a very dark track evoking a swamp in the night, with some electronic percussion bringing in something to stick to only later.

Another sharp contrast brings us a rather light touch track and a very different atmosphere in Allow, driven by optimistically marching rhythmic flutes, although later the rhythm leaves us and we are left in a rather unstructured landscape. The beginning of Fungal City resembles Allow, but this times it's the clarinets who drive the rhythm. Later strings come in and very late some (once more somewhat overblown) electronic beats, making it more dramatic, though with ebbs and flows. This is a rather complex composition, and the melodic journey is hard to predict and to grasp.

Trölla-Gabba is an experimental piece; actually it would pass for avantgarde contemporary "classical" music. This one has voices vs. electronics, and becomes exciting indeed, Björk not shying away from pretty sharp contrasts, twists and turns.

Freefall is once more is different kind of animal, an emotional if rather calm song driven by the singer and a string ensemble, with another one of these unpredictable melodies, which after 2:30 morphs into something quite different with the string emsemble now picking the strings and producing something much more rhythmic. Clarinets, oboe, and electrobeats are back on the title track Fossora, which starts off fairly harmlessly; one can still imagine an Icelandic folk dance here, but it then evolves into a rather noisy energetic affair.

The aptly titled "Her Mother's House" finishes affairs in a more soothing way. It is one of Björk's "filling the space singing" songs, always calm but never giving in to a transparent song structure. Let's go to sleep now - after this rollercoaster of an album it's maybe good advice.

I like this more than her last few albums, but after getting into it properly I wonder whether I should give them more chances as well (which I haven't really). Ultimately this is avantgarde classic, folk, electronics, and Björk's great voice coming together in ever unexpected ways. After first and second listening I thought I might rate this one three stars, but there is such a stunning amount of things to be discovered here. It is *all* strikingly unconventional, all unmistakably Björk's magic garden creation, still it gives us an astonishing variety of moods and approaches. At some point I understood that this will need to have four stars, and finally I wonder whether it is so unique and rich that I could even give it all five. I think I'll refrain from this because of a lack of moments that stay with me after listening (I believe that Björk rather consciously refuses to give us these, but with more listening they may still evolve), and the occasional issue with annoyingly loud and not so good sounding e-beats, but this fortunately happens much less often than what I feared after the first track. So ultimately it's four, but WHAT A RIDE!

Lewian | 4/5 |


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