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CD of The Week

Week of 10/03/22

    Björk - Fossora (One Little Independent)

    Utopia couldn’t last. It never does. What goes up must inevitably come back down to Earth. We all already knew this when Björk released her last album back in 2017, though none of us could have anticipated how hard reality would come crashing back this time. It’s easy to forget that even before the world was forced to stand still for a year and a half, life insisted on moving forward. People grew up. People died. Björk’s mother died. Her daughter left the nest. In the midst of so many drastic life and world changes, she found comfort and inspiration in lockdown raves that she hosted in her living room with close friends. Those raves became the inspiration for the album that would document those changes and the search for meaning within them. Its title translating to “she who digs,” Fossora fittingly finds Björk mining the depths of life, love, and loss that defined her previous two albums while achieving a more accessible equilibrium between their highs and lows. The result is a living, lived-in tour de force.

    In true Björk fashion, her emotional themes are dressed in deceptively whimsical clothes. A recurring metaphor of mushrooms and fungus spreads throughout the album, a surprisingly apt mirror for our own life cycles and the need to grow outward to connect with the world and find roots. The barriers that we build to prevent said connection are laid to waste in opening track/lead single “Atopos,” where Björk asserts that “if we don’t grow outwards towards love, we’ll implode inward towards destruction.” For the first time in years, her beats hit as hard as her truths. Inspired by the techno subgenre known as Gabber, they jab, jackhammer, and juxtaposition themselves against her arrangements with a positively Homogenic sense of confidence and cohesion.

    The echoes of past peaks don’t end there, as Fossora finds ways to revive and reinvent all of the best ideas of Björk’s latter-day catalog. The elastic vocal harmonies recall Medulla, particularly in early interlude “Mycelia,” which reveals a subtle but strong lineage between Björk and experimental club composer Holly Herndon. The fanciful flutes of Utopia take flight again over “Allow”, a duet with fellow Scandinavian pop siren Emilie Nicolas that chronicles the yearning for growth from the perspective of plant life. Woodwinds still hold court across the album overall, but this time, it’s bass clarinets that do the heavy lifting, all the better to match the oomph of the electronics. In addition to Nicolas, fellow Transmission vet serpentwithfeet and Gabber guru Kasimyn make this the most feature-heavy Björk release since Volta, but this time the features deepen rather than distract from the message.

    Other features even come from Björk’s own children, who help extend and round out the themes of family that informed Vulnicura. Where that opus was about romantic loss, Fossora explores the parental kind. Son Sindri joins his mother on “Ancestress”, about the passing of Björk’s mother, environmental activist Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, back in 2018. Its sighing, soaring seven minutes eulogize her life and love while grappling with how they contextualize her daughter’s own life and legacy. Closer “Her Mother’s House” flips the perspective from orphaned child to empty nester as Björk’s daughter Ísadóra receives and responds to her promises to love and hope for her as she moves out on her own. A beatific coda in the vein of “Headphones” or “All Is Full Of Love”, it brings the album’s central thesis, introduced in the climax of “Atopos”, full circle: “Hope is a muscle that allows us to connect.” Fossora is an exceptionally elegant exercise of that muscle, as well as a flex of Björk’s ever-strong musical ones. May listeners old and new be able to connect with her, themselves, and each other through it.
    Review by Rob Huff

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