The latest addition to Björk’s sprawling discography is both eclectic and incomplete, emotionally charged and surface level.
As a newcomer to Björk’s work, a nose-dive into her 10th album might not have been the most natural introduction to her particular and eclectic musical style. Having no reference point other than her popularity among young adults and teenagers, I was expecting an easily packaged album which fell under the pop genre, perhaps with some interesting themes and artwork to boot. Instead, I was confronted with a style that seems to defy classic categorization; an avant-garde approach to music emphasising the porous relation between musical genres.
The album is filled with references to contrasting musical styles, including: classical music, techno, pop, jazz, and electronic music. The combination of these is surprising. Not only does it create an intriguing musical landscape, but it also embodies the idea that life is the product of a collaborative process. It is via the decomposition of these musical genres, and the unique reorganisation of their elements, that Björk builds something new. This method gives her album, Fossoria, a collage effect. Each piece conforms to the unity of the album while also expanding it in a new direction, just like the roots of a plant grow beneath it, keeping it grounded and alive.
Furthermore, Björk’s unique voice, characterised by her impressive 3-octave range and Icelandic tonal inflections, beautifully threads through each of the songs, linking them together. Her spoken, almost chant-like melodies, paired with classically melodic interludes, create a desperate yet detached urgency as she explores themes of identity, death, and nature.
Created in the midst of a pandemic, and during a period of mourning following her mother’s death, Fossora embodies a eulogy to space and relationships. These themes are explored lyrically, building on an overall concept of permutability; however, this time it is applied to the idea of the individual, engaging with the interconnective role of the self in relation to the other, both human and natural.
The best examples for this can be found in Freefall, the title track Fossora and Sorrowful Soil. These songs each explore what it means to be a part of something greater than one-self, in relation to other human beings and in unity with the natural world. Freefall is a love song that delves into the complexities of revealing oneself to another, Fossora puts humanity in the shoes of a fungal entity spreading itself all over the world, and Sorrowful Soil connects ideas of motherhood and family to the cycles of nature. However, over the entirety of the album, these ideas feel underdeveloped, more like sketches rather than a fully fleshed out concept.
The album’s sense of incompleteness also manifests in its instrumentation. Despite the variety, Björk’s musical choices often feel one dimensional, giving the sense that more could have been done to capitalise on the characteristic flux and variety of sounds.
Overall, I found the album unexpected and captivating, and I understand the appeal of her music. However, having listened to it from start to finish, I didn’t find myself compelled to revisit more than a couple of the songs on the album. While highly original, Fossoria lacked for me the depth that would have allowed it to have a lasting impact.