Björk’s 10th studio album is a ravishing set tracing rhizomic lines of thought that link traditional Icelandic musics to contemporary classical, reggaeton, and Indonesian avant-club styles via collaborators El Guicho (Rosalía), Gabber Modus Operandi, and serpentwithfeet
After an unusual gulf between albums since the Arca-produced ‘Utopia’ in 2017, Ms. Guðmundsdóttir binds fundamentals and fantasy in ‘Fossora’; combining dedications to her mother, Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, and contributions by her children, Sindri and Ísadóra, within a conceptual framework involving themes of survival, death, and ecological meditation. Aye, it’s Björk, alright, but also informed by her collaborators, R&B innovator serpentwithfeet, El Guincho, and Indo-nutters Gabber Modus Operandi, plus bass clarinet sextet Murmuri, who lend a rich insertmental colour and ravenous fervour to her wildly disciplined arrangements and head-spinning self-production.
Framed as her return to earth after dealing with the trauma of her divorce from Matthew Barney on the Arca co-produced “skybound haven” couplet of ‘Vulnicura’ and ‘Utopia’, Björk here seeds ideas of mycelia as alien lifeforms and communication networks that reflect the psychedelia and flux of info woven into ‘Fossora.’ More than ever she effectively acts as a conduit or hyperconnector for myriad energies that come to fruition most definitively in the album’s (3rd eye) opener ‘Atopos’ and its titular denouement, where chamber-like woodwind, doble paso dembow-gabber and avant-folk rush up in glorious style.
The rest of the album breaks down between stirring choral and chamber dedications to her departed mother on ‘Sorrowful Soil’ and ‘Ancestress’, the latter featuring her dóttir Sindri Eldon, and most quietly on the curtain closer ‘Her Mother’s House’ ft. Ísadóra Bjarkardóttir Barney. We locate a highlight in the brooding might of ‘Victimhood’ with its spine-chilling string and clarinet arrangement, and the switch of energies between heart-in-mouth ‘Fungal City’ starring serpentwithfeet, and the uprooted hardcore techno touches of Kasimyn (Gabber Modus Operandi) lend a nervous, refreshing energy that sprouts up in wonderfully unpredictable forms.