Björk’s Biophilia is being hailed as the world’s first fully realised app-album. It’s an ambitious multi-media cross platform experience that encompasses the Icelandic singer’s latest studio set, a series of interactive apps for each track on the record, and a series of lives shows at the Manchester International Festival, featuring original custom built instruments, live percussion and a 24-piece choir.
The album was unveiled live last week on a custom-built stage at Manchester’s Campfield Market Hall, where Björk delivered a 20-song set in front of 1,800 fans and invited media. This was no regular album launch.
Performing on a small open stage, which the audience encircled, the singer utilised a wide range of custom-built instruments to present her latest material, including 10ft pendulum harps that plucked strings as they swung.
Other bespoke instruments specially invented for the show included: a digital pipe organ; two Tesla coils, which shot out small bolts of lightning to generate musical notes; “The Gameleste,” a glockenspiel-style piano; and a 10-foot tall pin barrel harp called the “Sharpsichord.” A 24-piece all female choir provided further musical backing and added to the overall sense of strangeness with their gaudy blue and gold dresses.
The much-heralded multi-media aspect of Biophilia was distinctly harder to detect. With the exception of eight screens hanging above the stage, onto which films of planets, stars, molecules and wildlife was projected, the visual offering was limited.
At several points during the 90-minute set, Björk did appear to be orchestrating a vast symphonic score via a tablet PC, but for the most part she simply stuck to singing — presumably leaving the musical director at the side of the stage, standing behind a vast bank of tablets and laptops, to engineer the dense mesh of tribal percussion, synth, strings and electronic rhythms which forms Biophilia.
Björk will play five further shows as part of her three-week residency at the Manchester International Festival, which wraps July 17. She’ll then tour Biophilia internationally, although dates are yet to be announced.