Björk’s Biophilia app: exploring the cosmos

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Ever since the dawn of the modern computer software and technology, musicians have been able to provide an extra interactive element to their music. Yet most of what was offered was pretty tame, characterised by “enhanced CDs” with poor quality music videos and a few promo photos tacked onto the disc.

The rise of mobile apps and new web technologies thanks to the iPad, iPhone and Android has led to a resurgence in the experimental, many of which have been covered here of late. But perhaps there is no-one better than Björk to tackle the world of interactivity with her latest multimedia venture Biophilia.

Biophilia is the name of the Icelandic singer’s latest album but it is also a suite of mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and iTouch. Download the free “mother” app to gain access to 12 different apps. You are greeted with a map of a cosmos with 12 planets, one for each song/app. The voice of David Attenborough introduces the concept of Biophilia, which is Björk’s attempt to examine “nature, music and technology and how all three come together.”

Each aspect of of the project bleeds into one another. The songs largely concern themselves with themes of nature and the universe while the app attempts to visualise the parallel aspects of the way humans create music and how technology can be used to visual the natural world. That’s a lofty goal but Björk has the ambition and audacity to pull it off as her live shows with custom-built instruments have shown.

At time of writing only two of the apps/songs are available (each app cost €1.59 each). The app for Crystalline is the most impressive one available so far. The main interactive element is a game in which the unique Gameleste (one of the custom instruments in the form of a modified upright piano) melodies of the song are represented by crystals in a polygonal spatial world (imagine a more primitive version of Wipeout video game fans).

As the song plays, you fly by sequences of crystals which represent the melodies. Different coloured tunnels represent the verse-chorus song structure and as the song progresses and moves into another musical form, you enter other tunnels with different crystal patterns. Pick up special crystals on the wall by tilting your device and you can unlock other tunnels enabling you to reach the song’s climax – a frenetic drum and bass outro. There’s also a score version of the song, an essay from a musicologist and an animated version with lyrics.

That’s just one part of Biophilia but as the rest of the project is released over the coming weeks, and if the project manages to pull off Björk’s scopic ambition with the same aplomb (and iron out some navigational difficulties), we’ll once again be hailing Björk as modern music’s most experimental and visionary artist.

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Band of Blogs: St. Vincent,The Rapture, M.I.A. & LYF STYL

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St. Vincent

Annie Clark’s new single Surgeon finds her imploring “best finest surgeon, come cut me open,” while a haze of guitars, ambient synthesizers, strings and bass notes reverberate around her. That’s all before the most ’80s-sounding solo you’ll hear this year hits your ears.

Listen at Stereogum

M.I.A. – 27

M.I.A. released an unfinished demo dedicated to Amy Winehouse and all her friends who died at the age of 27.

27 by _M_I_A_

The Rapture

How Deep Is Your Love is the NYC band’s first new song in three years and its piano-house leanings may finally mean the band ditch that “dance-punk” tag. It’s offered as a free download.

The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love by DFA Records

LYF STYL compilation

Yin Yang: The Golden Era of Hip Hop is a LYF STYL-curated downloadable compilation which asks electronic producers to re-imagine songs from Outkast, De La Soul, Raekwon & Gangstarr.

Listen at LYF STYL

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Sites of the Week: Stories Of Hip Hop, DRC Music & Suspicious Vans

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Stories Of Hip Hop

Take the Stage is a quarterly digital book which focuses on the people who have made hip hop their life: from MCs to record label bosses, DJs, promoters and beatboxers.

DRC Music

Follow the exploits of a collective of music producers including Damon Albarn, Actress, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Dan The Automatorand more as they visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to produce a new album for Oxfam.

Suspicious Vans

It’s best to approach these vehicles with caution…

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