Track Review: Björk – Crystalline

Bjork - Crystalline
It’s been two months since Bjork began the campaign for her innovative iPad record Biophilia with the announcement her six show stay at the Manchester International Festival after a three year absence from touring the UK. Since then, we’ve seen a gorgeous revamp of her official website, samples from the album on the iPad app “Solar System,” and learned that two songs a month will be released in separate interactive iPad apps starting in June, leading up to a tentative September 26th, 2011 release date.

The promotion for the record also offered a few teasers on her YouTube channel for the track “Crystalline,” which will be the lead single from the record and was unfortunately leaked a few weeks earlier than it’s intended release.

Who’s being negative though? Bjork’s fanbase is of the utmost loyal and although the track was made available before the iPad app release of it, there’s no doubt that we will all be downloading it to see what Bjork has in store for the Apple users.

Let’s get to the song shall we? “Crystalline” continues Bjork’s experimentation in offering a place for organic and electronic sounds flourish within the same sonic realms of a single track. It’s a method that’s become constant in her releases – from the horn punches of “Enjoy” (produced by the legendary Tricky) from Post to the manipulated human voice on “Desired Constellation” from Medulla, it’s one of many signatures to Bjork’s infinitely creative craft.

The main traditional instrument used within the song is a Gamelan + Celeste hybrid instrument specifically made for Bjork and appropriately called a Gameleste (See a video of the beast in action here). It’s apparently one of a few custom made instruments used on the record as noted on a forum post at Cymbalholic by one of the makers of the instrument.

UPDATE: A video has been posted on Vimeo of the entire construction of the Gameleste and includes a short demonstration on how the instrument works mechanically, including a short piece on the MIDI controller controlling it! Totally awesome and highly recommended. All you have to do is CLICK HERE!

Beyond that, there may be hints of manipulated beat boxing in the main rhythmic lines in the song, but when it comes to picking out what’s actually been utilized and warped in a Bjork song, it’s best to leave speculation alone. For all we know, she and her team could have recorded the sounds of tree branches sucking in Carbon Dioxide, expelling Oxygen, and then following the air around the universe until it reaches somebody’s lungs, which then expels Carbon Dioxide, and then a kitten meows and it’s all put into Pro Tools where it’s made into the sound of a kick drum and placed within the track (one can only hope she reads that sentence, gets a grin on her face and then sends her engineers out to complete this task like the time where she asked someone to make the sound of “tiny flowers blooming” or something for a song on her Vespertine release).

Anyway, can we get into the part where she goes all Aphex Twin‘s “Come To Daddy” on us and unleashes a BEAST OF A DRUM AND BASS BREAKDOWN IN THE FINAL FIFTY SECONDS OF THE TRACK? OH MY GOD IT’S EPIC. THE TRACK GOES SPARSE FOR A FEW BARS AND THEN ERUPTS INTO A SEA OF PERCUSSION WHILE BJORK SINGS ABOUT OVERCOMING ANXIETY. Oh..shit..sorry for the caps lock. I got extremely excited. I mean, it’s not everyday you listen to a track where something comes out to offer a surprise and give you multiple eargasms by the end of it.

Interestingly enough, you’d think with the layers at the end of the track that the Dynamic Range would be crushed to hell and back and would make the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Californiacation” album look like a work of mastering art, but it maintains a healthy DR8. I am going off of a 320Kbps leak though. I’m sure full quality would show a tiny alteration of these results, but not by much. This is one hell of a mixed track. The liner notes of Biophilia will provide the answer to who is behind the engineering aspects of the track, but my finger is on long time collaborator and amazing mix engineer Mark “Spike” Stent. I see you!

Vocally, there’s never any words for a track by this artist. She’s perfect every single time and if you don’t believe me, check out this live performance of “All Is Full of Love” where she holds out the final note in one of the choruses perfectly for 17 seconds. There’s a nice short reverb on the “Crystalline” track that gives the track a bit more of an atmospheric depth to it.

The thing that makes this track work so well is how the instrumental of the track helps to narrate the subject of the song. Lyrically, on the surface, Bjork obviously sings the beauty of the crystalline of crystals, how they’re formed and all of that jazz, but underneath it all, it seems to be a tale of growth from within and conquering the negative energies we cope with. The sparse beginning and the harsh Gameleste provides a constant percussive feeling throughout the track of something being worked on (the crystals, or more metaphorically, ourselves) and toward the end of the song there is that gorgeous left-field explosion of both excitement and anxiety as she rejoices over “The sparkle you become when you concur anxiety”.

I could have this all wrong, again, it’s best not to overanalyze a Bjork song because Bjork is art. But, art is subjective, so sue me and leave a comment on how you feel about the track, it’s meaning, your feelings on the upcoming album, and the woman herself! I know I’m excited!!!!!! Oh..and check out the track for “Crystalline” below.

(Unfortunately, the YouTube track has the track pitched up slightly as to avoid copyright issues. Ahh..the intricacies of Entertainment law and Music Business!! You can find a great stream of the track in full quality on The Prophet Blog’s website).

UPDATE: View the gorgeous artwork for the single cover!
Bjork - Crystalline Single Cover

Track rating: 5/5

“Crystalline” is now available for purchase! Click Here! [iTunes]
Purchase .Wav and other formats of the song here! [bjork.com]

About 2020k | RJ Kozain

www.twenty20k.com
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4 Responses to Track Review: Björk – Crystalline

  1. wonderful review.
    does the song so much honour.
    and yes, its a massive song that tears me up.

    Love

  2. Shing Wong Mang says:

    This is the first Bjork album in about ten years to NOT be mixed by Spike Stent! Crazy! I wonder why? Maybe he’s charging too much money?

  3. Pingback: Album Review: Bjork – Biophilia | 2020k

  4. Pingback: Flashback: 2020k In Review & Top 20 Songs of 2011! | 2020k

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