Over the weekend Björk released “Crystalline,” the first peek at her forthcoming iPad-app-slash-album Biophilia, which is slated to land on tablets and in stores and in various other places around the world in September. It opens with delicate chimes and the Icelandic singer’s unmistakeable voice before spiraling out into something harder—yet the glimmer of the music-box-light opening remains apparent throughout.
Biophilia-the-app-album-experience is intended to “[celebrate] how sound works in nature, exploring the infinite expanse of the universe, from planetary systems to atomic structure,” according to the press release that accompanied its announcement last month. In Jon Pareles’ lengthy thinkpiece about cloud-based music that ran in this weekend’s Times Arts section, Björk noted that said celebration of the universe will involve humans, as well, and because of that the way “Crystalline” sounds above isn’t necessarily going to be the way it always sounds to Biophilia listeners: “I definitely wanted the songs to be a spatial experience, where you can play with lightning or a crystal or the full moon and the song changes,” she told Pareles via email. “I would like to feel the apps are equal to the song in the same way I have always aimed for the music video to be equal to the song: the 1+1 is 3 thing. Not that it works every time, but you have to aim for it.”
Björk will premiere Biophilia tonight in Manchester, and one would think that a major advantage of the app-experience offered by the album is that it can’t be replicated by low-quality YouTube clips trickling out three months before its release. (Yes, she’s requesting that people keep their cameras in their pockets, but there’s always that one person who is such a fan that she doesn’t care about the artist’s wishes.)