From the earliest days of her four-decade career, Björk has consistently pushed the envelope. Through a career as varied as any performer in pop music history, the centerpiece has nevertheless always been her powerful and profoundly unique voice. As a teenager in Tappi Tíkarrass, she sang in one of Iceland’s earliest punk bands. Her career then evolved from art-punk (Kukl), to international success as part of the Sugarcubes. Björk’s solo career has been distinguished by a variety of styles, from brit-pop (Debut) through the bizarre (Drawing Restraint 9), with virtually everything in between. Her triumphant three album run of Post, Homogenic and Vespertine is acknowledged as the apex of her recorded output, and rightfully so. Those three albums are as good as anything released by anyone in that time frame and the tours that accompanied each release established Björk as one of the most powerful and compelling live performers of her generation. The Vespertine tour in particular was a thing of beauty — a two set affair performed in opera houses across the world with an full orchestra, full choir, and innovative instrumental accompaniment. The live DVD that was released from the Vespertine tour (Royal Opera House) is a breathtaking viewing experience. In recent years, however Björk has released a series of thoughtful but inconsistent albums, with 2007’s Volta as perhaps her weakest album to date. So it was with a bit of trepidation that we approached Biophilia, her new release that promised to link nature, music and technology. As far back as 2001 (Vespertine), Björk has been composing music with the aid of her laptop and she has professed a fascination with the effect that technology has had on the presentation of sound. The strength of Biophilia is that it seems to revisit the interesting aspects of Vespertine from the vantage point of a decade hence. And of course the reassurance for fans is that her voice continues to take center stage.
As part of her NYC “residency”, the Biophilia show moved from its triumphant run at the Queens Science Museum to the Roseland Ballroom. My concerns about the show’s presentation at this particular venue were eased upon entry into the main room. The stage was set up in what would normally be the center of the floor, and there was a vantage point from each side of the square stage to experience the concert. The pre-show music included piano and organ transcriptions of a variety of Björk’s material, and screens placed strategically around the hall projected Biophilia-themed images. The live performers who accompanied Björk were interestingly quite similar to the group that performed throughout the Vespertine tour, including harpist Zeena Parkins, an all female choir, and electronic wizards similar to Matmos (who played on both the 2001 Vespertine tour and the 2003 “Greatest Hits” tour). The setlists for these shows have followed a pattern, and all include the complete Biophilia album mixed in with selected classic material. Interestingly, the first older song performed is “Hidden Place”, the opening track from Vespertine. We have chosen to stream three highlights from the evening, including “Mouth’s Cradle” from Medulla, “Cosmogony” from Biophilia, and the newest addition to the setlist and oldest song she performed, a powerful reworking of Post’s “Possibly Maybe”. The good news of course is that while her voice has matured, Björk is still capable of projecting stunning music from her vocal chords and her singing is still a thing of absolute beauty. And while Biophilia is not the perfect album, it contains an intelligent and compelling message among a large number of outstanding songs which are brought to life in an extremely entertaining show. We left Roseland with a full reaffirmation of the power and vitality of perhaps the greatest female singer of our generation.
I recorded this set with my new mobile rig from ten feet in front of the PA speakers at the south side of the stage. The microphones are customized DPA 4061 omnis finished by Dynamic Audio and run through a custom battery box (also Dynamic Audio) to a brand new Edirol R-05. The sound quality is superb. Enjoy!
Stream “Mouth’s Cradle:
Stream “Possibly Maybe”:
Direct download of complete show in MP3 files (HERE)
Direct download of complete show in FLAC (HERE)
Email nyctaper if there is a problem with either download.
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New York, NY USA
Digital Master Recording
Upfront – Recorded 10 Feet from PA
South Side of Stage
DPA 4061s (Dynamic Audio Custom Mod) > Dynamic Audio Custom Battery Box > Edirol R-05 > 16bit 44.1kHz wav file > Soundforge (level adjustments, set fades, downsample) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > TLH > flac (320 MP3 and Tagging via Foobar)
Recorded and Produced
[Total Time 1:38:45]
06 Dark Matter
07 Hidden Place
08 Mouth’s Cradle
10 Generous Palmstroke
12 Sonnets/Unrealities XI
13 Where Is The Line
14 Mutual Core
17 [encore break]
18 Possibly Maybe
19 [band introductions]
21 Declare Independence