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Björk – Utopia Review

Iconic Icelandic queen of all things artistic and quirky Björk releases her tenth studio album ‘Utopia’. Continuing the path set out by her previous album 2015’s ‘Vulnicura’ tracks are laced with production from Arca, adding distorted beats and a sparseness that chills to the bone.

Described by Bjork as ‘like my tinder…it is definitely about that search – about being in love. Spending time with a person you enjoy on every level…It’s when the dream comes real.’

Things start off within a frosty air as opener ‘Arisen My Senses’ introduces the albums electronic and yet classical etherealness, guiding the way to ‘Blissing Me’s gently romantic air, in which two characters swap records as they fall in love, as well as towards ‘The Gates’ fragmented heartbreak.

Like much if ‘Utopia’ the albums title track feels as though it would fit in a modern Icelandic ballet, with flutes and distant squeals echoing baby cries and birds. ‘Body Memory’, ‘Courtship’ and ‘Losss’ continue the cold and sorrow themes that engulfed every track on the album, while ‘Sue Me’ adds a whirl of rising tension to the chilled air, though ‘Tabula Rasa’, ‘Paradisa’ and closer ‘Future Forever’ continue the flute and birdsong electronics.

According to Bjork the album is not only an emotional journey but also subtly politica; ‘if we’re gonna survive… the sort of situation the world is in today. we’re got to come up with a new plan, if we don’t have the dream, we’re just not gonna change. Especially now, this kind of dream is an emergency.’

Overall dedicated fans will find plenty to be engrossed by in within Björk’s ‘Utopia’ despite perhaps not being the most experimental of her career, as many tracks feel familiar to a repetitive level, overall there is a gentleness amongst her vocal mixed with Arca’s heavy production touch that creates a calming album.

Björk – Utopia = 6/10

Hayley Miller

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Musicandotherthingz.com Best Production of 2015

Here’s the list of ten nominees for best production

 

3. Bjork & Arca – Vulnicura (17%)

Bjork and her legendary status for Avante-Garde and eccentric music was repeated by the Icelander again with Vulnicura. It is an album with sweeping string scales and intricate pieces of ambient and experimental Electronica which is delivered in a seamless and flowing fashion by Bjork and co-producer Arca; the Venezuelan producer and DJ who released an album of his own this year. The album is nominated for best Alternative Album at this year’s Grammy’s.

 

2. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special (29%)

Ronson’s fourth studio album was yet another success for the London Producer and though ‘Uptown Funk’ was a hit for which he’s already received accolades for in 2014, the album was released in January. Again he is able to bring together a range of musicians from differing genres and combine their songs into a consistently themed album. This only highlights his ability and working range. Having already won a BRIT Award, he is now nominated for three Grammy’s this year.

 

  1. Kevin Parker – Currents (33%)

Heralded as the “Genius” behind Tame Impala by the Rolling Stone; Kevin Parker has claimed such praise for Tame Impala’s  July release Currents. In the face of Hipster backlash, he largely ditched the guitar and picked up his Synth. His best work was behind the mixing table in generating a unitary sound between vocal and instrument, utilising pitch shifting brilliantly, creating one of the smoothest sounding albums of the year and mastering his own brand of Dance and Disco music. He’s unsurprisingly already picked up awards for Engineer and Producer of year at the AIRA Awards as well as the band winning three other AIRA awards and sweeping up awards elsewhere in Australia. The band now has a Grammy nomination to it’s name too and that’s no small thanks to Kevin Parker.

 

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Arca – Mutant Review

Alejandro Ghersi is a London based Venezuelan record producer and DJ better known by his stage name Arca. Having worked with artists such as Kanye West, producing 4 tracks on his ‘Yeezus’ album, as a producer for FKA Twigs on ‘EP2’ and co producing Bjork’s ninth album ‘Vulnicura’, Arca has now turned his attention to his own production work. Released in November 2015 on Mute records, ‘Mutant’ is Arca’s second full-length album following on from Xen in 2014.

Ghersi’s work as Arca is often defined above all by its fluidity and flexibility, drawing on numerous styles to create a deeply organic sound that has become synonymous with the Venezuelan producer. The album opens up with the fast paced, twitching synths of ‘Alive’, a track which never seems to stay still or settle into a traditional rhythm, bouncing around without a clear linear passage to follow. Track lengths vary in length from over 7 minutes in the dystopian vision of the second track ‘Mutant’ to under a minute for tracks such as ‘Beacon’ and ‘Siren Interlude’. The whole album is one centered around the capabilities of electronics and the sounds they have to offer, whilst avoiding the traditional concepts of electronic music such as its hard drum beats, whilst simultaneously offering a more experimental, perhaps almost ambient presentation in its layout and construction. The album consists of 21 songs, so not the average amount for a stereotypical album, with the tracks feeling more like one long suite instead of 21 individual tracks. The album and sounds throughout show a clear experimental concept, songs seem to merge in between one another with no clear linear vision of where the album is headed. Tracks such as ‘Umbilical’ offer cold hard electronics with repeated vocal loops seemingly the only connection to life on planet earth. The album doesn’t adhere to the stereotypical concept of what an album should be, offering up a small slice of the strange accompanied with experimental electronics and warped sounds. The whole album isn’t an easy listen, it does however feel alive, like a living thing, vibrant, different strange, and slightly surreal to listen to. There is a sense of the extreme; everything from the layout, to the sounds, to the concept of the album feels different to what should be expected from electronic music. Ghersi certainly isn’t following any ‘How To’ manual when writing and producing his work, blurring the lines between experimental sounds and the capabilities it holds, pushing the boundaries of the listener’s expectations. The whole album feels a distorted and removed from reality, a concept that works very well, to some extent the album may not be an enjoyable listen in the traditional sense of melodies and hooks, but it does offer up an alternative style that pushes the boundaries of electronic music.

Mutant is out now on Mute records.

Arca – Mutant = 8/10

 

 

Matthew Kay

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