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leak of the week

Leaked: Björk Explains the Universe

Björk, Biophilia

Official Release Date: October 11

By now, you have surely read about — and perhaps become slightly confused by — the multimedia science extravaganza that is Björk's Biophilia. The album, which took three years and the assistance of both Apple and National Geographic to create, will be officially released as a series of iPad apps; each song addresses a different biological or cosmological theme, with a corresponding interactive "experience" (games, animated scores, etc). In addition to inventing several instruments for the album, Björk reportedly spent months reading up on astrophysics and string theory to write the songs. This is all by way of saying that Biophilia has a lot of Björk-brand eccentricity going on, before you even get to the music itself.

So, how is the music? Even without the apps and the technological hoopla, Biophilia plays a bit like a science experiment. Of course, all Björk albums have a benign-mad-scientist quality to them — imagine Björk, in a furry lab coat and goggles, testing the limits of her vocal cords, and you're probably not too far from the making of Medulla — but this one deals with real biology. "Virus" is a patient, plinky love song told from the perspective of an invading cell; "Mutual Core" name-checks tectonic plates and forming continents (before breaking out a major electronic barrage that disappears almost as soon as it starts thumping).

Some of the tracks are harder to latch onto — "Hollow," for example, lacks a chorus, repeated incantation, or even a consistent rhythm — and you can understand why Björk designed a visual companion for the album. Every planetarium in existence should be playing Biophilia with its shows; it's haunting, expertly crafted space music. But there are also extremely accessible moments, like "Cosmogony," a sweet ballad that swells with choir and horns (or whatever unusual instrument Bjork dreamed up to make that sound). It also offers three explanations for the origin of the universe: (1) a silver fox sang a song that became the world, (2) a god burst out of a dark black egg, and (3) the Big Bang (though her version is more poetic). Even the laws of physics succumb to strange whimsy in Björk's world. Anyone who's seen her explain a television could have told you that.