August 13, 2011
Bjork, the Icelandic musician and performer, has a new app on iTunes that serves to promote her new album while attempting to reinvent the very way digital music is distributed. Dubbed Biophilia, the so-called "app album" (which shares its name with the album proper) is, for all intents and purposes, an envelope containing Bjork's latest musical tracks presented in beat-based, interactive app form. Set up like a navigable star field, the app represents its constituent parts as beautifully-line constellation designs. Indeed, the best part of the entire affair is this unique menu system, combining swipe controls with more subtle accelerometer interactions to move you between the scattered, glowing orbs of light and sound. Included with the initial free download is the track "Cosmogony," but each additional song -- of which only two have so far been released -- must be accessed through in-app purchases of $1.99 per track. All told, the album should, on completion, contain 11 individual songs. Though the included app is no more than an animated space-walk, the promised interactivity and style of each newer song will differ from every other, and, of those out so far, Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb has this to say:
The first app, Crystalline, is a kind of game where you navigate through space collecting crystals as the song plays. There's a delightful artistic tie-in between the music, the concept of the song, lyrics, visuals and the interactivity of the app... The second song, Virus, also features an interactive app. There is an "instrument mode" too, where touching the images produces sounds from different instruments. In effect, you create your own song from the instruments Björk uses in 'Virus.'From the included screens below, you can get a good idea of the artsy approach Bjork and her coding team have taken with the project. Overall, while unique and ambitious, Biophiloia isn't particularly groundbreaking, nor will it establish or even catalyze any sort of fundamental paradigm shift in the industry. Still, what it does, it does well; and the presentation certainly makes the artist's music more accessible and entertaining for those of us not particularly interested in the merits of Bjork's compositions alone. And though this will always be my favorite Bjork song, her universe-themed, universal app is available for free in the App Store.