Album Review: Björk – Bastards (Biophilia Remixes)

By Natalie Salvo
Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Björk is an artist that never fails to be eccentric and interesting. Last year’s Biophilia album was a sprawling, mixed media affair where the music was released as an album alongside shows, educational projects and a special app for every single song. In 2012, Bastards draws together remixes of virtually all of these tracks.

Björk has acknowledged that these particular remixes took the listener somewhere else. The cuts were all chosen by the fine lady herself, because she says they contain much sturdier legs to dance on thanks to their rather heavy reliance on synths and beats. These particular songs have all been offered on the Internet as downloads at different times and this release collects them together in a handy but rather unnecessary package.

Like any of Björk’s actual releases there is an awful lot going on here. There’s different textures, melodies, rhythms and sonic colours mixed and mashed together to create all kinds of sights, sounds and smells. The effect is something equally sensual, spooky and space-like. It’s versatility of the highest manner with the only common denominator (apart from the source material) being that unique voice of hers- crying, talking, singing, caterwauling and stalking in the distance.

All of Biophilia is represented here save for “Cosmogony” and tracks like “Crystalline”, “Sacrifice”, “Mutual Core” and “Thunderbolt” are represented twice with remixes by completely different artists and DJs. Some of the remixes are perfect compliments to the Biophilia versions and the album’s all-round idea of exploring the bonds between living systems in music, technology and nature. But there are other tracks (particularly those by Omar Souleyman) that only seem to take the slightest sliver of inspiration from the original and take the music completely off the charts.

Souleyman’s “Crystalline” begins proceedings with a catchy and repetitive Middle Eastern dance number. It’s an absolute pleasure to listen to and really encapsulates the growth of the individual and relationships that Björk had hit at in the first place. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his remix of “Thunderbolt” because this fails to have the same depth and impact as that first, killer track.

“Sacrifice” by Death Grips is a hyperactive cacophony of noise. There are moments where the music rattles and at other times it is light and breathy. There are parts sounding like they’re from some past, oriental Odyssey before things fast-forward to the futuristic world of computers and machines via something as domestic and pedestrian as a cat scratching at a post. There’s one thing you cannot accuse this track of being and that is languishing in some easy, failsafe box.

Another creative and confident song is “Mutual Core” remixed by These New Puritans where some morbid music is coupled with the “Funeral Song” by a Melanesian choir. The latter is chanted and sits well with BjörkBjork’s repeated caterwauling of the words found in the title. It’s quite a loud number compared to the beginning of Matthew Herbert’s remix of the same song. That one is all about ambient calm and warmth before it transforms into a darker being while “Solstice” again is something completely different with some pure, dub-step music.

Bastards is Björk’s third remix album and yet another rich offering of ambitious tunes. With jagged beats, pulsating rhythms, plenty of reverb and thunderous percussion, it’s weird and certainly not the most accessible record to be appreciated by one and all. But for Björk’s more hardcore devotees this is another enthusiastic and solid collection of strange beats to add to this chameleon’s already complex, large and varied catalogue.