Aaron Frank can see clearly now, the rave is gone.
After a first listen through the spastic, skittering melodies of Bjork’s new single “Crystalline”, it would almost appear that the reclusive Icelandic queen of electronic had been hanging out in British dance clubs like FWD and Plastic People for the past several years, soaking in the progressive, post-dubstep sounds of artists like Four Tet and Kode9. And if you were in fact theorizing such a thing, the drum n’ bass breakdown near the end would certainly put you over the top. However, Bjork has always been somewhat of a purveyor of newer electronic sub-genres, incorporating hints of dubstep on her 2007 single “Wanderlust” and more famously twisting the roots of trip-hop and techno to suit her own sound on the classic album Post.
In the past, Bjork has also offered her own formative take on ambient electronic music, creating emotionally dense tapestries of music — pieces which seem to slowly orbit each other until just the right moment when she adds that special spark that sets the whole thing aflame. While this analogy might come off as convoluted, it actually fits “Crystalline” better than any of her previous songs. Some disorienting bells play off-meter in 3/4 throughout the majority of the track, while the rest of the track builds off elements of heavy bass and sharp percussion. Like most Bjork songs, we have absolutely no idea behind the lyrical meaning, but the astronomy references to nebulas and galaxies definitely play well with the spacious production, helping the song project a beautiful sense of wonderment, which is then shattered by the DNB breakdown at the end.
What’s so fantastic about the DNB breakdown of the song is the innovative way the drums are compressed to fills at the end of every 8 bars, each fill different than the last and projecting a newfound sense of funk or discomfort, depending on how you look at it. At one point, the drums are compressed to sixteenth notes and by the next fill, they’ve moved on to triplets or have become so distorted it’s difficult to measure. What is easy to measure is that this is clearly the most exciting part of the song, hopefully hipping some old school ravers to Bjork’s new album Biophilia, which is slated for release in September.