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Fungi served as Bjork's latest muse in her new album, 'Fossora'

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Bjork often describes her music using visual cues. The Icelandic musician's last album looked up to the heavens, filled with birdsong and airy flutes. Her new album, "Fossora," peers deep down into the soil.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FUNGAL CITY (FEAT. SERPENTWITHFEET)")

BJORK: (Singing) Fungal cities subterranean.

SUMMERS: Our reviewer Miguel Perez explains how fungi served as Bjork's latest muse.

MIGUEL PEREZ, BYLINE: They're often seen as the grim reaper of the natural world. Mold and mushrooms means death and decay. But from Bjork's perspective, the sound of fungi is far from morbid.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOSSORA (FEAT. KASIMYN)")

BJORK: (Singing) Fossora, fossora...

PEREZ: Bubbly and fun is how she describes her new album, unified by an unlikely sonic pairing. The velvety rich timbre of bass clarinets meets the pulsing energy of hardcore techno beats, crafted here by the Indonesian dance duo Gabber Modus Operandi.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ATOPOS")

BJORK: (Singing) ...It's a form of hiding. Oh. Oh. Are these not just excuses to not connect?

PEREZ: Totally different sounds working together to create this playful sonic portrait of mycelia - the vast rootlike network that underpins all fungal life. The beat on the song "Atopos" burrows deep and wide in search of harmony, until finally...

(SOUNDBITE OF BJORK SONG, "ATOPOS")

PEREZ: These frenetic bursts of emotional power are all over the record. Made in Iceland during COVID lockdown, "Fossora" is the result of the artist's hunkering down and reconnecting with her home. Bjork honors Iceland's choral traditions as well as her late mother on the album. All of this converges beautifully on a eulogy called "Sorrowful Soil."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SORROWFUL SOIL")

BJORK: (Singing) You did well. You, you did your best. Well, you did your best.

PEREZ: The humble mushroom makes for a useful metaphor, then. Wherever death goes, it's sure to follow. But fungi also redistribute nutrients, purify water, nurture new life. From dissolution comes regeneration. The idea takes on another form on the album closer, where Bjork's teenage daughter joins her for a tender finale.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER MOTHER'S HOUSE (FEAT. ISADORA BJARKARDOTTIR BARNEY)")

BJORK: (Singing) The more I love you, the stronger you become.

ISADORA BJARKARDOTTIR BARNEY: (Singing) The more you love me, the stronger I become.

PEREZ: Bjork sings of her newly empty nest on "Her Mother's House" - another loss and another opportunity for regrowth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER MOTHER'S HOUSE (FEAT. ISADORA BJARKARDOTTIR BARNEY)")

BJORK: (Singing) And the less you need me.

BARNEY: (Singing) And the less I need you.

SUMMERS: Bjork's new album, "Fossora," is out now. Our reviewer, Miguel Perez, is a producer for World Cafe in Philadelphia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HER MOTHER'S HOUSE (FEAT. ISADORA BJARKARDOTTIR BARNEY)")

BJORK: (Singing) A dry voice comes from a stingy heart, but a moist voice comes from abundance. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miguel Perez
Miguel Perez is a radio producer for NPR's World Cafe, based out of WXPN in Philadelphia. Before that, he covered arts, music and culture for KERA in Dallas. He reported on everything from the rise of NFTs in the music industry to the enduring significance of gay and lesbian bars to the LGBTQ community in North Texas.
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