As a project, Biophilia has so many moving parts: it's a record, a series of interactive apps, a live undertaking, a music curriculum. Unfortunately, the audio portion is the most static. In order to accommodate the didactic nature of the project -- which is being incorporated into music and science lessons for Reykjavik schoolchildren -- the tracks are sparsely arranged and often showcase one instrument at a time. Still, a lot of those instruments are pretty awesome: a celesta designed to be played by tablet, specially-commissioned, Tesla coils, insanely heavy gravity harps. Were Björk looking to create a bowel-shaking avant-pop album, she could easily start with Biophilia's mad gaggle of instruments.
"Crystalline" is the closest this record comes to fusing new and old Björk. A twinkling gameleste (that reconfigured celesta) and heavily edited buzzbeat back a Debut-era topline; the final minute rewards us with a glorious throwback breakbeat. In places, "Mutual Core" bangs with that old industrial feel, and Björk gets to show off a still-robust upper range. But for the most part, we're left with a slaved-over skeleton (the album's release date was pushed back in order for the record to be given more sonic vigor) that requires a host of add-ons to become a living organism.