Björk gave fans a small glimpse into the future when she performed the world premiere of her heavily-hyped multi-media project "Biophilia" in the Northern U.K. city of Manchester last night (June 30).
Hailed in some quarters as the world's first fully realised app-album, 'Biophilia' is an ambitious multi-media cross platform experience that encompasses the Icelandic singer's latest studio set, a series of interactive apps for each track on the record, and a series of lives shows at the Manchester International Festival, featuring original custom built instruments, live percussion and a 24-piece choir.
Video: Björk performs "Crystalline" live in Manchester
The album's live unveiling took place on a custom-built stage at Manchester's Campfield Market Hall, where Björk -- wearing a gigantic Afro-permed orange wig and flowing purple robe -- delivered a well-received 20-song set in front of 1,800 fans and invited media. But from the outset, it was clear that this was no regular album launch.
Performing on a small open stage, which the audience encircled, the singer utilised a wide range of custom-built instruments to present her latest material, including 10ft tall pendulum harps that plucked strings as they swung.
Other bespoke instruments specially invented for the show included: a digital pipe organ; two Tesla coils, which shot out small bolts of lightning to generate musical notes; "The Gameleste," a glockenspiel-style piano; and a 10-foot tall pin barrel harp called the "Sharpsichord." A 24-piece all female choir provided further musical backing and added to the overall sense of strangeness with their gaudy blue and gold dresses evoking scenes from 1970s science fiction flick "Logan's Run."
The much-heralded multi-media aspect of 'Biophilia' was distinctly harder to detect. With the exception of eight screens hanging above the stage, onto which films of planets, stars, molecules and wildlife was projected, the visual offering was limited. Audience interaction was, meanwhile, restricted largely to applause.
At several points during the 90-minute set, Björk did appear to be orchestrating a vast symphonic score via a tablet PC, but for the most part she simply stuck to singing -- presumably leaving the musical director at the side of the stage, standing behind a vast bank of tablets and laptops, to engineer the dense mesh of tribal percussion, synth, strings and electronic rhythms which forms 'Biophilia.'
The experience was undoubtedly thrilling as a live show, but revealed little about the potentially radical release of her next record and what impact it could have on the wider industry.
Björk will play five further shows as part of her three-week residency at the Manchester International Festival, which wraps July 17. The artist will then tour Biophilia internationally, although dates are yet to be announced. 'Biophilia' receives a physical and digital release in the fall with the Biophilia app suite to debut later this month via One Little Indian/Nonesuch Records.