Despite more than two years of anchoring her family in Iceland and almost as much time without looming artistic deadlines, Björk seemed a little out of breath during a recent phone conversation from Reykjavik. She was strolling outside during a studio break where she was putting the finishing touches on her upcoming 10th studio album. Shortly after, she was traveling outside Iceland for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. On Wednesday, his Cornucopia Tour makes its Los Angeles premiere, the first of three nights at the Shrine Auditorium.
A few days earlier, the 56-year-old musician had missed a scheduled call due to a sudden change in plans caused by – what else? – creating his album during the pandemic. “Some people I was working with on it got COVID,” she said. “So we have to juggle all the plans, because I’m trying to finish my new album before I go to California.”
This album will be her first since 2017’s ‘Utopia’. It’s part of a discography that, over 30 years, has earned her worldwide fame and legions of devoted fans – even as she strayed from the center of music. popular and moved its sound away from the norm. structures.
Possessing an immediately identifiable voice and eager to exploit all its facets, the artist born Björk Guðmundsdóttir has, since his rise in the post-punk group of the late 80s, the Sugarcubes and his first solo album, “Debut”, in 1991, explored dance-pop, trip-hop, experimental electronic music and the string minimalism, along the way of combining it into a set of uniquely Björkian works.
Björk made her debut with Cornucopia, which she directed with Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, in 2019 at The Shed in New York. For the show, based on ideas and visual cues presented in “Utopia”, Björk enlisted influential multimedia artist Tobias Gremmler to collaborate with set designer Chiara Stephenson. Above all, they teamed up with cutting-edge sound designers to create a 360-degree soundscape.
While in the United States, Björk will perform two Cornucopia dates in San Francisco (February 5 and 6) before flying to Miami for two mid-February performances of Björk Orchestral, billed as “an intimate tour featuring the orchestral arrangements by Björk”. Later this year, Björk will appear in a major film for the first time since her performance in 2000 in “Dancer in the Dark” by controversial director Lars von Trier. She plays a character called the Seer in “The Northman,” an upcoming historical drama starring Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, and Anya Taylor-Joy.
Our conversation took place in mid-January, when the Omicron variant disrupted global air traffic, casting doubt – since appeased – on the gigs. “Fingers crossed,” she said. “We’ll see what happens.”
Given the global increase in COVID cases caused by the Omicron variant, were you hesitant to resume your Cornucopia tour?
Since everyone has to be vaccinated two or three times, I will hand it over to your government. But on my side, I should at least do my best. I did concerts in the fall in Iceland that were postponed seven times. When we finally did them, it was an out of body experience for all of us. And I was very relaxed because ticket holders basically had to renew their tickets seven times. I feel a certain obligation to this. I also feel like during COVID people have suffered. And when it comes to music and concerts, it was mind-blowing to see how essential experience is to the human condition. It was very powerful to be able to do this together.
During your enforced break, were there any rituals or new routines that helped ground you?
I enjoyed good evenings during the most restrictive moments. We made our dinner and at the end we danced like crazy for an hour on the sofa and we were still in bed at 11 p.m. I like that. I think that’s my ideal lifestyle.
It is said on the internet that the album you are working on has dance floor material.
I’m finishing the album now, so it will definitely be released this year. The description that a song starts out slow, then at the last minute you can dance like crazy to it, is probably a description that would fit most songs. I like music that starts off kind of quiet and dark, and you get this…I don’t know…storytelling and this kind of acoustic folk element in the songs. I like to dance a little, so in the last minutes of each song, you can have fun and go for it.
When isolated in COVID, most people around the world merged [dinner], the bar and the disco, and it’s in your living room. And also, it happened between the generations. It’s always like that in Iceland. When I go to the big cities, I have the impression that the generations are quite separated.
The generations feel very separated, socially, in Los Angeles.
In Iceland, if you go to certain concerts and bars, all generations will drink together or party together. But Reykjavik only has about 150,000 inhabitants. If you’re looking for alternative electronic music, or if you like heavy metal, the 100 people who are interested in it will be from all generations.
This year marks your return to acting with your performance in “The Northman”. What attracted you to this role and why now?
I kind of did it as a favor for a friend. It’s not really my thing; I’ve been lucky enough to get offers over the years, but I’m more of a musician than an actress. I’m in the movie for about 30 seconds – it’s more of a guest appearance. But it was really fun, and [screenwriter] Sjón is such a genius when it comes to historical accuracy. He comes from a real-world archeology and anthropology background, so he’s pretty authentic in his approach to historical things.
The Los Angeles concerts will be your first outside of Iceland in over two years. How does it feel to think of coming back after such a disruption?
In fact, I like it because with musicians it can get a bit linear. You record, then you shoot, then record, then shoot. It’s refreshing to break that up a bit. The only thing I felt I could change with the Cornucopia show is that there are two manifestos, one by me and one by [Swedish environmental activist] Greta Thunberg, who are now three years old. But they are even more relevant now.
One thing we’ve seen during the pandemic is that if governments want to act quickly, they can. Having witnessed the climate deal negotiations in Scotland a few months ago – which Greta called “blah blah blah” in a post comment – I think the two manifestos on the Cornucopia show are even more relevant now. We must act now, and we must have the same urgency in our environmental actions as the way we responded to the pandemic.
As someone who has been experimenting with new technologies for a long time, have you followed the rise of NFTs, blockchain and the notion of digital property, and if so, is it something you want to explore?
I’m certainly curious. I’ve never been like, “Let’s just do it for the sake of making new s—.” There are definitely things that I have embraced. For example, touch screens for “Biophilia” – it looked like it could really work. “Vulnicura” was perfect as a private opera on the VR screen. The isolation you feel when you have a VR set on your head suited him just fine. We took this exhibit to 20 different cities, and people were crying into their helmets, which made me feel like it was a good experience.
But I’m still deciding with this album. I’m still finishing the music part, so it’s not the best time for me to answer this question. Overall though, like most people on the planet, I enjoyed being home and grounded and being visceral and tactile. It’s something that takes me a little away from technology and more from seeing the body and the seasons passing by, a kind of closeness to visceral things. But once I’ve mixed the album, I’ll move on to the visual side of things. Then I’ll see what looks tempting.