“I thought I could organize freedom/How Scandinavian of me”Bjork- “Hyperballad”
Bjork’s “Orkestral” shows came to Miami, for two nights at the Adrienne Arsht Center with an exercise in the gentle and ethereal soundscapes of her discography. With members of the Miami-based Nu Deco Ensemble, the singer stood centerstage, flanked by violins, violas, cellos, and a strong duo of upright bassists. Transforming her arrangements of even the techno sound of “Pluto” into lush classical arrangements, the show was extremely minimal in its sound textures. The nearly two hour show brought a setlist primarily pulling from her more recent record “Vulnicura” which itself got an album recording of the string arrangements in 2015, and 1997 classic “Homogenic” which saw Bjork get her largest amount of mainstream exposure. Tracks from albums like “Selmasongs” from the film “Dancer in the Dark” were also performed for the first time since 1998.
In curating the tracks for the show, she weaves a narrative of an artist vying for control in the greater world, while finding peace within the personal, the everyday. Performing “Hunter” she utilizes the sound of a traditional march to create a declarative statement on her perception in the public eye, specifically written when she escaped paparazzi by moving from London to Spain. Including tracks from “Dancer in the Dark” bring up the conversation on how poorly Bjork was treated on the set for the film by director Lars Von Trier, while her lead role in the film introduced the world to her infamous Swan Dress, she was lampooned as this eccentric figure. The heartbreak of tracks like “Hyperballad” and “Isobel” see the artist baring her soul, in a desire for control. Visually, this is represented in her choice to wear masks on stage. Bjork has stated previously “I wear masks because it’s a way to hide and reveal. With masks I feel protected, but it also helps me kinda be more expressive in the ways I know I can be generous to people that I don’t know and give certain things to my close ones”
With her last record “Utopia” being co-produced with Arca being this massive undertaking of electronica and bespoke flutes, with the corresponding “Cornucopia” shows featuring massive productions with custom sound systems, the “Orkestral” show feels almost like an MTV Unplugged performance. With the most decadent aspects being her makeup by German drag artist Hungry, two outfits by fashion houses Three As Four and Noir Kei Ninomiya, it feels like Bjork is stepping back into a more grounded realm on this run, allowing her words to be the forefront.
Sonically, the choice to perform this series with exclusively string instruments underneath her voice feels like an intentional shift towards a more gentle sound. At times, the loudest instrument in the room would be Bjork’s vocals or the percussive clacking of her Gucci platforms onto the stage. More unfortunately however, was the sound of everyone who forgot to turn off their ringers when an Amber Alert went off mid-show. The references to fugues in her description of the pieces evokes the intimacy of Bach, while nods to Ravel’s Bolero create a more grandiose sound, while Bjork acts as the operatic diva at center stage.
Come to Me
I’ve Seen It All
History of Touches
You’ve Been Flirting Again
Overture (First time played since 2008)