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Björk, "Fossora" (One Little Independent)

Björk's 10th studio album can be heavy going, thorny and intense. But it's well worth an effort.

"Fossora" continues the multimedia visionary's lifelong project of linking personal experience to larger natural and cosmic processes. It arrives five years after "Utopia," a determinedly airy album featuring the sounds of birds and flutes. "Fossora" (Latin for "digger") prizes earthiness: the fleshy physicality of life and death, pleasure and suffering, romantic and parental love.

Björk's production and arrangements on "Fossora" present her at her most unapologetically abstruse: closer to contemporary chamber music than to pop, rock or dance music. Her melodies, as always, are bold, declarative and delivered with passion and suspense. But on "Fossora," Björk doesn't necessarily center those melodies as the hooks they could be. And she's not aiming for dance-floor beats.

The songs encompass mourning, self-assessment and hard-won connection and renewal. For much of the album, Björk, 56, contemplates the 2018 death of her mother, Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, and her own generational roles as a child and a mother. (Björk's children, Sindri and Isadora, appear among the album's backing vocals.) In "Sorrowful Soil," Björk summons overlapping, antiphonal choirs for a prismatic yet coolly scientific consideration of motherhood. It's followed by "Ancestress," as she recalls moments of her mother's life and death.

But the album also recognizes obstinate, essential life forces: love, hope and — as a biological analogue — subterranean fungal growth. In "Fungal City," Björk exults in a new romance, singing, "His vibrant optimism happens to be my faith too." That optimism is by no means naïve. In "Victimhood," she struggles with shattered expectations and longs for perspective. The album concludes with "Her Mother's House," an abstract near-lullaby that envisions children's rooms as chambers of a mother's heart. "Fossora" doesn't aim to be a crowd-pleaser. But Björk's interior worlds are vast.

JON PARELES, New York Times

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