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Björk - Volta CD (album) cover

VOLTA

Björk

 

Crossover Prog

2.77 | 63 ratings

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Finnforest
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars "We're all f***ing animals, so let's just make some universal tribal beat. We're pagan. Let's just march."

Whether you agree with her pronouncements or not, Bjork decided she wanted 2007's "Volta" to be a return to high energy, she wanted to make an "Up" album. She did succeed in that goal but admitted after the album's release that it was just OK. "Volta" has some fun moments with good humor and lots of variety but it is a far cry from the previous triumph of "Medulla." The buzz before the release was that this would be a return to pop music in the "Post" style and there is a bit of that, but "Volta" is an edgier, more eclectic beast than Bjork's safer 90s work. Like those titles it is a mixed bag in terms of quality and front-loaded with the best material.

Jarring, restless, and flamboyant describe the exuberant party gal that "Volta" aspires to be, at least for half the disc. This is a guest who shows up at your door determined to be the person everyone will be talking about tomorrow. "Earth Intruders" wastes no time. Bjork delivers a monotone verse with cool operatic backing vocals, to rhythms as charged as Kate Bush's "Sat In Your Lap." It's a great energetic track co-produced by Timbaland. For the final two minutes everything stops and we get some watery sounds with foghorns and seagulls. Quite a clumsy transition but not unpleasant. Next comes "Wanderlust" which is one of the nicest "normal" ballads Bjork has ever done. She sings quite passionately about sailing away the urban, from the stress. There is great longing in the vocal accentuated beautifully by the brass in the background, even if the rhythm track is falling into the old Bjork bad habit of suffocating the human feel with noisy technology. At the end she talks of being "relentlessly restless" and the song expresses that feeling impeccably.

With the third track comes the third change of pace, this is not a uniform ride! "The Dull Flame of Desire" is a track sure to divide fans. It is a 7 minute romantic duet with the rather precious cabaret vocals of Antony---relaxing and well meant, but far too long and interesting only for being unusual. "Innocence" comes roaring back with an almost hip-hop beat that is intense?it literally punches you with sound, as Bjork giddily squeals about overcoming fear and how it becomes almost addictive. More relaxing watery effects to conclude, this is a little thing she does at the end of several songs to impart some continuity or perhaps just calm. "I see who you are" is a sparse ode to lovemaking while we can, before we "become corpses." Brass and lightly plucked strings make up the unique background. This is the last moment on the album where I really feel engaged, and if it stopped here I'd give it another star for sure.

The rest of the album just collapses into "for hard core fans only" territory as we suffer through several tortuously boring tracks, more Antony, and the laughably bad "Declare Independence." The best tracks of "Volta" would have made a pretty formidable EP, but as a full album on the whole it is "Ok" as Bjork noted. Maybe a bit less than OK to be honest, we're back into the clumsy, flailing Post/Homogenic territory which for me falls short of a "good" album. "Volta" is an eclectic bag of tricks that will appeal to some but it is not one of Bjork's outstanding works.

"Volta" also enters the competition for the "worst packaging of all time" award which I will present at the end of my life to one in a room full of artists who think their silly contraptions superior to the beautiful simplicity of the jewel case. But I won't continue my rant about why this digipak sucks, I'll leave some mystery for you the buyer to enjoy.

Finnforest | 2/5 |

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