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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.

Report this review (#380218)
Posted Friday, January 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have nearlly completed my Bjork collection, and whenever I can get my hands of Medulla, I will review it.

This album saw a slight return to form for Bjork, where Vespertine was a more experimental album that dealt with harmony and melody in an interesting fashion, and Medulla was an album which was completely vocal based, this album saw a return to massive rhythm sections, electronic noodling and cathcy melodies and weird Bjork moments.

This album by far isn't her best, but look at it from this point. It's still Bjork. Their are real classic Bjork moments and songs that I will listen to over and over again. The album saw the inclusion of some familar faces as well.

This album is also like most Bjork albums, it starts off amazing, gets slightly weaker, and picks up at the end.

1. Earth Intruders - Great rhythm. Very earthly. Amazing arrangement. Goes on a wee bit though. The ending horn parts are a wee bit annoying. I can't really notice Timberland's contribution to this song. 9/10

2. Wanderlust - Great lyrics. The mixture of horns and IDM rhythms is amazing. 10/10

3. The Dull Flame Of Desire - Best song on the album. This song also got me into Anthony & The Johnsons, who's lead singer Anthony Hegarty does some vocals in this song, and his vocals realy are some of the most interesting vocals I have ever heard. The horn arrangment is also reminds me of an anthem or a hymn. 10/10

4. Innocence - Timberland's type of producing is very ear catching, and is amazing in this song. It's very interesting to hear Bjork from this perspective. 10/10

5. I See Who You Are - Some interesting saukachi playing. Odd, but beautiful in its own right. I prefer the remix of the song though. 9/10

6. VertebrŠ By VertebrŠ - Again, quite odd. Pretty hypnotic. Great lyrics. 8/10

7. Pneumonia - Very slow, soothing and yet confusing. The lyrics are also quite vivid, being that the song is about Bjork having pneumonia. 9/10

8. Hope - Great use of asian rhythms and melodies. Interesting lyrics and ideas put forward. 8/10

9. Declare Independance - I remember the video for this song had just came out at the time that I was just starting to get into Bjork. I remember thinking new Bjork song, I can't wait. I was a bit surprised, cause theirs no real amazing vocal melody or anything, but its really hypnotic. The bass line is just amazing. Very anthemic and anarchistic. Very noisy song. 10/10

10. My Juvenile - Nice arrangment and vocals. Good ending to an interesting album. 9/10

CONCLUSION: I'm just glad to know that Bjork will always exist in some form or another haha.

Report this review (#382443)
Posted Tuesday, January 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars Planet BJORK rolls into town once again for the release of 'Volta' and I guess there's no surprise that it's full of surprises. But after the ethereal, glorious 'Vespertine' and the experimental 'Medulla', what does she have left to give us?

Heartache, that's what. Whatever she has to say is drowned in the music: sampled horns, overbearing electronic percussion. Occasionally this heavy, dull curtain parts and reveals the fragile artists known as BJORK, but then the production takes over again and she is drowning in a sea of sound. Yes, her first three albums were instrumented, but to better effect than this. She wanted energy (hence the title of the album) but she got sludge.

The opener (and lead single) 'Earth Intruders' thunders away, fulfilling a similar role to 'Army of Me' on 'Post' but more unsettling (and interesting). However, the following songs aren't her best work. 'Wanderlust' is overburdened with sound, smothering the otherwise excellent ballad. 'The Dull Flame Of Desire' is impossible to take seriously, as ANTONY, the male vocalist she sings duet with, sounds uncannily like RICHARD CHEESE. Is BJORK telling us she's turning into a parody of herself? And how is this banal cabaret voice in any way suitable for the music or subject matter? The most disastrous BJORK offering since 'It's Oh So Quiet.'

'Innocence' is good fun, a TIMBALAND special. I like his chops but can't help wishing BJORK herself had generated the hi-voltage energy for which this album is named. Give me 'There's More To Life Than This' (from her debut) any day. When she gives her voice some aural space ('I See Who You Are') she ends up not having anything new to say. 'Cocoon' did this better. It's such a shame that the artist capable of producing something like 'Unison' (from 'Vespertine') had delivered something so un-engaging.

And so on. As I listen to song after song I've noticed how little she pushes her voice on this album. The backing music carries all the dynamic. We get a few wails but little of the adventurousness of her previous work. And none of the beauty. 'Pneumonia' is supposed to sound poignant but falls flat. 'Hope' doesn't offer any. And what on earth was she thinking with 'Declare Independence'? Lyrics straight from MUSE, chanted rather than sung in the best punk tradition. Now I know what a female dalek sounds like. Totally unconvincing. And we get more of RICHARD CHEESE to close the album. Yay.

On the cover of 'Vespertine' BJORK wore a swan. On this stunningly awful cover Big Bird is wearing her. A metaphor, perhaps, for the music having taken over? Tracks 1, 2 and 4 into the BJORK playlist, and the others off to the Wilderness of Irrelevant Songs to join - well, hardly any of her previous material.

Report this review (#422018)
Posted Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars "Volta" is Bjork's decline in quality after some extremely poor efforts, yet I was really getting into the style on some of the earlier albums. The inconsistency of the material is the problem, some high moments are marred by dreadful moments.

'Earth Intruders' opens the album with robotic rhythms and Bjork's processed vocals "we are the Earth Intruders" heard over and over. It is an up tempo song that starts the album well enough. It has a wonderful ending that sounds like a fleet of ships in the fog sounding off their horns to one another. I like this experimental side of Bjork as long as she contains the weirdness in actual songs and, unlike "Medulla" Bjork is experimental but still utilises very compelling musical arrangements.

The bass synth percussions and brass overwhelm 'Wanderlust' which has Bjork's raw vocals crying out passionately. This one also has an unusual ending with monotone honking horns and eeries whispers over an ocean effect.

The majestic brass sound opens 'The Dull Flame of Desire" and Bjork sings "I love your eyes, my dear, they're splendid sparkling fire". Her sentiments are echoed by a decent singer Anthony Hegarty, from Anthony & The Johnsons, with a voice odd in itself. The duet is quite pleasant at first but goes on too long and Anthony begins to grate on my nerves after a while.

Odd industrial rhythms power 'Innocence' along reminding me of "Homogenic" or earlier Bjork. It is okay showing the experimental Bjork, but not as compelling as others on the album. 'I See Who You Are' has an Oriental sound and quiet Bjork vocals "I see who you are behind the skin and the muscle." This front end vocal is always intimate and certainly the Japanese influences are prevalent on this track. I find it all a bit dull after a while as it just plods along slowly and doesn't progress.

We return to howling wind, oceans and brass on 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae'. Bjork's measured vocals are interesting and I kind of like the odd off sync percussion and nautical atmospheres. I am quite at a loss though as to whether this is a concept album or not as at times it has similar atmospherics but it is not consistent. The lack of melody is a yawnfest and I have trouble listening to this lengthy repetition.

It seems that repetition and no melody is the new Bjork on this album. Yes, there is music, unlike most of "Medulla" but it lacks coherence. 'Pneumonia' is just a brass section and Bjork's almost improvising a rhythmic vocal. Again, the melody is fractured and hard to hook into, and this goes on far too long. 'Hope' returns to Japanese Oriental music and Bjork's voice moving all over the scale, never locking into a melody. It really is too much for me to withstand, and this is becoming a slog now at this stage to get through. Honestly it is fast becoming the worst Bjork album, and a total disappointment after I was beginning to like her on albums such as "Vespertine", "Homogenic" and "Debut".

'Declare Independence' is experimental with fuzzing sonic deep bass, and Bjork emphatically stating "declare independence don't let them do that to you, start your own currency, make your own stamp, protect your language." I like this especially the electronic fuzz and minimalist approach. Bjork sounds like Toyah and I love that style so this is my favourite on the album. When she sings "raise your flag higher" it sounds even more like Toyah; a great innovative song from Bork.

After this 'My Juvenile' ends this album with nice harp chimes, similar to the work on "Vespertine". The emotional piano crashes are augmented by breathy ice vocals, "down the corridor ice and warmth, down the staircase ice and warmth". This ethereal song ends the album on a very downbeat note but it is a nice song, with lots of creative music, and Anthony returns to add some vocals.

Overall, this is a disappointing album, as Bjork attempts to capture some of the style of "Homogenic" and retain the experimental avant garde of "Medulla" but fails on every level. It has some conceptual transitions, fog horns, boats on a sea and nautical effects, and then at other times opts for a Japanese approach, and none of it gels together or makes any sense as a whole album. It is the worst Bjork album thus far, a failed experiment she would never return to, patchy and inconsistent, with only a few tracks to save it from complete disaster.

Report this review (#792719)
Posted Monday, July 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Bjork-Volta

'Volta' is the seventh studio album by Icelandic experimental musician Bjork.

Bjork is one of those musicians that really can't be placed under any one genre of music. She has combined rock, jazz, trip-hop, ambient, techno, industrial, and who knows what else. Because of this, I've always seen her as avant-garde or experimental. I grew up listening to her albums 'Debut', 'Post', and 'Homogenic', but I didn't get this album until about a year ago. With that, I must say this is one eclectic release.

The album opens with the pulsing tribal beats of 'Earth Intruders'. I love the atmosphere of this song, there is a lot of different experimentation with the electronics here. From droning to menacing effects, the electronics are very strong. Bjork's vocals are also very strong on this track. The song ends with boat horns and other noises, ending the song on a pretty odd note. 'Innocence' is another highlight, which begins with what sounds like a guy getting punched in the face. The beats in this song feel like a punch in the face, pulsing throughout. 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae' is an interesting song, starting out feeling like a film score. Later some electronic sounds come in, making it sound a bit different. 'Hope' is a unique track, containing tribal drumming and a clavichord into a surprisingly good mix. My favorite on the album is undeniably the droning 'Declare Independence' This song uses distortion perfectly, it soon developing a melody to it. Once the pounding beats come in, it immediately becomes a real headbanger. Bjork's vocals are very raw and it's awesome when she screams 'Declare Independence, Don't let them do that to you'. I love the lyrics on this one too.

Those are the highlights, but I like most of the songs on the album. The only songs I don't like are 'The Dull Flame of Desire' and 'My Juvenile', not only do I not usually like ballads, but I really don't like Antony Hegarty's vocals. He sounds like a lounge singer, making these duets sound incredibly cheesy.

Overall, I find this to be one of Bjork's best albums along with 'Homogenic' and 'Debut'. I highly recommend this album for anyone who wants something different and something that is very eclectic.

Report this review (#1357546)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2015 | Review Permalink

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