Dylan Strain reviews Bjork's new album Volta
“It’s about being exhausted with the self - importance of religion, and thinking, ‘okay, wait a minute, maybe we are one tribe, and we’re actually part of nature, and trying to suggest some kind of patent for that… but it’s still 2007, it’s not some hippy shit, go back to your roots, it’s all march forward.” - Bjork.
There’s a theme of nature, humanity and rebellion on her sixth, self - produced album, lyrically clear and simple, but also beautiful, concerned, caring and warm.
Current single Earth Intruders, is a treat. A positive response to the possible despair of seeing first hand the devastation of a town, due to the 2005 tsunami where 180,000 people died, out of a population of 300,000. Here, feet march, infectious African style, drums beat to the feet belonging to a tsunami of people marching all over barriers to progress, “Just hit the White House and scrape it off the ground and do some justice,” Hurricane Katrina perhaps also in her thoughts. This “shower of goodness” is vintage Bjork, the originality aided hugely by experimental Congo band Konono No 1, innovative percussionist Chris Corsano and hip -hop producer Timbaland who co-produces this and Innocence.
Many sounds link between tracks, the sound of boats, setting sail to my imagination, a boat taking Bjork away from a city of man made God fearing rights and wrongs in order to live life to the full, roaming around the world - a Wanderlust.
Long-term collaborator Mark Bell provides kicking electronica on this, well blended with the first blows of an all-female ten piece, Icelandic brass section, who continue the good work with an epic film soundtrack of sound for Fyodor Tyutchev’s poem The Dull Flame of Desire. A hooky repetitive love duet featuring fragile, sensitive (and many think beautiful) vocals from Antony Hegarty (of Mercury prize winners Antony and The Johnsons) takes the pace down, only to be followed by Timbaland produced, heavyweight hip-hop quality punch for Innocence. Evoking the sound and style of her debut LP, 14 years ago, Bjork looks back to when she “was fearless, innocence roared…. It’s still here, but in different places”.
I see who you are is a lovely lullaby to her young daughter, celebrating love and life, the rich pickings of a pipa (ancient pear shaped Chinese four string guitar) by Min Xiao-Fen adding much. The trick is repeated on Hope, this time combining with superb percussion, Malian player Toumani Diabate is much in the foreground, his kora (West African harp lute with 19 strings) delicately meandering and musing in style over an otherwise difficult debate; a true news story about a pregnant Palestinian suicide bomber blowing only herself and child up in a hospital (a subject Bjork manages to handle lightly with perky aplomb).
The above are the golden nuggets. The contributions throughout from many talented and also downright fashionable players (to add kudos) from around the globe, definitely a case of more heads being better than one, rather than too many cooks.
Despite this, however, the LP remains too much like a typical Bjork album of old, with the exception of Earth Intruders. I’d like to see her hand the production reins over for an album or two, (an album produced by Timbaland would be fascinating, judging by his work on this) to add to her solo legacy of 15 years as a breath of fresh air and trailblazer in the chart world.