on 25 December 2008
This is a punky collection of tracks, like a crowd of people all shouting out their own ideas, wanting to be heard as individuals, rather than a choir of voices focused together in harmony.
The highlight for me is Pneumonia, about a person who is so full of pain that they hide away from the world to avoid more hurt, 'get over that sorrow, girl, get over it'. The music and lyrics all come together here to tell a tale with beauty and emotion.
Other great tracks include: Dull Flame of Desire, Wanderlust and I See Who You Are.
The album version of 'Innocence' is unremarkable unlike it's EP incarnation, Simian Mobile Disco Twelve Inch Remix, which makes me want to dance and is a tonic of pure energy.
'Declare Independence' and 'My Juvenile' aren't very melodic and quite academic, conceptual stuff, I don't like them.
Earth Intruders was an odd choice for a single I think, it gets bogged down with poor lyrics where the poetry doesn't quite flow. Collaboration with Sjón Sigurdsson, who wrote lyrics for Oceania on Medúlla and Bachelorette from Homogenic are times when Björk leaps out from the Earth's gravity and into the heavens.
For me this album is Björk's weakest overall, with songs I either love or loathe, nothing inbetween.
I'm so pleased she's still putting out her music.
on 8 May 2007
We all know that Bjork is no mainstream artist, we are also aware that her singles are not Top 40, however, we are also well aware that Bjork is the greatest artist from an import "little" island called Iceland and that her new record "Volta' is over the top.
The opener of the record "Earth Intruders" literally marches into your head-- (We Are The Earth Intruders/We Are The Earth Intrudes/Muddy and Twigs and Branches)--With African-tribe beats, drums and nice tempo beats it is easy to say that Bjork is going back to the mainstream world back in '95 with her release "Post", but since when have Bjork been mainstream? Bjork new beats are clearly more "mainstream", if you can call them mainstream, but her songs have Bjork written all over them.
With the help of Timbaland Bjork pulls off two more up beat tracks (The First being "Earth Intruders")--Innocence and Hope--. "Innocence" it's probably the strongest and most mainstream song of the record--and also one of my favorites--, it still contains Bjork in it but in a less innocence way. "Wanderlust", "The Dull Flame of Desire" and "See Who You Are" are pretty similar ballads, each with their own up beat bass on the back. "Dull" is a duet with Antony Hegarty and "See Who You Are" has a great remix by Mark Stent. "Declare Independence" is probably the hardest song to swallow; it has that "Pluto" from Homogenic sound. "My Juvenile" its Bjork song to Sindri, -- (My Juvenile/I Truly Say/You Are My Biggest Love)--probably the deepest song, lyrically, on the whole record. The album shows intensity and persistence, and most importantly rhythm. The record contains interludes in between the songs, which bring the songs together as a whole connecting their different sound into just one steady rhythm.
I always wondered what Bjork + Timbaland would be like, and now I know. It is Bjork at its best, not saying that "Volta" it's better than "Vespertine" or "Homogenic" but the record stays true to Bjork, it definitely stays on her standards and it is a new chapter in Bjork's music.
on 24 June 2007
Bjork's latest offering `Volta' invites new and old fans to follow her unstoppable career to new heights. The album is essentially a catalogue of sounds forged into ten tracks, taking the listener on a journey through the weird and wonderful. Emerging through the other side is not for the faint hearted, as the music requires the punter to be attentive and almost submissive to what's going on. Very rewarding listening to those who embrace it, on the other hand sceptics of her trademark vocal technique need take no notice. This album is a consistent progression away from what is considered accessible, leaving critique at the doorstep and further raising the heights of originality.
Opening track `Earth Intruders' reaffirms Bjorks cult status with dirgy sounds and macabre backing vocals. The backbeat suggests a driving force whilst the vocals take an abstract look at the pagan nature of human endurance. The track ends establishing a raw and dirty feel for the album before quickly moving onto lyrics exposing discomfort with religion and lust for social satisfaction.
`The Dull Flame of Desire' is a duet borrowing the equally unique voice of Anthony Hegarty from the up and coming jazz ballad act `Anthony and the Johnsons.' An ominous orchestra introduces lush interlaced vocals which raises tension to the point where the tribal sound of drums dominates. This particular track is a showcase for Bjorks ability to use rich harmony, creating moments of magic which surface throughout the record.
Clever instrumentation throughout, Volta boasts an array of electronic noises and merges them with traditional styles collected from around the world. The track `I See Who You Are' is a welcome return to intimacy, with imagery bringing the lyrics to life. A pipa (Chinese lute) skilfully played provides the exotic escapism needed to warm the senses. This imagery quickly clouds over as the album turns dark, yet still encapsulating the listener with the sound of the unknown.
A philosophical Bjork embarks on an understanding of free will and evil, with a painstakingly honest approach to discussing suicide bombings in a musical context. Latter track `Declare Independance' braves political ground as the singer takes a stance against colonial powers, with distorted kickdrums punching her point across. The album closes with `My Juvenile,' a maternal offering of love to her son. This track sees the return of Anthony Hegarty and ensures the album ends on a sombre yet peaceful tone, albeit sweetly melancholic.
Volta contrasts heavily to the soft and luscious feel of its predecessors `Medulla' (2004) and `Vespertine,' (2001) opting to pursue more impressionable sounds and heavier rhythms. The constant dynamics in the mood of the album makes for an intense rollercoaster journey. Sometimes boisterous, tense and unsettling, each word chosen carefully and highlighted appropriately, the tone unwinds, drifting into moments of tranquillity and peace, leaving the listener at its mercy.
on 23 July 2010
Volta shows, as if anyone needed reminding, that Björk goes her own ways. Being a fan of her music and rarely hearing anything from her that I don't like, I was a bit puzzled about Volta. I had no expectations about it, deliberately learning as little about it as possible before listening.
Not since Vespertine has Björk released something so raw and yet so interesting. Volta is a grower, and may just be her most unpredictable album to date. Like the title implies, it goes its own ways, managing to be both extremely introvertive and shy as well as blood-broilingly confrontational.
I confess that I don't get a particular jolt of enjoyment from listening to five of Volta's ten tracks. Critical nerves in my head complain of lack of outright melody and catchyness. Tracks 5 to 8 are raw and difficult to take in, yet somehow interesting and fresh. I never mind another listen, and this surprises me. I still remember, though, how I didn't think much of Vespertine at first, and how over time it grew into another of my loves from Björk.
Volta has its winners, though, and then some. The first four tracks of Volta are strong transitions in the wavelength, all different yet powerful, furious and soul-searching. "Dull Flame of Desire" oddly works in its beauty and passion. "Innocence" and "Earth Intruders" are aggressive and very satisfying. "Declare Independence," the semi-final track, harbours no real melody but is still brutal and explosive to rival Homogenic's "Pluto".
Track 2, "Wanderlust", though, is my true love. With lyrics by Sjón, this is a restless, soul-searching track with indescribable use of Volta's characteristic brass work. The video made to accompany it compliments it in wondrous ways. The eerie, haunting foghorn intro to the song (presented in clever count-down fashion as opposed to being a track on its own) is imperative to set the tone for a deep and revealing tune.
This is the first time I have ever written a review for one of Björk's works, and I intend this to be the only one. I don't put what her music means to me in words, but I decided to make an exception for Volta, because it roused something in me that I needed to sort out. "Volta" is a word that has yet another meaning to it than the many that Björk thought of, one the album bears witness to. Like electricity, it's unpredictable, sometimes not totally comfortable, but in the end a completely satisfying experience. Volta is one for repeated listenings. Its leery nature will slowly reveal itself to you. An introspective, revealing work from Björk, who dares to follow her instinct and gift, even if that means working with Timbaland (whom she thinks is unfair to be classified as a genre).
2007 saw the arrival of both a new album and a refined direction from Bjork.
Each of the eleven songs presented to us here has a visceral certainty and emotional clout unparalled in her previous work.
It is as if everything had been moving slowly towards this moment - a musical journey lived always close to the edge.
What we have come to expect is all here in spades.
Innovation; the shifting precarious balance between universal and intensly personal themes; the voice leaping between the delicacy of a butterfly's wing and a jagged knife blade.
Her essential musicality shines through in these compositions.
The ability to bring together diverse talent in a dazzling array of emotional soundscapes.
From the dark corporeal interior worlds of 'I See Who You Are' and 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae' to the catacylsmic mahem of 'Declare Independence'; the stomping earth-mother anthem of 'Earth Intruders' to the aching brass chorale of 'Pneumonia'.
Hope, loss, resignation, defiance - all of what it might mean to be human is here.
One can only dare to imagine where Bjork will lead us next.
on 9 May 2007
This was baffling. The Amazon review cleary states that 'Volta' is a 'return to the more commercial, upbeat sound of her early work.' Well, maybe for the opening tribal drumming pop of 'Earth Intruders', but afterwards we're surely confronted by Björk's most difficult and challenging record yet.
That's not to say it isnt good, far from it. There are some great songs here, like the deliciously gentle 'I See Who You Are', the relaxed beats of 'Hope' and closing 'My Juvenile', one of two good duets with Anthony Hegarty from Anthony and the Johnsons. But on the flipside of that we have an album popping up with ships sounding together (yes, you read right), and the simple, repetitive horn instrumentations that dominate the dramatic 'Vertebrae by Vertebrae' and the quieter 'Pnuemonia'. At times, these two songs in particular get a bit.....well, annoying. Couple that with 'Declare Independence', a loud techno number, which is the Icelandic songstress' harshest and surely most unlistenable song to date, then you really do have an album with two faces.
There is a good album within 'Volta' (well, half a good album at the least), but as with 2004's 'Medulla', I'm left thinking that at times she's becoming too self-indulgent in her conquest for originality. As with Björk last few albums, it's a challenging listen and it's her longest album to date, but please dont expect a return to her more commercial days with 'Volta', because you really will not get it.
on 5 January 2008
As an up and coming Bjork fan, I am mostly impressed with 'Volta', especially the tracks 'Wanderlust' and 'Earth Intruders'. However I am still not getting used to the track 'dull flame of desire' which does in fact seem quite drab. However I am listening to it more and more to see If I can understand/get used to it. The same took place with 'declare independence' and I now really like the song. I prefer Post and Debut on the whole, but this album has some very good aspects which must be admired. On the other hand it doesnt quite have the wow factor that made a lot of the other albums stand out. I recommend the album all the same, because it isnt a bad egg, and I think its totally unjustifiable to label it a 1 or 2 star album. 3 or 4 is about right.
I look forward to seeing her live next year.
As those who have seen the making-of video for Medulla's "Triumph of a Heart" will already know, Björk's approach to songwriting frequently involves throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Her approach to albums is similar, to the extent that it is sometimes difficult to decide what constitutes a "real" Björk album. Selmasongs was focused and impressive, but very short. Drawing Restraint 9 was full length but, given such oddball inclusions as ten minutes of Japanese Noh, it hardly felt like the spiritual successor of Debut and Post. With Volta, however, we are at least back in the comfort zone again: this is her most conventional album since Vespertine, and arguably her most conventional since 1997's Homogenic.
Relatively speaking, of course.
Once you get the discs out of their preposterous packaging (one aspect of the production where further quirkiness is not to be encouraged) everything else runs surprisingly close to plan. The brass is back, underpinned by fog horns that add an organic and atmospheric dimension to the bass range. The unmistakable vocals of Antony provide an emotional intimacy that Björk's own melodic inventions sometimes lack, strengthening two ballads here and giving a greater sense of coherence. The introduction of kora, clavichord and (especially) pipa provides those flashes of instrumental colour that Björk so shrewdly interleaves with the customary percussion loops (although personally I miss the bells that added such sensuality to her recent albums). Generally speaking, everything sounds back on course.
Björk's commitment to surround mixes, after the excellent Surrounded boxed set, is clear, and the surround mix on the DVD (again by Paul Walton) is exactly what one would hope for, although the visuals are virtually non-existent and most listeners will probably just turn their television off rather than put up with them.
Despite the fact that this is a good Björk album, however, I am left with the sense that its weaknesses are almost as conspicuous as its strengths. Tracks such as "Earth Intruders" and "Declare Independence" have a mood-shattering brashness about them that forcibly reminds the listener that while her techniques involve intensive studio trickery, Björk's aesthetic roots are in the punk movement with its insatiable thirst for noise and provocation.
Björk remains as one of the most relentless sonic experimenters: capable of extreme beauty and unapologetic ugliness. The question is ultimately not whether the album is good enough ... the question is whether we are good enough listeners to appreciate it.
on 31 August 2009
This has some good tracks and is worth buying for any fan. It's not her best album though. The best tracks from here are actually on Voltaic and when you buy that, you get some excellent remixes and re-worked versions which are well worth the investment!
on 1 May 2007
Long term fans of Bjork have learnt to expect the unexpected, and look forward to the twists and turns her career have taken, or at least I do. Volta continues this trend comfortably. Following 2004's fantastic Medulla, which was constructed nearly entirely from the human voice, Volta celebrates instrumentation in various forms, from militant rhythmes, pounding techno and beautifully folorn brass. And whilst her last two albums proper have had a more meticulous, subdued feel, Volta prickles with an urgency we haven't heard since the crunching electronica of Homogenic, ten years ago. This in part is thanks to her diverse selection of collaborators, from Timbaland, Konono No 1 and noise-favourites Lightning Bolt.
But, as always, this feels like a Bjork album through and through. Her voice is as strong and idiosyncratic as ever, and the choices of musical direction feel entirely hers. Few artists can pluck out so many other strong talents for help and still sound undeniably like themselves.
Highlights then. "Declare Independence" blew me away. A burst of feral anger reminiscent of "Pluto" from Homogenic, pounding and relentless, it left me breathless and I was compelled to listen to it again on first listen. "Earth Intruders" is a very strong opening, and duet with Antony Hegarty "Dull Flame Of Desire" doesn't outstay it's seven-plus minute run time by a second.
Bjork hasn't sounded like she's having this much fun since "Post" and it's infectious. So yes, Volta is another triumph. Personally speaking I still prefer Homogenic and Medulla, but Bjork albums tend to grow over time I find. At the end of the day, this is another fine addition to 2007's already impressive run of fantastic albums. Looks like being a very fine year.