Top critical review
Maverick and Fascinating, But Most of You Won't Like It
on 25 July 2011
Even if you are a fan of Björk's, you are not guaranteed to fall in love with Drawing Restraint 9 any more than you are guaranteed to love Jonny Greenwood's score for Bodysong, even if you love Radiohead. Decidedly Björk's most avant-garde work, it's hard to classify Drawing Restraint 9 with her other albums, seeing how it's essentially the soundtrack for Matthew Barney's avant-garde film. Not being familiar with his work myself, I will judge the album solely on my interpretation of it. I am a big fan of Björk's, but this cd has had a hard time staying off my shelf.
Drawing Restraint 9 is maverick, raw and tough to take in. A distinct theme is the east; decidely Japan, whales, pearls, sirens and the ocean. Harpsichords and other instruments so untypically heard in Björk's music rather uncomfortably take center stage. What sets DR9 most apart from Björk's work, though, is that her voice can be heard on a total of three of the album's eleven tracks. The singing numbers are actually four, the opener "Gratitude" being sung by Will Oldham.
"Bath" is a haunting, simple track, only featuring occasional piano and Björk's voice. She doesn't belt out the notes, she almost whispers them, with such intimacy that chills run down my spine. "Storm" is understandably the track that most seem taken with. I give them right; a roaring chorus of Björk's heavily manipulated voice to resemble oceanic waves and siren-like wailing.
And that's when the album throws us into "Holographic Entrypoint". After the mirage of dark and scary music, we are now treated to a man singing Japanese Noh for ten solid minutes, a man in the background chanting and banging on a wooden percussion instrument. Nothing else. Sitting through this track with no visual cues is a most peculiar experience, but strangely relaxing. In the context of the film, apparently Björk and Barney cut off their legs and turn into whales during this sequence. Why not?
Drawing Restraint 9 is not an album I can easily recommend. I rarely ever pick it up; you need to be in a special mood for it. The melodies are by no means catchy in any sense, and the instrumentation is raw and difficult. Don't expect to love it, but if you do give it a try, it's a listen you are unlikely to ever truly forget.