Friday, May 18, 2007

Volta by Bjork

It's a trend that almost all artists/bands that enjoy any form of longevity tend to follow: Appear on the scene with either the debut or sophomore album wth a blinding crash, consolidate with two or three solid follow ups, broadening horizons, branching out, before going nuts, 'doing a Kid A' in the words of NME and making something totally unexpected. Having done THAT, one must then revert to the previous course, making a record that sounds like a natural progression from the record five years ago.
That's where Bjork appears to be now.
Volta picks up seamlessly from Post and Homogenic, heavy on beats, an electronic wonderland firmly rooted in moving your feet, and nodding your head, rather than floating, ethereal explorations of love circa the diversions of Vespertine and Medulla. There are indications, however, that this is the same woman who made those records: the bells-in-a-pond backing on 'I See Who You Are', and the swirling horns on 'The Dull Flame of Desire', which stars guest vocals from the ever-welcome Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons). But it's clear that this is back to the future for the Icelandic songstress, most notably evidenced on the video game punch-up backing beat of 'Innocence'.
Perhaps it's personal disappointment that Bjork didn't follow the Vespertine/Medulla road to its final (and potentially stunning) conclusion, but while it could never be accused of being boring, Volta seems to lack the cohesion that has set Bjork's work above other electronic/avant-garde artists of a similar ilk, suck as Norway's John Kaada. Beats, sounds, and lyrics are imaginative, novel and occasionally thrilling, but (and this is possibly being a bit harsh, given Volta is being compared to an incredible back catalogue) at the same time, it all feels like it's been done before, just not in quite this way.

3 1/2 stars

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