Review Summary: Timbaland, brass choirs, Antony Hegarty, foghorns, and Bjork. Good together.
If any human were to make a Martian soundtrack, Björk is probably one of the best bets in music today. Her eccentric, spacey voice and unique, exotic style create an aura about her. Fittingly, she titled her latest album Volta, meaning a sudden change or turn, because it seems that Björk might be landing soon. In fact, she collaborated with pop music pimp Timbaland, who met with her and worked on quite a few tracks, three of which made the album. Volta pulls in many guest artists other than Timbaland, including Antony Hegarty from the famed Antony and the Johnsons, Brian Chippendale from Lightning Bolt, and a ten-piece, all female Icelandic brass choir. Despite all the distractions, this album is pure Björk, devoid of normalcy. However, between harmonizing foghorns, alien anthems, and distorted, cynical riot songs, Volta is her most accessible album yet.
Björk announces her arrival with opening track and lead single Earth Intruders
. It is the first of the three Timbaland tracks and of the three, it is the most balanced of the two artist’s tendencies. Timbaland sets a groove down his way, with dramatic, pounding ethnic percussion and creates simple background melodies with an otherworldly effect. The entire atmosphere suits the eccentricity of Björk perfectly. More than its musicality and atmospheric effect, Earth Intruders
is simply a fun listen, an aspect that Timbaland brings to the table in all of his tracks. Innocence
finds Björk playing to Timbaland’s style, displaying a hip-hop styled beat and accompaniment. He could have used the song template for anyone, but Björk brings a contrasting style to his. Her voice rises and falls delicately and passionately, rather than the often robotic style that Timbaland’s collaborators use to fit with his production. Hope
contrasts with Innocence
, finding Timbaland playing a secondary role to Björk. With subtle beats and excellent kora playing from Malian performer Toumani Diabaté, Hope possesses an airy style unlike any of the other Timbaland-produced tracks.
The collaboration with Antony Hegarty is one just as important as the one with Timbaland. They sing two duets- Dull Flame of Desire
and My Juvenile
. The two are a perfect match; Antony’s voice creates great contrast with Björk’s. Antony’s dark, full tone is a welcome appearance. Dull Flame of Desire
features Antony more than My Juvenile, where he only makes a short appearance. It also features the ten-piece brass ensemble at their fullest extent, the only other music besides the voices and repeated percussion. The brass choir has intonation and balance issues every once in a while, mainly due to bad tuba pitch and tone, but for the most part they do a superb job. A song that clocks in at exactly seven and a half minutes, Dull Flame of Desire
meanders for too long on the same idea. They could have made the song much more cohesive, a principle that also applies to much of the album. The multiple climaxes of the song, where Antony and Björk sing together with the brass regally restating the main theme are still worth the wait. They sing with a passion so true they sound like lovers.
Nearly every song on Volta features some collaborator, nothing is strictly Björk. Therefore, the strength of each track lies in the hands of the collaborator. Declare Independence
is one of the few tracks that uses only Björk. She dedicated this song to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, urging them to declare independence from Denmark, utilizing the metaphor of raising their flag higher. Other than Declare Independence
, the Björk-only tracks are the forgettable ones, which cause the middle of the album to sag. Volta is a strong album with memorable, remarkable tracks that have great variety, so much that the album loses cohesion.