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A propulsive new
day for Björk

A propulsive new
day for Björk


Bjork's new album, Volta, is equal parts earth mother lament and angry call to arms.

Muddy marching feet and tribal drums; these are the sounds that open "Earth Intruders," the kickoff cut from Volta, Bjork's self-produced sixth full-length album (on One Little Indian/Atlantic, out May 8 in the U.S.). Partially inspired by a journey to Indonesia following the 2005 tsunami, the song calls for humanity to rise up and grind "skeptics into the soil." Even though pop chart staple Timbaland produced the beats, the character of the track, with its juxtaposition of crunchy textures and primal vocals, is raw and elemental.

Water, too, features prominently throughout Volta, via ambient interludes featuring harbor sounds, rainfall, and puffing steam engines. The earth is a mother, and so is Bjork, voicing maternal impulses on the intimate "I See Who You Are" and "My Juvenile." Additional dimensions of the artist's femininity fuel other compositions. Backed by a brass ensemble, Bjork and Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) pass phrases back and forth like lovers' glances on the romantic "Dull Flame of Desire." She plays supportive sob sister on "Pneumonia," hurtling up scales one moment, then quietly cooing "Get over that sorrow, girl" the next. At the other extreme, the pummeling "Declare Independence," with its reiterated exhortations to "make your own flag," is just as incendiary as anything by Le Tigre.

Like all her records, Volta features an odd assortment of guest stars, from experimental rock drummers to Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen and Konono No. 1, an award-winning ensemble of "thumb piano" players from the Congo. Yet no matter how vibrant or unusual her array of sounds, close attention to diction ensures that the equally compelling lyrics ("Neurosis only attaches itself to fertile ground where it can flourish," she coos on "Innocence") rarely get buried. By pop music standards Bjork may be out of this world, yet this disc is surprisingly grounded, its unique creator going to great measures to ensure her songs extract emotional gold from common ground.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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