Boomkat Product Review:
A Björk album is always a major event in the musical calendar, particularly for any followers of experimental music - no other artist can be credited with introducing such an array of avant-garde elements and production techniques so directly into the mainstream.
The same goes for personnel: in hand-picking collaborators from the underground's finest talents Björk has been responsible for drawing the pop chart-following public's attention to the work of Matmos, Zeena Parkins, LFO's Mark Bell and Opiate's Thomas Knak. That's quite some achievement in itself. Only last week she went and put free drumming icon Chris Corsano on Saturday Night Live. I mean, that's just crazy. Also assisting with Volta's percussive backbone are Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale and Konono No. 1 (surely Congo's answer to scrap metal merchants Einsturzende Neubauten). What of the album though? Well, after Medùlla's uncompromising interrogation of the timbral identity of the human body, Björk has returned to the kind of outward-looking fieriness of Homogenic. That said, the rickety Afro-shuffle of single 'Earth Intruders' recalls the organic rhythms of 'Human Behaviour', only to segue into the similarly excellent 'Wanderlust' via an incredibly naturalistic, melodic manipulation of foghorn sounds from docking ships. It sounds amazing - like something you'd find on a Touch compilation, but here it is on a Top 40-bound release.
'Wanderlust' introduces one of the album's key elements, the pervasive use of brass, as best put to use on the heart-melting 'Pneumonia', which frames Björk's voice in the pitter-pat of rainfall recordings and a haunting, impeccably phrased horn arrangement. 'I See Who You Are' is almost as good, featuring Min Xiao-Fen's pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument) accompanied by a sequence of subtle electronic bass tones. Of course, Björk 's voice is the star here, and by the song's conclusion she's multitracked herself into quiet choral bliss. It's astonishingly beautiful. 'Innocence' is as playful as Björk's sounded for a while, its stop-start beat assisted by some circuit-frazzled synth work, and penultimate track 'Declare Independence' takes this idea even further, cranking the distortion to Alec Empire levels of Digital Hardcore punk electronics. The final track, 'My Juvenile' is graced with both Tounami Diabatè's virtuoso kora and Antony Hegarty's angelic vocal stylings (this is the second of two tracks to feature Antony) but as with the rest of Volta, this is all very much Björk's show, regardless of how impressive her list of collaborators may be.
Stunning, absolutely essential listening from a truly great artist of our time.