Björk // Volta
Timbaland, Antony Hegarty, Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, and an all-female 10-piece Icelandic brass section join Bjork, alongside a series of computer-intensive sonic edits, electronically manipulated atmospheres, and 19th century Russian poetry featured in a 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film. Bjork doesn’t aim small and she doesn’t work along predictable lines. (The album’s list of recording sites reads like a Fodor’s Guide to the Northern Hemisphere). The Timbaland productions (“Earth Intruders,” “Innocence”) are the closest she comes to convention and that’s only because the beats are consistent enough for a dancefloor. But even here, it’s more perception than reality. Once inside the beat, Bjork sings her way out of the artificial restraints until she’s back in her free-floating galaxy. Her textures are often sparse, threatening to collapse around her, as found sound interrupts the music-box intimacy (“I See Who You Are”). Her sweeping emotionalism becomes a battle of empathy between her and guest vocalist Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) for “The Dull Flame of Desire.” The suspenseful dramas that unfold suggest the soundtrack to a racy film-noir or at least a fast-paced video game (“Declare Independence”). Like much abstract art, you aren’t always sure what you’re looking at and knowing is probably beside the point. Though Bjork clearly uses her brain to filter the results, the music is meant to impact at gut level.