Bjork – Voltaic

January 01, 1970

(Nonesuch)

 

www.nonesuch.com

Watching the DVD portion of Bjork’s new live album, Voltaic, it’s fun to imagine her aging into a bizarro-world version
of Etta James. As a pop singer, Bjork arguably matches James’ tunefulness and
iconography, and the two women are both masters of a unique version of
show-woman-ship. But age takes its toll. At a live appearance at the Hollywood
Bowl last year, James was randy, possibly drunk, and though she remained seated,
exuberant in her performance for one so, shall we say, seasoned. Her singing
was also as close as possible to pitch perfect. On Voltaic, Bjork, of course, matches James’ mellifluousness, but she
injects her show with energy and color – literally, from the stage lighting to
the vibrant bird costumes to her manic dancing – unmatched in today’s pop
performances. Bjork is only in her early forties, after all, while James is in
her seventies. Still, one can imagine Bjork continuing on for another 40 years
to become the elder stateswoman of abstract electronic pop music, giving her
live show everything until all she can do is sit on a chair, possibly drunk,
and entertain.

 

Bjork’s live ensemble recreates songs from throughout her
entire catalogue with creativity and rigor. From newer, dancier numbers like
“Wanderlust” and “Declare Independence” to the orchestral majesty of “Joga” to
classics like “Army of Me,” Bjork and her merry band of drums, horns, backup
singers, and electronic musicians manage to bring an almost improvisational
feeling while still nearly matching the albums note-for-note. Synthetic and
organic are matched effortlessly, as programmed beats and electronic creations
one may have never seen used on stage before blend seamlessly with voice, percussion,
and brass.

 

One can purchase Voltaic in a variety of forms – audio CD only, CD and DVD, or several CDs and DVDs
along with some vinyl. I would recommend at least getting a version with one
DVD since the live footage is so excitingly shot. This is also another chance
for the Volta naysayers to give Bjork’s most recent album another shot. Perhaps hearing some
of these songs rendered live will change opinions, perhaps not. But the overall
quality of Voltaic’s sound is a prime
example of how a live album should be produced, reason enough to listen to this
album. Here’s looking forward to many more years of Bjork.

 

Standout Tracks: “Hunter,”
“Joga” JONAH FLICKER

 

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