Montreal Gazette

Björk Zap ! She’s back

After an interval of ’domestic bliss’ and all that, the Icelandic icon was ready for some adventure. Travel and some fresh collaborators have set her on a new trip, and sparks fly on her latest album, Volta.

Iceland’s electronic pop queen and snazzy dresser Bjork comes to Jean Drapeau Park Sept. 21.

She is one of the most unique, adventurous and intriguing figures in pop music. After forays into film (the gut-wrenching Dancer in the Dark), and a pair of introspective, esoteric albums (2001’s Vespertine and the 2004 a capella project Medlla), Bjork is back - or as she sings on Vertebrae by Vertebrae, "the beast is back."

Bjork’s sixth album Volta exhibits some of her old kick. The beats are big and bold - courtesy of collaborations with U.S. hip-hop producer Timbaland and others - and there is lightness and vigour in the air. It’s a reawakening of sorts for an artist whose first three solo albums (1993’s Debut, 1995’s Post, and 1997’s Homogenic) paired her otherworldly voice with cutting-edge electronica.

"I started on a new rhythm discovery trip with Volta, that I feel I have just begun," she said recently, via email.

"I had made two albums at home at that point, had a child, breastfed and so on - which was all very magical, domestic bliss. But in the beginning of Volta I had a bit of cabin fever and was up for some adventure. So I ended up travelling a lot, meeting a lot of people, recording in Africa, on a boat and so on."

She tracked down Congolese tribal-rhythm collective Konono No. 1. She also sought out alt-crooner Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), with whom she trades meandering vocal lines on two tracks.

"Antony was perhaps the most organic (collaboration)," she said. "I met him through friends and we gradually became friends. Timbaland and me had been aware of each other for a long time. I had met him 10 years ago and he complimented me on the bass line in Venus as a Boy ; then he sampled Jga, and through the years there have been talks about doing stuff.

"Konono No. 1, I fell for after hearing their album that came out a couple of years ago. I just thought it was so amazing that they took thumb pianos and hooked them up with electricity, and then played many of them together - polyrhythms.

"For an electro fanatic like me it is so rare to hear electronic rhythms that are in real time, not locked to a computer grid. It is just more organic and natural, like I feel electricity is anyway - a part of nature (thunder, lightning, northern lights and so on)."

But Bjork didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Between her rhythmic explorations on Volta - and despite the potentially exhaustive (and exhausting) focus on the voice on Medlla - she continued to explore singing on the new album. Often, the beats pushed her vocals into new territory.

"On Declare Independence, Earth Intruders and Innocence, I did something I haven’t done for like 10 years," she said. "I wrote the melody line on top of a rhythm. Usually the melody comes first, then string and brass arrangements and so on, and then the beats are done last."

A theme of "the other" runs through Volta, from the neo-tribal Earth Intruders to the soaring Wanderlust and the industrial punk, anti-colonialist anthem Declare Independence (on which she screams, "Don’t let them do that to you").

"It is hard for me to explain such big questions elsewhere than in the songs," she said. "That is why I make them ... Music is about communicating, making an effort to minimize the distance between people, building that bridge."

Musically, vocally and lyrically, Bjork’s artistic pursuit is ever-evolving. It is not something she questions :

"It is hard to put into words," she said. "It is very intuitive. You can only take one day at a time, and if it feels right, it is right ; and if it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right. But I do feel that it has something to do with releasing pressure, to make the same thing outside of yourself as what is inside you. And the more similar it feels, the more pressure it releases. It evens out, like physics ...."

Those who see her as an eccentric artist are missing the point. "I don’t feel that experimental," she said. "I just feel we are living in such conservative times. Nowadays the Beatles would be considered avant-garde. I feel it is only natural to want to grow a little into the unknown on every album. That should not be looked at as so ’out there.’ "

Bjork performs tomorrow at Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port. Santogold opens. Tickets cost $55.50 in advance, $60.50 at the gates. 514-790-1245 or www.admission.com.

T’CHA DUNLEVY

publié dans Montreal Gazette - 20.09.2007

 

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