ONE LITTLE INDIAN 7.5.07
When I hear there is a new Bjork album on the way I’m like a small child waiting for my birthday – when are my presents coming? So I’ve been waiting to hear this for a while. Since the sublime Vespertine, possibly her most unified album, we’ve had Medulla, a brave sonic experiment I that found took time to love. Then there was another mad film soundtrack, Drawing Restraint 9.
Running the single with it’s Timbaland signature first means I have to wait a few minutes more for the new new stuff but when it comes I’m not disappointed. Foghorns blart, introducing Wanderlust. It seems that with Drawing Restraint 9 she has got some of the ‘difficult listening’ out of her system and is up for something we are more familiar with. And that is Bjork’s curse. We expect something constantly new from her and when she does something we click with straight away we question her artistic progress.
There is something very much of Debut here – a mix of ballads and fancy electronic dance rhythms, some of the intimate, naked-soul lyrics and the very personal voice. You’ll be hearing a lot of The Dull Flame Of Desire. With lyrics drawn from Tarkovsky’s interminable film, Stalker, classical tones usher in Anthony of The Johnsons. The backdrop is more than a little reminiscent of the setting Anthony Hegarty worked up for a Shakespeare sonnet in his collaboration with Gavin Bryars recently. I wonder which came first?
The presence of acoustic beats is welcome, adding an organic feel. It seems the beats came second to the tunes this time and Bjork resisted the pressure to be always surging forward with the most up to the minute rhythm machines. Innocence, the next Timbaland collaboration is in your face and programmed to the hilt. I See Who You Are is everything we expect of Bjork – a lovely but weirdly toned ballad, backed with glockenspiel-type noises and imprecations to celebrate our lives. A fourteen piece brass section arrives and Chinese instruments, reminding me of moments from Restraint. Much of the middle of the album is what we expect from a Bjork album – beats alternating with ballads, words of advice, admissions of everyday emotions we maybe don’t say often enough and Bjork is our exemplar. Hope is a bit stranger – picking apart the tale of a pregnant Palestinian suicide bomber in a way that harks back to but then build upon her anarcho-punk days with Crass compadres, KUKL. A compassion and world-beat warmth transforms the song. Whereas Declare Independence is as forthright as, say, Crass (!) and runs on the same thudding relentless crunching sound, tidied up for the twenty-first century. Anthony pops up again for the last song. His voice is not one I warm to and it’s use here, pretentious, as Bjork’s conscience is not a bad way of using it.
This is an album of parts. A collection of songs. Not a coherent vision, such as Bjork has been fortunate enough to envision in the past. It is, however, an assembly of material from one of the creative geniuses of today with no filler and that’s good enough for me.