Shortcuts—Björk’s Volta

By Emale Gray

Weirdness is what usually comes to mind when thinking of Björk, especially for those who have not yet taken the time to appreciate her creative genius. Even after sifting through her musical catalogue, experimental is the best word one can use to illustrate the unpredictability that is Björk. So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Björk chose mainstream music’s most fruitful producer to help lay down fertilizer that will ensure the proper growth and spread of her greatest creation—Volta.

As feet plow the damp earth, tribal drums commence, proclaiming the arrival of the “Earth Intruders” while Timbaland and Björk grind skeptics into the soil. Ferociously screaming above the animated electric likembés of Kononon1, Björk establishes herself as a pioneer plant, colonizing musical ground into which others would not dare venture. Her album artwork tells a similar story, featuring Björk rooted firmly with mammoth-like feet, anxiously waiting to bloom and evolve.

“I am leaving this harbor,” Björk warns, supported by a troop of vividly fiery brass soldiers in “Wanderlust.” Almost exchanging blows with the pioneeress and her infantry are the ecstatic synth bass and the random programming and morse code that would normally reside in the background of a track.

Björk continues to grow and evolve as the CD progresses, trading her “Dull Flame of Desire” for the chance to reclaim her “Innocence,” childishly thumping away in the playpen with the aid of Timbaland.

Gaining momentum as the brass, the drums and Björk emerge stronger and louder with each beat, “Vertebrae by Vertebrae” and “Pneumonia” verify her irrefutable resilience and show that she can “make it through the rain” better than Mariah Carey could do with several trips to therapy.

With the sine bass dragging along and the clavichord dancing blithely atop, Björk rhetorically asks the age-old question, “What is the lesser of two evils,” in the auspicious “Hope,” the final track that receives aid from Timbaland most noticeably in the prominence of the unrelenting drums.

Mixing the vicious signature of System of a Down with techno synth and a sampled brass section, “Declare Independence” lights a fire under the previously tranquil and colorful land of Volta.

“But the intentions were pure,” Björk’s conscience, lead singer of “Antony and the Johnsons,” delicately proclaims in “My Juvenile,” trying to excuse the outlandish behavior of Volta. And it is with this that Volta surpasses the experimental to become a musical victory.