CD+DVD Reviews

Bjork – Voltaic – 1 CD & 1 DVD, 2009 – Nonesuch Records

Bjork's handlers have marketed her impressively and to incredible excess.

Published on July 31, 2009

Bjork – Voltaic – 1 CD & 1 DVD, 2009 – Nonesuch Records

Bjork – Voltaic – 1 CD & 1 DVD, 2009 – Bjork: vocals; Mark Bell: beats and electronics; Damian Taylor: electronics, synthesisers; Jonas Sen: keyboards; Chris Corsano: drums and percussion; plus a 10-piece brass ensemble – Nonesuch Records 519648-2 – Video: 4:3 color; Audio: (DVD) DTS 5.1, Dolby 5.1, Dolby 2.0; Length: CD: 48 minutes; DVD: 71 minutes; Rating: **1/2:

You really have to give Bjork and her handlers credit – they’ve marketed her impressively and to incredible excess. Just walk into any independent record store and you’re likely to find an almost unbelievable array of CDs, LPs, box sets of every size, description and color choice – and that’s only the domestically available offering. Add in the imports, and it just about staggers the mind that one artist (and her fan base) can support such a massive merchandising juggernaut. And, needless to say, the redundancy is just about overwhelming – I followed Bjork pretty closely through the Debut and Post phases, but began to lose interest when it seemed to me that she was morphing into more of a performance artist rather than a musician – an impression that was easily nudged along by the sheer volume of reissues of the same material over and over again ad nauseum. I will give credit where it is due, though; at the very least, she’s expanded her horizons with forays into acting (Dancer In The Dark, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song), and some of her recent compositions have even included excursions into the realm of classical music. Regardless, though, I still found her last album, 2005’s Volta, without a doubt the weakest and least interesting of her studio efforts to date. I can’t help but believe that Bjork must have also felt the album was somewhat half-baked, because at some point during the Volta tour, Bjork and company convened to London’s famed Olympic Studios and hammered out the eleven tracks that comprise the “live in the studio” portion of this CD/DVD package. Five of those tracks are reworkings of tunes from Volta.

The lavish cavalcade of excess continues with the release of Voltaic, which is being offered in no fewer than five configurations!: 1) CD only; 2) Vinyl LP (replicates content of CD version); 3) CD plus DVD [this one]; 4) 2 CDs plus 2 DVDs (4 discs total) package; and 5) 2 CDs, 2 DVDs and 3 LPs (replicates content of 2 CD version). The true-blue, died-in-the-wool Bjork completist had better have very deep pockets indeed! From what I can gather, springing for the ne-plus-ultra package definitely gets you the cream of the crop; the CD plus DVD package that came my way doesn’t contain the remix disc which many have called the best thing about Voltaic. That disc is purported to contain some pretty impressive reimaginings of some of the Volta tunes, whereas what we’re given here is just about as stale as the original studio offerings. Regardless of how they dress it up, Volta is still Bjork’s least successful album artistically. And the DVD again replicates many of the numbers on the CD; once again, redundancy is the key word. And I’d feel perhaps a bit more loving towards the DVD if the image quality was a tad better; it looks pretty horrible on the big screen, and even on a smaller HD display has a decidedly lower-res appearance.

If you’re a huge Bjork fan, it may be worth it all, and for completists it will be indispensable. I’d go ahead and spring for the package with the remixes, at least they sound potentially more interesting.

TrackList: CD: Wanderlust; Hunter; The Pleasure Is All Mine; Innocence; Army of Me; I Miss You; Earth Intruders; All Is Full of Love; Pagan Poetry; Vertebrae By Vertebrae; Declare Independence.
DVD: Brennio Pio Vitar; Earth Intruders; Hunter; Joga; The Pleasure Is All Mine; Vertebrae By Vertebrae; Where Is The Line; Who Is It; Desired Constellation; Army of Me; Bachelorette; Wanderlust; Hyperballad; Pluto; Declare Independence; Pneumonia; My Juvenile; Vokuro; Sonnets/Unrealities XI; Mouth’s Cradle.

– Tom Gibbs




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