Among the barren musical wasteland of 1993, Icelandic punk pixie Björk was utterly unique, inventive and engrossing. ‘Debut’, her first solo album following the split of her group The Sugarcubes, simply devoured the competition with its brilliance. Now, 14 years on, she’s done it again with ‘Volta’.
Despite the much-anticipated hook-up with super-producer Timbaland, this is not Björk ‘going hip-hop’ or having a late-breaking pop reinvention – ‘Volta’ is something much grander. It’s an album defined by its identity crisis – dizzily slipping, as it does, from metal-electronica one moment to spooky chamber-pop the next. Its range is stunning, but then you’d expect nothing less from an album that features a 10-piece, all-female Icelandic brass section, the drummer out of Lightning Bolt and the deep texture of Antony Hegarty’s voice (he appears on two tracks, including the stunning ‘My Juvenile’).
The three Timbaland tracks are wonderful and they give the album much of its delicious energy. ‘Innocence’ is what The Knife dream of when they’ve eaten too much cheese before bedtime – but the other tracks are just as good. ‘Declare Independence’ could be the new rave national anthem.
With a headline slot at Glastonbury, the recent reunion of The Sugarcubes, and a host of Scandipop innovators who owe her their entire careers, there has never been a better time to give Björk a reappraisal. ‘Volta’ is another amazing statement of intent – full of hope, eccentricity and wonderfulness. There’s still no-one like her.