Monday, January 26, 2015
Once upon a time I was a huge Bjork fan, then after 2004's "Medulla", she fell off my radar. So this morning I went back a listened to some of the stuff she has put out between then and now on Spotify, it all seemed like a rather logical progression. Even then the opening of her new album seemed a little soft to me. Her vice has not changed a bit. The backing tracks are just airy, synth and minimal percussion. I'm not expecting "Army of Me" going into this, so I am still keeping an open mind and hoping the rest of the album isn't like the first song. I don't adhere to Bjork can sing from the phone-book and it will still sound good.
The second song brings us more of her quirk. It's minimal beats , with over dubbed and effected vocals which influenced the likes of Imogen Heap. The melody to this song is stronger than the first, but I am not sure it is up to the level of her most classic work. This is followed by more ethereal ballad. They are well sung and dreamy. I think the reason this sort of thing works better for me with the Cocteau Twins, aside from the fact they invoke a different emotion, this the fact Robin Guthrie's guitar fills the spaces more for Elizabeth Frasier. Another problem with this tangent of sticking to string synths, is it makes all of the songs begin to sound the same by the time we get to "Black Lake". I think Bjork is also capable of creating more entrancing melodies some of these are just boring. The staggered beats that come in at the end of "Black Lake", but it's nothing we haven't heard from her before.
There is something to "Family" that reminds me of "the Dancer in the Dark Soundtrack" which was the last Bjork album I wore into the ground. This is also the first song on this album that really wins me over on the initial listen. Sure it's disjointed and experimental, but all the elements that need it to work are there. She continues to get her mojo back on "Notget" , which takes a slightly darker turn. The album seems to find it's legs as "Atom Dance" has interesting accompaniment. The beats slither like dark fairies around her crystalline vocals that have retained every ounce of youth since the days of the Sugar Cubes. Bjork must be a vampire. This is a particularly compelling song when it morphs into a duet with Antony of Antony and the Johnsons fame. Which makes sense not a lot of artists aside from Thom Yorke have the hipster cred and pipes to show themselves worth of such. This also might be the best song on the album. It makes me begin to think about keeping it for this song alone.
The album doesn't end with as much of a bang. The sounds and songs it closes with are filled with her trademarks, but they feel a little dialed in here. The beats buzz and swirl with glitched out chaos, but what else would expect from her? I had to listen to the final two songs a couple of times to get more of an impression of them. "Mouth Mantra" might be the most interesting of the two and a lot of that has to do with subtle mix, as sounds fade in from odd corners of the song and the vocals teeter at those edges. The almost industrial meets Philip Glass under tones the vocals drone over midway through are the high light. If you are a fan who has stuck with her over the years and want every thing to sound almost all too familiar with none of the risk or edge she once had then this will fit in with all of her other releases after 2004. If you are that person then you will want to add a point to the 7.5 I'm giving this album, which is not bad, but I know she is capable of more.