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Björk fans can finally exhale: after patiently waiting for her next studio release, following the 2004 success Medúlla, the long-anticipated Volta will hit stores on May 7. Its maker is scheduled to follow it up with a worldwide, 18-month-long tour, including stops at Roskilde, Coachella and Glastonbury. But, obviously perhaps, her first stop is in Reykjavík, capital of Iceland.
When The Sugarcubes first embarked on their musical voyage under the slogan ‘World Domination or Death’, few people expected them – or, more accurately, one of them - to live up to the hype. Now the world at large is more familiar with Björk than it is with Iceland, and in the process she has become a symbol for the Icelandic plan for world domination, Operation Ice Storm. As much as we would all like to pretend that a Björk concert is solely about the music, it is anything but: a large part of the audience is here to simply to witness the event, rather than to listen to the concert.
Björk steps on stage wearing a golden, puffed-out dress that actually makes me think of Giles Reed’s The Munch Bunch, although that may have no relevance here at all. A small army of stage performers, including a ten-strong female horn section dressed in the most colourful collection of dresses, accompanies her.
Björk has stated that the songs on Volta were written with the purpose of being delivered live. Having had the pleasure of listening to_ Volta _in its entirety at a media gathering a week before, I notice that many of the song arrangements have changed from the on-record versions, particularly to accommodate the newly added horn section. These changes are primarily positive, and give a more vibrant feel to the delivery of songs from the forthcoming long-player.
The two new songs that stand out live are also the two that, personally, absolutely stand out on the album, too. The first one is the night’s fifth song, ‘Dull Flame of Desire’; a heart-warming duet with Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons), this will surely be the radio hit of the album. Antony’s obviously a bit awkward on stage, a full foot taller than his co-singer and not dexterous enough to keep up with Björk. The duet is still an early highlight of the show, despite a lack of cohesion probably resulting from Antony’s lack of rehearsal time - he badly miscues at least twice. Sadly, he is not likely to be a permanent member of the entourage for the shows to come.
The second highlight is saved for the encore: a new song, dedicated to Greenland and the Faeroe Islands, called ‘Declare Independence’. It is a frantic, screamo-meets-electronica number, with a lot of fire in its belly. It will be interesting to see how it goes down at Roskilde, as Denmark is the ruling nation in both Greenland and the Faeroe Islands.
New songs aside, the show becomes one to remember towards its end, when hits from earlier on in Björk’s career are performed. ‘Army of Me’ is an obvious high, and ‘Bachelorette’ is embellished with a nice polka section. The absolute zenith, though, is a thundering version of ‘Hyper-Ballad’, which finds Björk ably assisted by Mark Bell from LFO, who has been a permanent fixture in her camp for years.
Bell is just one of the many contributors on Volta, an album that’s already being touted as a potential record of the year. _Do_ believe the hype.
The original version of this article can be read in _The Reykjavík Grapevine - website_
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