CD Review: Björk

Volta Elektra/Atlantic
Music •••• Sound ••••
"I feel at home whenever the unknown surrounds me," sings Björk on "Wanderlust," one of the many songs on her latest CD that sounds, as they say, one step beyond - as if it might have been assembled by the "necessary voodoo"-practicing "Earth Intruders" referenced in the so-titled opening track. How else to explain Volta's sonic landscapes, whose astral-plane-like topography includes everything from Congolese thumb pianos, Chinese pipas, and Malinese koras to dueling foghorns, Morse-code signals, and (can't forget the home team) a 10-piece Icelandic brass section. And how else to explain just how, indeed, "homey" this (yes) strange but also (yes) beautiful CD ultimately feels inside the ears, and the heart.

Perhaps it's because Björk has absolutely no qualms, let alone second thoughts, about mixing the high-tech with the lo-fi, the artificial with the organic. A good example is the appropriately named "Innocence," where her life-lesson musings ("Untouchable innocence; it's still here but in different places . . . / Fear of losing energy is draining") are backed by Timbaland's futuristic keyboards and beats riding over the soothing sounds of ocean waves breaking along the shore. And "The Dull Flame of Desire" finds Björk and Antony Hegarty gently crooning a love ballad - lyrics courtesy of well-known hitmaker Fyodor Tyutchev (1803-1873) - while Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale builds up to a furious instrumental crescendo beneath their voices.