Björk
Drawing Restraint 9 OST
2005
B+



whatever you think of the near impenetrable layers of imagery used in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster films, you have to admit there are moments of straightforward beauty. His stringing together of colour, movement, sound, contrasting, and comforting imagery allows for either face-value pleasantness or in-depth Cremaster encyclopaedia studying by candlelight. Until now there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about the similarities between his and his good lady companion’s (Björk) work, but with her last few LP releases there has been a similar diving into infinitesimal intricacy and breath catching gorgeousness.

Seeing as Drawing Restraint 9 (the film) is apparently about two hours and fifteen minutes long, there has been some feverish praying that Björk’s music might have assuaged some of the difficulties inherent in the length (and depth) of his work. I’m here to dash those hopes on the rocks of this release’s inventive but jagged minimalism; this is primarily a soundtrack and remains true to that form: several moods / themes reveal themselves more than once across the tracks. Even so, this will undoubtedly prove to be an easier ride than the movie, but don’t expect a “Big Time Sensuality” or even a “Hidden Place” from this soundtrack. Where the movie may end up leaving viewers in a state of ennui, this certainly won’t do anything other than bewitch.

Left footing the listener from the outset with “Gratitude,” this album features both realised songs, instrumentals and, as you’d expect, vocal weirdness. Will Oldham’s sweet wasp husky voice opens the proceedings backed with Zeena Parkins’ staccato harp reading / singing a letter from a Japanese woman to General MacArthur thanking him for lifting the U.S. suspension of whaling off Japan’s coast. The sparkling harp with its shards of shimmering melody and twinkling sharp edges is undoubtedly pretty enough, but retains a distance by virtue of being slightly out of time with Oldham’s narrative and the addition of a children’s choir over Oldham’s ragged falsetto. The ice slicing pitches of the Japanese Sho (an insane looking but beautifully alien sounding complex reed pipe combination) generates the foundation of several songs like “Antarctic Return” and “Shimenawa.” It also plays a large part on the Medulla-esque “Pearl,” which features the asthmatic panting vocals of throat singer Tagag. The looped patterns and snatches of warped organ notes sound like the sinister organic birthing process of some aquatic mammal before slipping into familiar musical ranges.

A pair of glockenspiel and celeste rooted pieces help to highlight the magical in the ordinary on Drawing Restraint 9, most notably the angelic “Ambergris March” with its simplistic beat like an acoustic arrhythmic Autechre and the 101 grandmother clocks jingling of the echoing shades on “Cetacea.” This pairing of tracks is echoed in “Hunter Vessel” and “Vessel Shimenawa” who both (in different depths of darkness) wobble on the edge of discord with the help of programmer Valgeir Sigurðsson. And, as with much of her musical journey, it’s the help of collaborators that polishes up the album’s musical pinnacles. The intimate Akira Rabelais treated piano lines on “Bath” coat each other with lean elongated fingers over Björk’s closely miced entreaties, but its Leila’s programming on “Storm” which sounds most likely to fit into a Björk live set or one of her standard releases. The circling sounds of cascading and dripping water soaks the track in a natural ambience and the on-first-glance clearness of the water steadily alters the sounds through the shifting vision of looking through this element. Even the bust radio and lost radar bleeps sinking in the fluid can’t pull it from its descent into something fleshing and wetter than electronics.

Placing this album within the timeline of Björk releases, this could easily be pigeonholed as a hybrid of Medulla’s experimental nature and a still further investigation of Vespertine’s merging of the body’s inner wet workings and the harsh structured flatness of electronica. It’s certainly another step forwards and upwards for one of our only real musically emotional geniuses.


Reviewed by: Scott McKeating
Reviewed on: 2005-08-12
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