When Björk became romantically involved with art-world darling Matthew Barney, the universe seemed to be uniting two of the most idiosyncratic artistic temperaments of the 21st century. The first major artistic product of this union, Drawing Restraint 9
, music composed by Björk for Barney's film of the same name, finds their sensibilities eerily complementary. Barney's previous films, the megaton, five-part Cremaster Cycle
, astounded audiences with a personal mythology inspired by the biological process of prenatal sexual differentiation, touching themes as unsettlingly diverse as speed metal, auto racing, Freemasonry, and Harry Houdini. Barney, a former model and football player, has always been interested in expressions of physical strain and release. This coincides quite nicely with the work Björk has produced lately, namely her album Medúlla
, which was composed entirely of human voices--singing, coughing, grunting, and beatboxing. The intersection of these two artistic geniuses comes at precisely the right time, when Björk has cast off the last vestiges of her dance-floor self. To understand how remarkable a transformation this is, one might try to imagine what it would have been like if Donna Summers had turned into Yoko Ono.
There are instances of Björk's vocal soundscapes on this album, in the unsettling "Pearl" and the rainy and overdubbed opening of "Storm." Other tracks, filled to overflowing with bells and chimes, recall her most beautiful work on Vespertine. It used to be that Björk could chill the spine with a howl. Now she does it with a whisper, and these soft and haunting moments are what reward repeat listenings. With the music she produced for the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark, Björk followed a more or less traditional narrative thread, stringing the songs together in such a way that one could follow a story even without having seen the movie. It's not quite that simple with Drawing Restraint 9. Without seeing the film, the music suggests a fascination with oceans, Japanese ritual, and the hidden powers of nature. It's spellbinding and confusing music, hinting at greater art to come from two artists of intense creativity and passion. --Ryan Boudinot
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