Bjork performing live always counts as an event—for the high grade of spectacle she favors, of course, but even more so for the way her voice wavers when less than perfectly defined. No studio work of hers lacks for vocal drama, but live recordings do far more to set off Bjork’s voice as something fleshy and physical—a fleeting call from a singular singer who’s also as human as anyone else.
Gathered from live shows after 2007’s Volta, Voltaic features lots of little endearing moments of Bjork breathing, sighing, gasping, and leaning into phrases harder than she does in the studio. The set is split into two parts—a CD of audio tracks recorded live at Olympia Studios and a DVD featuring footage from shows in Paris and Reykjavik—and both come with all the attendant thrills that Bjork shows have come to offer. The recordings on the CD are crisp and clear, and do a lot to highlight both Bjork’s expansive singing and the borderline-insane arrangements around it.
“Hunter” sounds a stirring note with purring horns and eerie strings, while another oldie, “Army Of Me,” taps into the Volta tour’s tendency toward martial techno-angst backdrops. Some of it gets so dense and noisy that Bjork sounds like just another presence in the midst of a serious ray-gun attack. The production level of the DVD is also high, with numerous camera angles giving a sense of both the energy on stage and the in-crowd view. It’s nothing more than straight footage of live shows, but it makes for a fitting tribute to a musician who haunts the stage so well. (A related but different 4-disc set features the same plus an extra DVD of music videos and a CD of Volta remixes.)