Let’s get this out of the way: I have not seen the new film by Matthew Barney that this soundtrack is scoring, I do not plan to ever see the new film by Matthew Barney that this soundtrack is scoring, and if it came on TV while I was doing nothing and someone said, “Hey, look. It’s that Matthew Barney movie that Bjork scored,” I would change the channel to So You Think You Can Dance. I do not like Matthew Barney, nor do I plan on liking Matthew Barney.
However, I love Bjork and just about everything she has put out, so I am approaching this soundtrack not as a companion piece, but as its own entity — not quite a new Bjork album but something to look forward to nonetheless. Using these guidelines, the album is fairly impressive. On opener “Gratitude,” Bjork gives guest Will Oldham lyrics taken directly from a letter written to General MacArthur thanking him for lifting a moratorium on whaling. The song, set to harp music, is strangely beautiful. Its a mood continues throughout the album, a haunting version of the celebration on Bjork’s previous effort, last year’s thrilling Medulla.
The comparisons to Bjork’s other work are inevitable, particularly to the mostly vocal Medulla. The similarities are impossible to ignore — check the ten-minute nearly a cappella “Holographic Entrypoint,” Bjork’s whispering performance on "Bath" and the “Ancestors”-like “Pearl.” But like the gentle shifts every Bjork album bears witness to, this is a distinctly different offering, and not just because she has been forced to adapt to a specific culture (feudal Japan). Of the two major Bjork vocal performances, “Storm” and “Cetacea,” the former is the biggest departure. For Bjork fans (and who else is buying this?), it’s also the album’s highlight. A group of Bjorks punch in and out until the musical weather system of the title carries the one real Bjork through static winds and thunderous synths. It ends up being a fantastic ghost story, and it will be entered into the Bjork canon at this year’s symposium.
I am not going to pretend that I’m not a Bjork fan, but I also refuse to admit that this isn’t way above average for what appears to be a between-projects soundtrack. Unlike the recent disappointment of Massive Attack’s Danny the Dog soundtrack and closer to the stand-alone cohesion of Jon Brion’s I “Heart" Huckabees soundtrack, the Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack is able to pull together the lesser pleasures of cinematic atmospherics and the off-kilter pop highs of Bjork’s finest work. Though it’s not exactly a repeat listen (without a few order adjustments), this is a fine addition to Bjork’s catalogue and another reason to keep paying attention to one of the most important voices in modern music.