Medúlla

Medúlla

4.4 14
by Björk
     
 

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You've gotta hand it to Björk. Not only is she consistently willing to tease audiences with music that prompts head-scratching, she's pretty doggone likely to get out there and record the sound of said scratching for another round of tunes. Medúlla continues her tradition of beautiful subversion, rife as it is with songs that manage to reconcile the off-kilter

Overview

You've gotta hand it to Björk. Not only is she consistently willing to tease audiences with music that prompts head-scratching, she's pretty doggone likely to get out there and record the sound of said scratching for another round of tunes. Medúlla continues her tradition of beautiful subversion, rife as it is with songs that manage to reconcile the off-kilter and the soothing. The Icelandic singer sets the tone from the outset, layering "Pleasure Is All Mine" with an enveloping chorus of voices that would be equally at home in a Norse cathedral and a David Lynch movie. Voice is not only the most important instrument on Medúlla, it's virtually the only one. Yes, there are samples here and there -- the ethereal keyboard line that murmurs beneath the breathily spoken "Desired Constellation," for instance -- but most of the songs are entirely unaccompanied. In the case of the plaintive "Show Me Forgiveness," that translates into Björk wailing alone, as if in the wilderness; on the other hand, the Icelandic-language "Vokuru," a piece from the catalog of classical composer Jorunn Vidar, positions her vocal atop a stealthily shifting choir brimming with lilting sopranos and brawny basses. A few of the more purposefully avant-garde pieces verge on the grating -- notably "Mouths Cradle," which slices and dices vocal lines in an attempt to render them purely percussive -- but Björk-o-philes are, by now, used to having to work a bit to get the sweetest meat out of her sometimes spiny surroundings. And for the open-minded, Medúlla easily yields Björk's sweetest offerings to date.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
It's hard to accuse Björk of making music influenced by commercial or critical expectations at any point in her career, but her post-Homogenic work is even more focused on following her bliss, whether that means acting and singing in Lars Von Trier's grim musical Dancer in the Dark; crafting tiptoeing laptop lullabies on Vespertine; or, in the case of Medúlla, sculpting an album out of almost nothing but singing and vocal samples. The album's title and concept refer to the purest essence of something, and Medúlla explores both the ritual power of the human voice and some of the most essential themes of Björk's music in a way that's both primal and elaborate. It took a large cast of characters to make the album's seemingly organic sound, including vocalists ranging from Icelandic and British choirs to Inuit singers to Mike Patton and Robert Wyatt; programmers like Matmos, Mark Bell, and Mark "Spike" Stent; and beatboxers such as Rahzel and the onomatopoeically named Japanese artist Dokaka. Several songs are sung in Icelandic, which works especially well, not only because it ties in with Medúlla's concept, but also because of the language's sonic qualities: the rolling Rs, guttural stops, and elongated vowels reflect the alternately chopped and soaring arrangements behind them. Neopaganism and unfettered sensuality also wind through the album, particularly on "Mouth's Cradle," along with meditative, Vespertine-like pieces such as "Desired Constellation." Medúlla is unusually intimate: Björk's voice is miked very closely, and with the dense layers of vocals surrounding her, it often sounds as if you're listening to the album from inside her larynx. Some of the heavy breathing, grunts, and ululating woven into the album come close to provoking physical reactions: the eerie sighs and throat singing on the feral "Ancestors" make the chest ache and suggest a particularly melodic pack of wolves. Meanwhile, there's something simian about Dokaka's gleeful babbling and beats on "Triumph of a Heart." Despite its gentler moments, Medúlla's raw rhythms and rarefied choral washes make it the most challenging work of Björk's career. "Where Is the Line" is one of her tough, no-nonsense songs, and Rahzel's hard-hitting beats make it starker than anything on Homogenic. Even relatively accessible songs, like the gone-native loveliness of "Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)" and "Oceania," which Björk wrote for the 2004 Athens Olympics, have an alien quality that is all the stranger considering that nearly all of their source material is human (except for the odd keyboard or two). Actually, fans of world, contemporary classical, or avant-garde music might find more to appreciate in Medúlla than anyone looking for a "Human Behaviour" or "It's Oh So Quiet." It's not an immediate album, but it is a fascinating one, especially for anyone interested in the world's oldest instrument being used in unexpected ways. [Medúlla was also released in a limited-edition digipack with a bonus poster.]

Product Details

Release Date:
10/16/2007
Label:
Imports
UPC:
5016958060923
catalogNumber:
737129
Rank:
103691

Tracks

  1. Pleasure Is All Mine
  2. Show Me Forgiveness
  3. Where Is the Line?
  4. Vökuró
  5. Öll Birtan
  6. Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)
  7. Submarine
  8. Desired Constellation
  9. Oceania
  10. Sonnets/Unrealities XI
  11. Ancestors
  12. Mouths Cradle
  13. Midvikudags
  14. Triumph of a Heart

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Björk   Primary Artist,Piano,Vocals,Synthesizer Bass
Robert Wyatt   Vocals,Sampling
Yona Dunsford   Choir, Chorus
Melanie Marshall   Choir, Chorus
Mike Patton   Vocals
Gregory Purnhagen   Trombone
Peter Van Hooke   Gong
Karen Chandler   Choir, Chorus
Micaela Haslam   Choir, Chorus
Sarah Eyden   Choir, Chorus
Stefan Orn Arnarson   Bass (Vocal),Choir, Chorus,Bassi
Nick Ingham   Conductor
Janet Mooney   Choir, Chorus
Mark Thomas Bell   Synthesizer,Synthesizer Bass
Helen Hampton   Choir, Chorus
Ann DeRenais   Choir, Chorus
Jacqueline Barron   Choir, Chorus
Arndgerður Maria Árnadóttir   Alto,Choir, Chorus,Alto (Vocal)
Kristín Erna Blöndal   Soprano,Choir, Chorus,Soprano (Vocal)
Rachel Chapman   Choir, Chorus
Heather Chirncross   Choir, Chorus
Tarsha Colt   Choir, Chorus
Guðrún Finnbjarnardóttir   Alto,Choir, Chorus,Alto (Vocal)
Guðrún Edda Gunnarsdóttir   Alto,Choir, Chorus,Alto (Vocal)
Inga Harðardóttir   Soprano,Choir, Chorus,Soprano (Vocal)
Anna Hinriksdóttir   Alto,Choir, Chorus,Alto (Vocal)
Hugrún Hólmgeirsdóttir   Soprano,Choir, Chorus,Soprano (Vocal)
Benedikt Ingólfsson   Bass (Vocal),Choir, Chorus,Bassi
Elfa Ingvadóttir   Soprano,Choir, Chorus,Soprano (Vocal)
Guðmundur Vignir Karlsson   Choir, Chorus,Tenor (Vocal)
Jónína Guðrún KristinsdóttirÞ   Alto,Choir, Chorus,Alto (Vocal)
Gísli Magni   Tenor (Vocal)
Nico Muhly   Piano
Helen Pakker   Choir, Chorus
Hjálmar Pétursson   Bass (Vocal),Choir, Chorus,Bassi
Samantha Shaw   Choir, Chorus
Jude Sim   Choir, Chorus
Sarah Simmondi   Choir, Chorus
Björn Thornarensen   Tenor (Vocal)
Karen Woodhowe   Choir, Chorus
Icelandic Choir   Vocals,Track Performer
þorbjörn Sigurðsson   Choir, Chorus,Tenor (Vocal)
Björn Thorarensen   Choir, Chorus,Tenor (Vocal)
Tanya Tagaq Gillis   Vocals,Track Performer
Nick Kennedy   Choir, Chorus
Emma Brain-Gabbott   Choir, Chorus
Jenny O'Grady   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Björk   Composer,Programming,Engineer,Audio Production,Bass Programming,Choir Arrangement
Mark Bell   Programming,Audio Production
Neil Dorfsman   Engineer
Jake Davies   Programming,Engineer
Rahzel   Programming,beats
Matmos   Programming
e.e. cummings   Composer
Magga Stina   Choir Arrangement
Olivier Alary   Composer,Programming
Flavio DeSouza   Engineer
Mark Thomas Bell   Programming,Producer
Hrafnhildur "Shoplifter" Arnardóttir   Sculpture
Dokaka   beats
Little Miss Specta   Programming
Andrea Helgadottir   Coloration
Valgeir Sigurðsson   Programming,Engineer
Shlomo   Programming

Customer Reviews

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Medúlla 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
The_Beastlord_Slavedragon More than 1 year ago
Vokuro made me weep. Okay! Did you hear that Bjork? You got me. Seriously though, this is the single most progressively forward album recorded in world popular music. Well done. Bravo! If Bjork was cool enough we could get everything together. I' mean seeing that Maria Callas is beyond the grave and all and only has clarevoyane with me. (^_^)! Beastdragon Bolt thrower blodkin
Darth_Nihilus More than 1 year ago
Vokuro made me weep. Okay! Did you hear that Bjork? You got me. Seriously though, this is the single most progressively forward album recorded in world popular music. Well done. Bravo! If Bjork was cool enough we could get everything together. I' mean seeing that Maria Callas is beyond the grave and all and only has clarevoyane with me. (^_^)! Beastdragon Bolt thrower blodkin
Guest More than 1 year ago
Björk has a hauntingly beautiful voice and through her music she expresses msny emotions. This is a good cd, though so was Vespertine and all her other cds. Her voice has a purity to it that is so original that I doubt anyone could ever copy her. Even if you don't like her music, you can't doubt her originality and truthful creativeness. She is a one-of-a-kind singer and songwriter. You should definately check out this cd, even if you haven't heard any of her other songs. The chorals and rythyms are great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This CD is completely acapella!Hearing it you wouldn't believe it.Simply amazing.A must have for any Bjork Fan(like me).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like Bjork as much as the next guy, maybe even more so (I have every one of her proper albums and a good dose of her EP's singles, etc., and pay to see her in concert whenever she's in L.A.). And like most fans I know she's idiosyncratic and avant-garde and all that. But for me this album is too much of a good thing (if idiosyncracy can be called a good thing). Yes some of the things she does with layered vocals are interesting from a purely audiosyncratic curiosity point of view. But in terms of enjoyable music that you might like to spend an evening with or listening to with friends, I just don't get it. There are some pleasant surprises on the album (Sonnets/Unrealities XI comes to mind), but for the most part this disc is simply inaccessible. If you're a Bjork addict hankering for your next fix, this is it. If you're just a music fan looking to be compensated for your $20 with an album full of listenable music, better look elsewhere.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everything about this album, from the incredible hair sculpture on the cover sleeve to its 14 tracks of joyous obscurity are without a doubt as delightful as they are arcane. I honestly can't single out a weak moment; Bjork's clever manipulation of unconventional song structures is not unlike the webwork of a particularly adroit spider, as she creeps along with harmonious mischief. There will be no ambitious insects discovering any loopholes, either. Standout tracks? This is a congruous experience that works to best advantage unimpeded; thouroughly enjoyable from the first to the last murmurous crescendo. So simply purchase and enjoy, because you've really no other choice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It all started with Debut. An enchanting cd that was recieved nicely by the media. Then Post a cd that Bjork pushed even further the media acceptability. Then came Homogenic possibly her most gloomy cd and yet still amazing. Even getting her a Grammy. Then Vespertine where she jumped off of her normally trip hop, dance roots to a more ballad work. Now here is Medulla. Where Bjork decided that insruments are out and pure vocal is in. Even in this cd she manages to make more dance songs with pure vocals. Something I thought couldn't be done. A beautiful, mind boggling cd that should be in everyone's cd player.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm so glad Bjork has introduced us to her Icelandic roots. Inuit singer, Tanya Tagaq's throat singing is a beautiful accompaniment to Bjork's singing. As it was mentioned earlier, the a capella from Bjork is amazing. I have great respect for her ingenuity and brilliance in this album. The Icelandic choir is dramatic and haunting. This is something I have to listen to in silence. It's more like the Vespertine album, retrospective and poetic. Bjork's Olympic Ceremony performance of Oceania was gorgeous, but on the album, you have to turn the stereo and base up and really listen to the words and let the music flow through you. I love the percussion-like accompaniments from her male performers Shlomo and Rahzel. Bjork sings more Icelandic lyrics in this album. It's beautiful. My favorite part of this album is the throat singing from Tagaq and Bjork. The unusual noises and music that come from these performances are unbelievable and so visceral. I can't wait to see the videos!
Guest More than 1 year ago
And she does. This is an unusual CD but it certainly fits with her talents and abilities. It's sometimes easily forgotten that there aren't any musical instruments on this album, the music is great enough to make it irrelevant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is Bjork's most cerebral work to date, the title even says so. Highly enjoyable.
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