Medúlla

Medúlla

4.2 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-kilterSee more details below

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.

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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.]

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/16/2007
Label:
Imports
UPC:
5016958060923
catalogNumber:
737129
Rank:
162368

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

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Björk   Primary Artist,Piano,Synthesizer Bass
Robert Wyatt   Sampling
Yona Dunsford   Choir, Chorus
Melanie Marshall   Choir, Chorus
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   Track Performer
þorbjörn Sigurðsson   Choir, Chorus,Tenor (Vocal)
Björn Thorarensen   Choir, Chorus,Tenor (Vocal)
Tanya Tagaq Gillis   Track Performer
Nick Kennedy   Choir, Chorus
Emma Brain-Gabbott   Choir, Chorus
Jenny O'Grady   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Björk   Composer,Programming,Engineer,Bass Programming,Choir Arrangement
Neil Dorfsman   Engineer
Jake Davies   Programming,Engineer
Rahzel   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

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