Björk grows her roots in "Medúlla"

Sept. 6, 2004, midnight | By Emma Zachurski | 19 years, 7 months ago

Vocal CD adds new depth to singer

There seems to be nothing that Björk cannot accomplish. Since her start as an Icelandic jazz singer at the age of 12, she's explored and broadened her musical style countless times without ever failing to amaze or surprise fans and skeptics alike. Her latest record, "Medúlla," is no different, taking vocal innovation to a whole level of creativity.

Throughout "Medúlla's" hypnotic run Björk almost completely abstains from musical instruments and instead chooses to create from the very root of all music, the human voice. Throat singer Tagaq, the Icelandic and London Choir, and various other vocalists who imitate instruments from percussion to trombones all pitch in to carry Björk's own unique and remarkable sound.

Initiating Björk's symphony of unconventionality is "Pleasure is all Mine," a memorable and well-constructed preface. The song mixes an array of throat sighing, gasps and a bass line sung by a choir and is led by the light and sweeter-than-ever voice of Björk. However, "Pleasure is Mine" is only a small taste of what else "Medúlla's" imaginative decadence has in store.

Next, a completely solo Björk churns out a much more solemn "Show Me Forgiveness," which is far more simplistically structured than its antecedent. However, this track manages to be one of the most effective in showing off Björk's undeniable panache for incomparable vocal ranges and tones. As "Pleasure is all Mine" oozes a blatant mood of gratitude, "Show me Forgiveness" holds a theme of personal longing for redemption. While performing vocal acrobatics, Björk's voice holds a subtle, tearful quality as she belts out lyrics such as, "The shame is endless, but if soon starts forgiveness, the girl might live."

Though Medúlla's focus is on using the voice in as many different methods as possible, the more stripped-down tracks such as "Ancestors" and "Desired Constellation" are just as notable. "Desired Constellation" is somehow both heart jerking and hopeful at the same time, with a "Vespertine"-ish chime accompaniment and softly poetic lyrics of an unmistakable Björk brand ("It's slippery when your sense of justice murmurs underneath and asking you, 'how am I going to make it right?"). "Desired Constellation," is certainly one of the more melancholy pieces over the course of "Medúlla".

Tracks such as "Vökuró" and "Sonnets/Unrealities XI" on "Medúlla" create a vivid imagery of Iceland's landscape in a style comprable of the group Sigur Rós. The Björk and Icelandic choir duet "Vökuró" is most evident in this purpose. Sung completely in Icelandic and accented with full and rich harmonies, "Vökuró," holds an exotic and alluring touch to its composition and sound.

Don't be fooled however; jovial songs on "Medúlla" are actually quite common. Much like "Medúlla's" song composition moods and themes are fleeting, and every song seems to differ in mood, be it by using science fiction-esque background loops or simply adjusting her singing style. Björk brings something different to each of "Medúlla's" distinctive tracks. Then again, Björk never has been one for consistent pattern or repetition.

Songs on "Medúlla" such as "Where is the Line," "Who is it," and "Ocenia" all have a ubiquitous quirky pop melody ring to them, as Björk's previous work on albums "Debut," and "Post" both did. Björk's lyrics occasionally burst with enthusiasm in some of "Medúlla." For example, "Who is it?" is a romantically charged ode to joy of sorts with lyrics as, "His embrace, a fortress, it fuels me and places a skeleton of trust right beneath us bone by bone." While the track "Mouth's Cradle" ends on the outstandingly funny lyrics, "I need a shelter to build an altar away from all Osamas and Bushes."

Ending "Medúlla" is the bright and fast-paced "Triumph of a Heart." Featuring a backup of vocalists emulating trombones, turntables, and percussion, the track truly captures the essence of Björk's mission throughout the record- to explore and release the various uses of voice in music and general expression.

For an incredible audio accomplishment and avant-garde record like no other, "Medúlla" sure has pop accessibility that makes it not only easy to admire, but to listen to many times over. Hopefully, this isn't the last time Björk will go especially far to please her audience, for as she sings reassuringly at the very beginning of "Medúlla," "The pleasure is all mine to get to be the generous one."

Emma Zachurski. Emma has lead a bohemian lifestyle ever since her birth to an eccentric pair of a journalist and an artist. She is now currently a senior and looks forward to another great year with Silver Chips Online! Her spare time is best spent listening to … More »

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