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Bj÷rk - Med˙lla CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.55 | 97 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars A True Masterpiece of Progressive Music

Based on the monumental Medulla, I had lobbied for Bjork's inclusion on Prog Archives several times to no avail. Finally someone was able to make it happen and now I get a chance to review what was once one of my best kept musical secrets.

Medulla is an album based almost completely on the human voice. Harmony choirs, beat- boxing, sampled and altered vocalizations, and of course Bjork's idiosyncratic singing all combine into a feast of the world's oldest instrument seen under the modern lens. Among the huge number of vocalists who contribute to the record are Canterbury veteran Robert Wyatt and avant-metal godfather Mike Patton. Vocalized percussion draws on urban street corners and ancient ethnic traditions from various parts of the world. No one will ever argue against the fact that Medulla is one of the most ambitious records ever made by a major artist. This alone gives it monstrous cred on a music site ostensibly dedicated to progressive music, in my opinion.

But all the ambition in the world doesn't mean the product delivers. And this is where Medulla rises to such heights. Bjork's experience in pop means that in the midst of extremely challenging arrangements and dramatic voice effects is a powerful sense of melody and often driving rhythms. Always there is a sense of movement and harmony. Never do I feel like I'm in a land of free form avant nonsense. Always, always the music keeps reference to its center which makes painful screams, soaring choruses, even rapid breathing seem so emotionally powerful. A song like "Ancestors" would make even the most rule-breaking musician jealous, but it still makes so much musical sense.

Like many prog masterpieces, Medulla is extremely challenging, and requires many listens to truly appreciate. But it is so emotionally exhausting that it can be hard to listen to the entire album even though it's only 45:40!!! But some of the best songs are late in the album, like "Mouth's Cradle," which combines an almost classical choir with low vocal percussion, and a strident lead by Bjork. Earlier songs like "Who Is It?" and "Where is the line?" are deceptively ear-friendly, with repeated phrases used as accompaniment. But it can be easy to get lost, with multiple parts grabbing for your attention. The final track "Triumph of a Heart" is a beat boxing / vocal percussion extravaganza that is clearly meant to leave the listener with a little humor and an exhale after the amazing journey.

Another great (completely) a capella album is Bobby McFerrin's "CircleSongs" for fans of Medulla and voice.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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