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Bj÷rk - Med˙lla CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.55 | 97 ratings

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3 stars Icelandic elf, vocalist, composer and experimental artist Bj÷rk first came to international prominence in 1988. Back then she was fronting Icelandic ensemble The Sugarcubes, whose initial effort "Life's Too Good" caused quite a stir in the music press and quickly earned them a strong international reputation. Five years later Bj÷rk decided to establish herself as a solo artist, and have since proven herself to be a rare item in the mainstream music industry: An experimental artist that manage to craft commercially accessible songs whilst maintaining a boundary challenging attitude and an avantgarde approach to her output.

"Medulla" from 2004 is widely regarded as her most experimental album to date. And while I can't wholeheartedly subscribe to that notion myself it is at least a highly unusual affair, it's starkly introverted and idiocentric nature of a kind that only a highly commercially successful artist would have been able to release. Any fledgling or unknown artist attempting to approach any record label with a notable impact from a commercial point of view with such a creation would have been rejected. Forcefully, and most likely with a certain physical force to emphasize the point of view.

Not that the almost a cappella nature of this disc is unique in itself. With only minimalistic instrumentation utilized on select occasions, the art of crafting an album's worth of material using vocals alone has been done for decades. It's the manner in which this is done which is remarkable, and arguably unique seen in the context of this being a CD distributed, marketed and sold to a worldwide audience.

Opening effort 'Pleasure Is All Mine' a good example of just that. A catchy song in itself, well made and enthralling, but also invasive and disturbing, Bjork's primal voice adding almost pornographic associations to the proceedings. Not a song you'd like to play while your mother-in-law is nearby, unless you know her really well and are assured of the fact that she won't be offended.

Or take 'Oceania'. A repetitive and simple affair on the superficial level, but with vocal arrangements that are about as far removed from a mainstream approach as any instrumental free jazz tune you can name. Final track 'Triumph of a Heart' even more so, a straightforward pop tune in terms of structure, with a strong singalong nature to it and with a rather predictable development. But where the nature of the strictly vocal effects used to craft the song are of a kind other artists most likely wouldn't even have contemplated utilizing.

Bjork's marriage of the uncommon, experimental and avantgarde with the accessible and commercially marketable has established her as an artist unique in many ways. "Medulla" isn't the premium example of that side of Bjork however. On this occasion the songs are mostly too avantgarde and idiocentric in nature to be fair representatives of that side of her production. But for anyone wondering why she is regarded as an experimental, avantgarde and even art pop composer and musician, the highs and lows of this strange little production should provide an ample answer to just that.

When that is said, this isn't a great album as such. The songs are varied in scope and nature, where introverted experiments that arguably would have been better left in the studio stand side by side with pieces more intriguing than musically interesting while many of the more remarkable efforts as far as interest goes isn't as challenging or adventurous as one would expect from this artist on this particular production.

It all ads up to a bumpy ride, well worth getting familiar with as long as you don't expect to be entertained all the way. That is, unless you really love the voice of Bjork. If her primal and often sexually laden delivery is one that you just can't get enough of, Medulla is a disc that'll most likely be regarded as a trip to high heavens of orgasmic proportions.

Windhawk | 3/5 |


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