Bjork

By - Oct 1st, 2004 02:52 pm
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By John Hughes

Atlantic

www.bjorkweb.com

It would be misleading to write that Bjork’s new disc is sort of an Icelandic spin on that Chant album that was such a phenomenon in the 1990s. Medulla is in no way churchy. I mention the comparison, though, because both albums demand that you listen with both ears. They are about the human voice, and both evoke some sort of inflamed Spirit, in their individual ways.

Medulla, a visionary record for the new millennium, will no doubt expand the musical lexicon of its listeners. It certainly expanded mine. This music utilizing human beat boxes, Inuit (indigenous Canadian) throat singing, and choirs from Iceland and England, in addition to the writing and singing performance of Bjork’s inventive life—is thoroughly unusual. It took me some time to realize that what I was hearing on most tracks was profound and challenging beauty. It’s futuristic yet warm, postmodern yet sensual: a heart-stoppingly elegant, deeply subtle and erotic celebration of humanness.

Unlike Bjork’s previous outing, Vespertine, which was heavy with instrumentation and electronica, Medulla is almost entirely instrument-free; a piano, for example, accompanies only two songs. The album has an organic, rich and compelling texture. It’s like a beckoning to your own primordial awareness.

This is avant-garde music, and like most albums that can be so labeled, it may strike you as “weird” at first. (It makes Moby’s Play sound like three chords and 12 bars.) The considerable rewards will surface gradually, and for an hour, make you glad to be alive.

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