Record review

Phases & Stages


Medúlla (Elektra) A word to the wise: Medúlla is a headphones-only album. It's meant to be absorbed directly by the area for which it's named – the brain. Even then, its aesthetic success depends entirely on the open-mindedness – or forgiving nature – of the listener. Opener "Pleasure Is All Mine" is marked by guttural gasps, growls, and grunts as percussion while the singer does her thing. The total effect swings from unnerving to erotic, but isn't entirely displeasing. "Vökuró" is a reverent complement to its industrial-flavored predecessors. Backed by the Icelandic Choir, Björk could easily be singing an interlude in a cathedral on Sunday morning. Björk's trills in her native Icelandic work well on "Who Is It," which underscores this disc's experiment in taking the raw power of the human voice, whether it's singing, trilling, or beatboxing, and turning it into a cohesive whole – with the aid of technology. The most challenging point on this intriguing document is "Ancestors," which would be fine if it weren't for the woman hyperventilating and the accompanying sound that can best be described as wheezing Chihuahua. Fortunately, it's followed up by "Mouth's Cradle," which pulsates and quivers as a strong marriage of weirdo vocal stuff and the perfection of Vespertine's airy electronica. All in all, though, Medúlla is far too busy. Even when you're experimenting, the less-is-more rule still applies.


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