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Wednesday, Sep 29 2004
By limiting the instrumentation of her fifth proper studio release almost exclusively to vocal samples, Björk holds to the path that has made her an icon of eccentricity. Doubtless, the 14 tracks are ambitious and astute, whether nodding to Karl Stockhausen's "Stimmung" ("Öll Birtan") or the metabeats of computer-manipulated beat-boxing ("Triumph of the Heart"). But, even with studied harmonies and vocal acrobatics, Medúlla is tanked by its own high concept. Between the barbaric grunts of "Ancestors" and the medieval bellowing of "Where Is the Line With You," the album offers neither the serenity of Vespertine nor the fluidity of Homogenic. Back-to-back tracks "Submarine" and "Desired Constellation" present meandering melodic ideas that get lost in a dreary purgatory between vocal jazz and laptop glitch. And while Björk's gumption, as always, is commendable, the most memorable moments ("Who Is It," "Mouth's Cradle") surface when her vocal experiments are backed by more traditional arrangements. All told, Medúlla is going to make one hell of a remix record.

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Nate Cavalieri


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