BY James KeastPublished Sep 1, 2004

Being a music critic ruined my first experience of the new Björk record. Knowing that it was largely an a cappella album, with guest appearances from famed vocal stylists like Mike Patton and Roots beat-boxer Rahzel — and that songs that sounded instrument-laden, weren’t necessarily — I approached it like a musical mystery to be unravelled. Other than concluding that obvious first single "Who Is It (Carry My Joy On the Left, Carry My Pain On the Right)” was the most Björk-y and at the very least, its drum patterns weren’t vocal, Medúlla proved impenetrable, at least intellectually. Once again, Björk is smarter and wiser than I; subsequent listening demonstrates that she knows what she’s doing, and how! A restless musician who’s always had an affinity for singing in open spaces — like the volcanic fields of her native Iceland — here Björk celebrates the sheer joy of vocal expression, be it chirping like insects, gnashing like birds or whispering at the top of your lungs. Choirs of sighs, snorts and exhalations are corralled in forms both elegant and occasionally jarring, invariably melodic and ever fascinating. And despite my best efforts, like that intensely focused first listen, I’ve made it sound more difficult and challenging than it actually is to listen to — the exact opposite of what Björk so effortlessly achieves.

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