Bjork does unthinkable: all human voice record

By Kyle Rougeau
December 3, 2004

Bjork has accomplished the unthinkable, as she typically does, by creating an album almost entirely of human voices. “Medulla,” Bjork’s seventh studio album released in August of 2004, is not the average piece of artistry.

“It became a very spontaneous, kind of carefree album to make,” Bjork said on her website http://www.bjork.com.

Recorded in 18 different locations including New York, Iceland and Venice Bjork called upon a team of mavericks to create the almost completely acappella album.

The “fifth element” of hip-hop culture is evident in this album as the beat boxing talents of Rahzel, Dokaka and Shlomo are featured through out.

Rahzel, otherwise know as “the Godfather of Noyze” and former member of The Roots, is the most recognizable of the beat boxing voices. He produces the beats for five of the tracks on the album including “Who is it” and “Triumph of a heart.”

Dokaka, a beat boxer from Japan, and Shlomo, a beat boxer from the United Kingdom, are less popular but are as equally talented and intriguing as they come together to create all the beats, drums, bass, and everything else that can be produced by the human voice.

The only instrument that cannot be produced by the humane voice is the piano. The track “Ancestors” uses a piano but that is the only place on the entire album that music is not produced by a voice.

Other vocals featured on “Medulla” come courtesy of Tanya ‘Tagaq’ Gillis, an inuit throatsinger and co-writer for the track “Ancestors,” Robert Wyatt, Mike Patton, the Iceland and United Kingdom choirs, Gregory Purnhagen and last but not least the milkshake me-making R&B artist Kelis.

Bjork is not a tyrant when it comes to her music and just as in previous albums Bjork gave her hand-picked ensemble freedom to bring out their artistry along with hers. “I liked all of us to make any special noises we could on the new album,” Bjork said on her website. “Sometimes there’s a kind of weave or blend where nobody is more important than anybody else; other times I wanted each signer to have a sort of solo.”

Medulla is extreme and experimental even for Bjork standards. After just finishing the “Vespertine” tour Bjork was back in the studio working hard on what is now her seventh studio album and by far the most creatively charged and risk taken piece of music to date.

The track “Who is it” is ultimately a piece of music that will not be ignored, especially with Bjork’s entrancing voice accompanied by a festival of intricate beats laid out by Rahzel.

Perhaps the most stimulating and fascinating track on the album is “Desired constellation,” which is sure to become another Bjork classic as “Humane Behavior” or “It’s oh so quiet.” With captivating lyrics Bjork’s voice is placed over a choir that is manipulated into a fluttering night like buzz.

Bjork performed the track “Oceania” for the opening Olympic ceremony in Athens, Greece this past summer.

Another song that will turn heads is “Mouths Cradle” where Bjork sings the lyrics, “I need a shelter to build an alter altar away from the Osamas and Bushes,” which is another crazy beat-boxing masterpiece.

The album has received rave reviews since its release. Rolling Stone magazine gives the album three-and-a-half stars out of five. According to Laura Sinagra, writer for The Village Voice, “Medulla’s songs are like polygraph poems, measuring the biofeedback of creation and desire.”

Bjork will no doubt continue creating music like no other artist in existence. For more information on Bjork or any of the artists she has worked with visit her website at

http://www.bjork.com.

Posted to the web by Shawn Rice

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Kyle Rougeau

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