Thursday, September 02, 2004

Medúlla

Bjork must be very, very brave or very, very crazy.

I tend to lean towards the former while others, including my boyfriend Brian, think she's just nuts*. We have a framed poster of the cover of Homogenic with Bjork in futuristic geisha garb hanging in our living room. Brian thinks of it as the Halloween decoration that never got taken down, occasionally making noises about how it would be great campfire fodder. Hah! The smoke from the laminated paper will make the marshmallows taste funny.

At a party, my friend Randy H. and I heatedly discussed Bjork's career. Bjork appealed to him in her pop/dance Debut but quickly lost him when she started taking an entire minute to sing one word. I thought that Bjork gained depth as an artist as she followed her own muse. Granted, as with other great artists, there is a tendency to overshoot the mark and risk alienating their audience. Some critics may say that these days, only aliens would listen to her music and I don't think they mean people from New York City.

I think that the 'crazy' Bjork image comes from two incidents: one, when she wore a dress that looked like a swan's carcass draped on her to the 2001 Academy Awards; the other, when she slugged a female TV reporter in a Thai airport for shoving a microphone in her son's face. At least Bjork didn't call her son 'blanket.'

Well, Randy is not going to like Medúlla, Bjork’s new CD. The title refers to the 'inner part of an animal or plant structure or the lower part of the human brain'. The album's concept is to use only human voices as accompaniment, fusing choral music, Icelandic hymns and a human beatbox together with the singer's own quirky vocal style. There is only the barest instrumentation, a few tinkles of the piano, a low rumble of a synth sprinkled in a couple of songs.

The epic "Oceania", which the singer debuted at the 2004 Olympic opening ceremonies, stands out with its sweeping vocals and dramatic themes. I have been playing this song over and over. I already do a great impression of this song which I spring on Brian randomly, like, just as he emerges from the shower:

Wahn breath ah-way...from Mother Oceeeaaaannniiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...!

The other song I really like is Bjork's interpretation of poet e. e. cumming's "it may not always be so;and i say" (Sonnets/Unrealities XI). e. e. cummings is known for his avant-garde approach to poetry, his literary acrobatics and the peculiar way he lays the words on the page. I think they are well suited together. This is not their first 'collaboration.' In Vespertine, she tackles another poem "i will wade out" in the song "Sun in My Mouth." I think if the poet were still alive, he might have worked with her. Or hit her on the head with a stick.

There are many words to describe the album: ethereal, primitive, atmospheric, all of which means that the record is going to sell like, ten copies. Outside of a Bjork CD release party, it will probably be heard only in an upscale gay couple's all-white minimalist home.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the album and appreciate the ambition and artistic statement that Bjork is making. She has made an album that appeals to the intellect. I loved the songs when they worked and can see what she was going for in the songs I didn't particularly care for.

On a purely superficial level though, I think that the CD is pretty much really just a bunch of bullshit.


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* Wouldn't it be wonderful if Bjork was in a remake of the Barbra Streisand film "Nuts"?

The Official Bjork Website: fantastic content!
Another picture of the infamous swan dress
Salon.com weighs in on Bjork.
A remix of Bjork's "Oceania" featuring Kelis can be DL'd at this message board
Watch the video directed by Lynn Fox

e.e. cummings poetry: here and here
Human Beatbox Community
Amusing human beatbox video (6 mins)

"My Name is Blanket" by Blanket Jackson
Play with Blanket: Baby Bounce game and Baby Drop game

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