Björk’s restless experimentalism long ago polarized casual listener and devotee. But as each solo release twines further the power cables connecting earth mother, muse, and the avant-garde, every move Björk makes takes on weighty event status. Medúlla is no different, and might be her grandest. It’s compiled almost entirely from meticulous vocal layers, but it’s not nearly a cappella. That’s because she’s gathered a justice league of vocal interpreters, from Mike Patton and human beatbox Rahzel to throat singer Tagaq, the haunting Icelandic Choir, and incomparable art rock mystic Robert Wyatt. (Occasional programming serves only as a subtle framing nudge.) Medúlla alternates beautifully austere solo pieces (sung by Björk in both English and Icelandic) with ambitious, multi-voice statements that tighten every knot on her intellectual and emotional net — loss, love, fear, and palms full of stars. She’s a fractured futurist drawing strength from organics. Highlights include the tense, esophageal drum ’n’ bass of “Where is the Line,” Wyatt’s whimsical singing and self-harmonizing during “Submarine,” and the somewhat conventionally Björk “Oceania.” For the adventurous, there’s the wordless, bewilderingly dense, and slightly scary “Ancestors.” Captivating, gorgeous, and a little bit mysterious, the elemental, graceful Medúlla makes Björk our world’s Leeloo

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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