In a 2002 Pitchfork review of her Greatest Hits set, Chris Ott presciently noted that her voice had become "increasingly familiar, a recognizable product of her environment. The result: the rest of the world has been immunized to the Icelandic cadence, and Björk is no longer supernatural." Medúlla, then, is a corrective. Constructed almost completely a cappella, the album serves as a reintroduction to her marvelous instrument, a drastic experiment in exposure. (Having said that, Medúlla is careful not to overstay its welcome, clocking in as Björk's second-shortest studio album to date. The shortest, amazingly, is Homogenic.)
At the same time, this is also her most political album... in a sense. The track "Ancestors" -- a piano-backed, vocal showcase of nonsense phonemes, loudly drawn breaths and senseless dialogue -- is actually Medúlla's thematic centerpiece. In a 2004 interview with XFM, she described "Ancestors" as "going back to the roots -- before time, or civilization, or religion, or patriotism." Her sort of paleo politics is much more effective when it's approached from the edges, and her inclusion of classical choral work (including, finally, an all-male section) and beatboxing make this more than an exercise in imagined nostalgia (Plus, the beatboxing supplies a bit of the funk she'd been neglecting.)
Whether going creepy-crawly alongside Mike Patton on "Where Is the Line," riding Rahzel's beatboxing and Tagaq's throat singing on the alternate-universe Natasha Bedingfield single "Who Is It," or going medieval on the Icelandic-language "Vökuró," Björk's vocals evince the particular mix of intelligence and intuition that was credited to her productions in critical heaps. Admittedly, this is a record devoted largely to ideas, rather than songs; still, cuts like "Who Is It" and "Triumph of a Heart" (which features -- shit you not -- mewing) demonstrate that Björk had not forgotten how to structure a pop tune. The aforementioned two tracks, as well as the Robert Wyatt feature "Oceania," even charted in a handful of European nations. Her range was always impressive; Medúlla just quantifies it.