It's doubtful anyone saw this coming: Stranger Genius Award winners Industrial Revelation will be covering Icelandic singer/songwriter/producer Björk's Homogenic in its entirety at Neptune Theatre on December 20. Released in 1997, Homogenic is a richly orchestrated electronic song suite that stuffs 10 pounds of fraught emotions into a five-pound bag.
Homogenic is the record on which Björk became really serious. And it contains two career peaks: the jaggedly funky "Alarm Call" (augmented by some of the most buoyant "oohh"s ever put to tape ) and the infinitely ascending helix of joy that is "All Is Full of Love." Pitchfork's Philip Sherburne described Homogenic thus: "Trading the playful eclecticism of Debut and Post for distorted, hardscrabble electronic drums and warm, melancholy strings, it showcased a newly focused side of the musician while embracing all of her most provocative contradictions." Truth.
Why is a band most people consider "jazz"—albeit one of the more voraciously eclectic ensembles in that genre—covering a 20-year-old Björk album? Initially, the premise seems surprising. But when you ponder how both artists share inclinations to bust outside of genre constrictions and blur stylistic conventions, the decision doesn't seem so left-field. Below, Industrial Revelation's members describe why they've flipped so hard for Homogenic.
Ahamefule J. Oluo (trumpet): My first thoughts of doing this particular show came around the beginning of 2017 when I started seeing a million tributes to [Radiohead's] OK Computer. And look, I absolutely love OK Computer as well, but for me, 1997 was just as much defined by Homogenic, and it made me think a lot about the way we treat masterpieces made by men versus masterpieces made by women, how we idolize them, and how we choose to honor them, and how rarely men celebrate the music of women. And it got me thinking about what Industrial Revelation would sound like playing those incredible tunes and the sound in my head told me immediately that we had to make this happen.
In an instrumental band, it is really difficult to cover "pop" albums (I use the word "pop" in comparison to jazz, America's statistically least popular music), because often, the melodies just don't hold up, they are often so dependent on lyrics that when you strip away the words, you are left with something tedious and indistinct. This is not the case with Björk, in general, and Homogenic, specifically. The melody lines dip and swerve, they are unpredictable and virtuosic and the way she sings them, wailing and guttural, make me think of Bubber Miley or Cootie Williams from Duke Ellington's band, so much more than a pretty sound, something more human and more alien at the same time. There is so much there to work with.
We rarely do any covers in Industrial Revelation, I think we've probably covered about five songs in the past 12 years, and we wanted to try something new, we wanted to take our energy and apply it to something else, and I think we have a strong enough musical identity to not lose ourselves in this music; to be true to what this music means and maintain our integrity as a distinct unit. I haven't been so excited for an Industrial Revelation show in years.
Evan Flory-Barnes (bass): Björk is one of my creative, musical and personal heroes. She has long been a standard for making magic, beauty, and love through and from one's life and art. She is a love soldier. She has sung notes that have made me burst into tears, carried me into other worlds and affirmed a loving defiance in my being.
Josh Rawlings (keyboards): When Homogenic came out in 1997, I was a freshman entering high school. I was still a punk that didn’t really know much about the vastness of musical styles beyond the pop music my parents listened to. I was a kid transitioning from the move from Minneapolis to Seattle digging on Weezer, Nirvana, and starting to dabble in electronic music and more. I was starting to make beats and electronic music on my own at my house while also starting to entertain wanting to understand more about jazz music as a genre. So Björk‘s album for me marks a real transitional period where my musical palate, perspectives, and general understanding was ripe to become much more diverse and exploratory. In a way it was like the beginning of what Industrial Revelation affectionately calls “everything music,” where we’re pulling from all influences that inspire us no matter what the genre, artist, or era. The “good/everything music” is all there to explore, play with, and use as a jump-off point into the great expanse and excitement of music creation and appreciation.
D'Vonne Lewis (drums): I’ve always been one to appreciate things that are a bit out of my personal comfort zone. I like to throw myself into the fire at times, if you will. Whether it be eating a unique or interesting food or wearing a unique piece of clothing or pair of shoes. So when I first heard Björk’s music, I immediately knew that it was something that I would love to personally explore. It was unfamiliar to me, but at the same time I understood it. I was more than intrigued with it. Homogenic is 20 years old, but it still has the feeling, the sounds and influences as if it came out today! It’s beyond normal, but then again, what is normal? It speaks truth, which is something that speaks to my soul!