BBC Radio 6

20th anniversary of Homogenic

It’s 20 years to the day Homogenic was released, and yet it still sounds startlingly unique and new. Earlier this week, we asked Björk how she feels about the album now. Hear more from that interview on in 6 Music News next week, and also Nemone will be celebrating the album at midnight tonight.

Thilini Gunaratna writes : Laying the foundations for the exploration of nature and soundscapes that Björk would triumphantly turn to 14 years later on in Biophilia, Homogenic also marks the start of her collaboration with LFO and Warp Records’ Mark Bell, who the songwriter has acknowledged as a huge influence on her work.

Homogenic bursts with contrasts : light and dark, stuttering electronic beats and elegiac string arrangements, the natural world and the metaphysical. Björk’s vocals provide vast icy emotional landscapes punctuated by pulsing volcanic beats. Production moved from Iceland to Spain, and her vocals evoke the yearning for home that singer has later admitted punctuated the recordings.

The opening rhythms of Hunter stalk stealthily around Björk’s voice, accompanied by a string section that sounds as if it’s marching in formation behind her. Jóga, the lead single, is the conceptual heart of the record – a love song to Iceland. The opening orchestral arrangement ebbs and flows across an undercurrent of synths, and then comes Bjork’s beautiful soaring vocal. Unravel follows, with delicate beats that flutter around her entrancing vocals and an organ melody that unfurls right before you. (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has called Unravel his favourite song of all time, recording a cover of it in 2007.)

Bachelorette was originally destined to be a part of Bernardo Bertolucci’s film Stealing Beauty. The song is a mini opera all unto itself, and Björk created a suitably epic narrative in partnership with Icelandic poet Sjón. The beats create the sound of the train carrying the hero Isobel back to the city to “confront the people she loves with love”. It’s a warrior motif that’s also part of the album’s cover art – Björk as a warrior, was styled by her friend, the designer Alexander McQueen. She reportedly told McQueen that the person who wrote Homogenic was someone who “had to become a warrior, a warrior who had not to fight with weapons but with love.”
On All Neon Like, glassy harmonica chimes across the song like a spider weaving a web. The song began life as a poem, Techno Prayer, and the lyrics talk of human suffering and touch upon weaving and cocoons - subjects she revisited later on 2001’s Vespertine and 2004’s Medulla.

On penultimate track Pluto, Björk’s furious vocals surge alongside escalating electronic blasts that evoke a system violently, fatally malfunctioning. But where Pluto signifies death, final track (and fifth single) All Is Full Of Love, is the arrival of spring after winter, a glimmering trip-hop ballad full of soul, announcing the rebirth that brings the Homogenic story of creation to its close. Björk’s third solo album transcends time and space, and provides a vivid, engaging and daring snapshot of the artist at her experimental best.

publié dans BBC Radio 6 - 22.09.2017

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