In one of the year's most surprising developments, Industrial Revelation will be covering Icelandic singer/songwriter/producer Björk's third album, Homogenic, in its entirety on December 20 at the Neptune. Released in 1997, Homogenic is a richly orchestrated electronic song suite that stuffs 10 pounds of fraught emotions into a five-pound bag. It's the record on which Björk became really serious.
Homogenic contains two career peaks: the jaggedly funky "Alarm Call" (augmented by some of the most buoyant "oohhs" ever put to tape) and the infinitely ascending helix of joy that is "All Is Full of Love." Beyond those, the record finds Björk and her phalanx of producers—Mark Broom, Howie B, Guy Sigsworth, Markus Dravs—combining orchestral strings with rarefied electronic textures and beats that don't want to make you dance so much as they assert the singer's idiosyncratic conception of rhythm as a metaphor for her tumultuous inner life.
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 incongruous and improbable. 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. And if Industrial Revelation's career thus far has taught us anything, it's that they enjoy a good challenge and an aesthetic change of scenery. The band won a 2014 Stranger Genius Award in music.
Trumpeter Ahamefule J. Oluo says the idea germinated earlier this year when he started seeing 20th-anniversary tributes to Radiohead's OK Computer. While he loves that album, he thinks Homogenic defines 1997 as much as Computer does. This led to thoughts of how people view classic works by men versus those by women—and how male musicians rarely celebrate masterpieces by women. "And it got me thinking about what Industrial Revelation would sound like playing those incredible tunes," Oluo says, "and the sound in my head told me immediately that we had to make this happen.
"In an instrumental band," he continues, "it is really difficult to cover 'pop' albums, 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." Björk and Homogenic are exceptional in this regard, Oluo says. "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."
Industrial Revelation bassist Evan Flory-Barnes confesses that Björk "has sung notes that have made me burst into tears, carried me into other worlds, and affirmed a loving defiance in my being." Drummer D'Vonne Lewis believes that while Homogenic is 20 years old, "it still has the feeling, the sounds and influences as if it came out today! It speaks truth, which is something that speaks to my soul!"
This show could be the musical event of the year—perhaps even a pre-Christmas miracle.