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A Sound World Like None Other

Björk is an island. While most artists of the mix-and-match 1990s can seem imprisoned by their sources, the Icelandic auteur exists apart from hers, defying all attempts at rock-critic math. She is perhaps her generation's most successful avant-garde thinker, yet creates sounds that are grandly ear-catching even when they're not conventionally accessible. She borrows beats from clubland but doesn't make dance music. While her work carries distant, yet discernable traces of inspiration—Low-era David Bowie, for example—it's impossible to draw a direct line between her and literally anything that came before.

That's downright unbelievable considering Björk arrived in an age when everyone in pop music was a recycler of some sort. Her first two albums showed she had a pretty good idea of how to balance radical sonics against the comforting regularly scheduled undulations of pop songs. This one finds her junking most of that script: Rather than sampling drum loops the way most electronic beatmakers do, Björk starts with skronky guitars and "found" sounds, then processes them until they become unlikely percussion instruments. This gives the rhythmic backdrops an exotic texture, which she enhances by programming strange halting pauses and odd hiccups, and surrounding those with the dense, sometimes foreboding sounds of the Icelandic String Octet.

The textures inspire wild and sprawling songs that express frustration (and, just as often, resignation) over failed romance, or dismay and self-recrimination over perceived shortcomings. Homogenic's lyrics can be tortured, and at times impenetrable, but the deeper you get into Björk's cavernous sound-schemes, the more the words seem irrelevant. She's found a way to have these fantastically mangled sounds tell the stories.

Genre: Rock
Released: 1997, Elektra
Key Tracks: "Hunter," "Bachelorette," "All Neon Like," "Immature"
Catalog Choice: Debut; Post
Next Stop: Juana Molina: Segundo
After That: St. Etienne: So Tough
Book Pages: 90–91

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#1 from Bryan, St. Paul - 11/04/2008 8:32

I really don’t understand your picks. Bjork? Of course! Is this a great album? Of course! But is it better than Post? No. Is it the universally recognized classic that Past was? No.

#2 from jimmyjimereeno, mpls - 01/13/2009 8:15

Must agree with Bryan:  “Post” is must-Bjork.

#3 from Dan, Canada - 03/25/2009 11:52

Homogenic is by far Bjork’s best album. It doesn’t necessarily contain her best song, but as a whole it is her best.

#4 from Alexandre, France - 04/30/2010 5:09

“Genre: Rock ” ? -coughs-

Homogenic is not the album I would have picked either ....(Post, Vespertine?)

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