Music

Björk: Homogenic Live

Jason Korenkiewicz

Live Homogenic fails to share any new insights into the inner workings of Björk and her live experience, telling us little more than what we already learned with the release of its parent album seven years ago.


Björk

Homogenic Live

Label: One Little Indian
US Release Date: 2004-06-01
UK Release Date: 2004-05-10
Amazon
iTunes

If you stepped off of a desert island anytime within the past two years and headed down to your local record store to see what Björk was up to, you might take one look at her recent spate of releases and jump to the conclusion that she was dead. Since the release of her critically acclaimed Vespertine album in 2001, Björk and her record label have pulled the famed "dead star" marketing move, emptying the vaults of every possible piece of recorded material, and then releasing it again under a different name or in an alternate format. In this short window Björk's name has been attached to a greatest hits collection, the Family Tree box set, the Live Box set featuring a live album to coincide with each studio album, and finally the individual release of each live album from the Live Box in June of this year. While rumors persist that Björk is alive and well, readying her new album of original material for release in August, in the interim we are left to sort through a rag tag assemblage of musical hand-me-downs that leave us with more questions than answers.

The studio album, and resulting tour, Live Homogenic chronicles is a classic display of showmanship as Björk subtly reinvents herself with the use of subtle electronics, grand orchestration, dynamic vocal performances and her usual accompaniment of ethereal songs. The shift is a significant one as she distances herself from many of the radio and dance floor ready offerings that blanketed her first two solo records in lieu of a darker, more difficult sound. Despite the haunting beauty of the original Homogenic album, Live Homogenic is a pretty tepid affair. It fails to meet the three key criteria for a successful live album: it does not feature startling new arrangements that present the listener with an alternate perspective of the songs recorded for the album; it is recorded over an entire year, some live and some for television so it lacks the cohesiveness of an entire live show from the same evening or series of performances on a number of consecutive evenings; there is little fan interplay so at times it sounds like a marginal studio recording rather than a dynamic live album. However, the album is not without charm.

One of the major winning points is that it incorporates Homogenic favorites like "Hunter", "Joga" and "Pluto" with past hits "Human Behavior" and "Isobel". Björk sounds provocative as she tears through these tracks with an acuity that proves her outstanding studio work is the real deal and not manufactured in post-production. The larger issue is that her backing band is content to simply retread the proven arrangements for these songs rather than reinterpret them in any way. Because preprogrammed beats and synthesizers are so essential to Björk's sound this leaves her little room to improvise. The one time where she finds the space is with a brief Michael Jackson scat in "I Go Humble". What could have been a glorious crowd stirring moment ends up feeling harried as Björk is forced by the calculating machines to jump to the next verse before she can truly explore and exploit the compelling lyrical segue.

Loyalists to Björk are sure to focus on the authenticity of these live collections. They will say that these are historical markers of the beauty and majesty of Björk's voice and her compositions. It will also be mentioned that Live Homogenic is evidence that electronic music can be made human and interesting in a larger rock style concert setting. I'm sure her rabid fan base will also mention that any criticism of these works as live albums is unfair as they were not specifically recorded for commercial release, rather they are artifacts documenting a powerful transitional moment in Björk's career. The truth of the matter is they are correct on every count. Björk's album Homogenic was a landmark release in blending the beat conscious melodicism of electronica with the sensibility of a world-class vocalist. It brought lap top music beyond a certain niche and familiarized many with an under-represented genre of music. Beyond all expectations, Homogenic even mobilized these sounds and put them on tour in a grand setting for all the world to hear. The problem is that Live Homogenic fails to share any new insights into the inner workings of Björk and her live experience, telling us little more than what we already learned with the release of its parent album seven years ago.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image