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‘Vibrant and exploratory’: L Anderson and the Kronos Quartet perform Landfall

Laurie Anderson, Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

L Anderson: Landfall
Laurie Anderson (violin, vocals, keyboards, samples, percussion, filters); Kronos Quartet
Nonesuch  7559-79338-9

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A powerhouse of musical invention, Laurie Anderson defies categorisation. With roots in experimental music, rock and pop (the mesmeric ‘O Superman’ was a surprise chart hit in 1982), Anderson’s music often deploys electronics, draws vividly on her own voice, and is underpinned by a keen sense of storytelling. This vibrant, exploratory work, created in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet, is also a powerfully personal composition: Landfall offers a mosaic-like exploration of Hurricane Sandy, the storm that raged across New York in 2012, but the piece also recounts how Anderson’s own archive of work was decimated in the ensuing floods.

Divided into 30 tracks, with colourful titles that range from reportage (‘CNN Predicts a Monster Storm’) to the more elliptical (‘We Blame Each Other For Losing The Way’), Landfall moves from fierce evocations of whirling winds to serene meditations on loss, regret and dreams. The quartet is often electronically processed or blended with keyboards or samples, while many of the tracks feature Anderson’s distinctive, honey-rich voice narrating. One of the work’s most striking moments is ‘Nothing Left But Their Names’, where Anderson considers a list of every extinct animal (‘the short-faced bear, the Shrub-ox, fifteen chapters on sloths’), while the quartet wheels and shimmers about her. Anderson’s spare, droll text and her almost impassive performance keeps the work free of sentimentality, allowing the devastating impact of the storm to land.

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Kate Wakeling