Friday, June 22, 2018

Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet – Landfall

Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet – Landfall (Nonesuch)

How has this collaboration not happened before? In more than 40 years of being the most visible paragons of the American avant-garde, the quintessentially New York performance artist and the San Franciscan string quartet were likely just too busy to bother getting together: Kronos, for its part, has released more than 50 albums in the last 30 years alone, and spends much of its time commissioning new works from composers much more obscure than Anderson. And because Anderson, a viola player, has always surrounded herself with groundbreaking technology, she likely felt she didn’t need a string quartet behind her—not even the most forward-thinking one around.

They’ve combined forces here on a song cycle about the 2012 buttressing New York City took from Hurricane Sandy. Anderson—who once recorded a live album in NYC mere days after 9/11—excels at articulating loss and shifting paradigms, which is evident when she speaks of watching her basement full of career souvenirs fall victim to the flood. “I looked at them floating there in the shiny, dark water, dissolving, all the things I’d carefully saved all my life becoming nothing but junk. And I thought, ‘How beautiful. How magic. How catastrophic.’ ” Landfall is not just all elegy all the time, however; her characteristic wry wit also comes into play (“I was in a Dutch karaoke bar, trying to sing a song in Korean”).

The music is a perfect match, with Anderson’s electronics-laden viola providing an otherworldly counterpoint to the sound of the acoustic string quartet, who are more than capable of creating wondrous textures on their own.

Landfall works so well that one hopes this isn’t the last time these two artists collide—but it’s in each of their character to move on to greater challenges. (March 9)

Stream: “We Learn to Speak Yet Another Language,” “Helicopters Hang Over Downtown,” “Everything is Floating”

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