Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Music Tuesday - Big Science

This is the time. And this is the record of the time.

Today brings the release of the re-mastered 25th anniversary edition of Laurie Anderson's debut LP Big Science. I lived in the UK when this came out and I can remember how amazed I was that O Superman almost topped the UK charts (it got to #2) - all 8 minutes (!) of it, with it's bizarre repetition and vocodered vocal samples and sounds. It remains one of those rare moments when a performance art piece reached out and crossed over into popular culture, and it's hit status still amazes me today.

In the early 1980s Laurie rose to prominence as a conceptual artist and composer in the Lower Manhattan music-visual avant garde art-performance scene that Philip Glass and David Byrne emerged from. At the time of its original release, the NME wrote of Big Science, “There’s a dream-like, subconscious quality about her song which helps them work at deeper, secret levels of the psyche.” With instrumentation ranging from tape loops to found sounds to bag pipes to sampling, Big Science anticipated much of the contemporary electronic and dance music that followed over the past 25 years. Most of the songs were adapted from United States, her seven-hour performance art/theater piece. She was able to articulate the social/political anxiety she perceived in American society as well as a longing for safety and emotional connection. Big Science includes images of planes falling out of the sky (From the Air), the comforting yet sinister embrace of technology (O Superman), and the failure of men and women to speak in the same language (The It Tango). This reissue includes liner notes written by Anderson, and is enhanced to include the classic video for O Superman, and an mp3 of it's original B-side track Walk the Dog. Despite it's age it sounds remarkably good today. This is the beginning of a bit of a media blitz for Anderson; next year Nonesuch Records will release her new album Homeland, and she will then be touring extensively.

Check out the Big Science micro site at laurieanderson.com for some very interesting interview footage about the making of/history of/imagery of the record, as well as song lyrics. There is also a great clip over on YouTube of a new song called Only An Expert/Maybe If I Fall, where she tackles the state of the world's environment and the current US policy towards Iraq. As always she is right on the money. Here are the last two songs from Big Science - they run into each other so let them play together and enjoy the gently undulating rhythms of Let X=X and It Tango.

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