Laurie Anderson Big Science Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

An album of distinctive electronic mood music which was, exactly as it proclaims on...

Serena Kutchinsky 2007

Art rock is a curious genre and no albums sums its up better than Laurie Anderson’s masterpiece Big Science. Listen with today’s ears and all that’s immediately audible is an impenetrable wash of robotic melodies, soft percussion, existentialist lyrics and eerily clinical vocals. A sculptor by trade, Anderson set out to craft an album echoing the experimental spirit of the early 80s punk-art scene she inhabited. Now, 25 years later Big Science is regarded as one of that era’s seminal works.

The decision to produce an anniversary edition was taken by Anderson and notoriously experimental label, Nonesuch, and is the precursor to her new album, due for release in 2008. A new generation are being prepped for exposure to Laurie’s offbeat ideas and unique take on modern society. She was preoccupied by the impact of technology on human communication, creating a mood of futuristic minimalism, which still resonates today.

Commercial success was not on Anderson’s agenda when Big Science was first released back in 1982. Originally music was merely a means by which she could give life to her artwork, but she quickly developed a sound uniquely her own, comprised of electronics, voice enhancers and quirky witticisms. The track that first got her noticed was the breathy epic ‘’O Superman’’ which became a favourite of Radio 1 innovator – John Peel. It shot to number two in the UK charts in 1981, acquainting the public with Laurie’s hypnotic art rock.

Despite the odd lapse into beard-scratching territory there is much to appreciate. From the enigmatic opener ‘’From The Air’’ which places the listener at the heart of a hauntingly calm plane crash, to the endearingly deadpan yodelling and cyclical melodies of the title track, and the marimba-led closer ‘‘It Tango’’ which gives a flippant look at the battle of the sexes. There is the odd moment where the pieces of the musical jigsaw fail to fit –the bagpipe laden squawking of ‘‘Sweaters’’ comes to mind. But it’s all part and parcel of the Big Science experience – an album of distinctive electronic mood music which was, exactly as it proclaims on the sleeve, ‘the record of the time’.

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