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Laurie Anderson - Big Science CD (album) cover


Laurie Anderson


Crossover Prog

3.92 | 71 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars When I noticed this CD in my father's collection, I was quite puzzled by the cover : this short-haired woman, wearing suit and cravat and glasses painted in white, looked like an eccentric scientist trying to do her way through the bureaucracy... Or was she a former civil servant discovering the joys of science fiction? And these song titles! ''Example#22'', ''Let X=X / It Tango'', ''Big Science'', ''O Superman''... Strange equations, indeed. Of course, the biggest shock came from the music itself : was it a Pop record? Was it any kind of avant-garde? Maybe it was Pop music as we SHOULD hear it nowadays in the 21th century...

The first track, ''From the Air'', opens the album with samples of an electronically altered voice whose ''a-ha-a-ah'' line acts like a weird bass part just before the drums enter to perform a hardly danceable yet very circular rhythm. A saxophone rips the air, sticking to the rhythm. Only then, a voice appears, recitating more than singing: ''This is your captain speaking... We're all falling down...''. The keyboards weave a subtle cocoon while the ''captain'' goes on and seems not to be willing to reassure the passengers... ''We're all falling down''...

''Big Science'', the second track, may begin with a very realistic wolf's howling, it offers nevertheless a more peaceful atmosphere, like if the narrator was going to the center of the town walking upon a snowy path... Everything sounds so quiet (but does it look quiet?)...

And, then, the harshness strikes back on ''Sweaters'', the third track! The lyrics seem normal, for once: the end of a relationship, yet narrated with drums and bagpipe! A short, striking, nearly vindicative piece, if it wasn't for the voice which seems to hesitate between a cold-tempered declaration (''Your sweaters/I no longer love them'') and animal-like weepings. You can sing it next time you want to break up with someone, knowing it will be painful for both of you.

The two following tracks work together: ''Walking, Then Falling'' is a spoken-word short piece (do I hear a tiny, microscopic synthetical background sound? Do I also spot a description of a deliverance in these lyrics?), and ''Born, Never Asked'' is an instrumental. But, with such a title, it sounds like a philosophical statement: keyboards, violins and claves play a cold melody on a simple rythm, because you just can't sing that enormous declaration:''No, I've never asked to born''. The melody is far from any joy, from any despair, from any feeling: it just describes the plain facts.

Then, ''O Superman''... The haunting pantings, the electronic, disincarnate voice beginning with this simple invocation: ''O Superman''... This strange story of a phone call which seems to start as a prank and, soon, reveals its hideous face: that thing which wants to be called ''Mother'' and rocks your cradle with ''[its] petrochemical arms, [its] military arms''...

And now, for something completely different, the whole band starts a joyful tune, full of brasses, ''The sun is shining'', Anderson is even singing ''La la laaaa la'' like an excited child, even if the tape plays voices from the outerworld speaking backwards! But, hey, you like to dance, don't you?

The eigth and final piece is another medley with an electronic voice singing weird lyrics... that I still try to understand more than a dozen years after discovering this song! On the ''Let X=X'' section, the claves and the synths join forces again on a solid linear rythm, a bit like in ''Born, Never Asked'' but warmer, only to be joined by the trombone of Georges Lewis on ''It Tango'', creating a sensation of ascension. The musical background becomes a procession crammed in the studio and opening outer dimensions through this tiny studio.

And, then, the record is over. And you wonder what you just heard. And you wonder if you want to listen to it again. And you wonder... Maybe Kraftwerk was just the beginning? Maybe the Residents were just a step?Maybe even Brian Eno isn't that focused? And you wonder if there's any other record which sounds like this one. And you already expect the answer.

CPicard | 5/5 |


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