Album Review: Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet – Landfall

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
[Nonesuch; 2018]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: ”Darkness Falls”, “We Learn to Speak Yet Another Language”, “Nothing Left but Their Names”

Landfall is an album created by Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, two artists that have had amazing careers and have been groundbreaking in their craft. The album chronicles Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it caused, as it was originally a multimedia piece designed to be shown with visual effects.

To review this album track-by-track would be virtually impossible, as all the tracks blend together to create over an hour of symphonic themes and motifs. The names of the songs track the progression of the storm and tell the story. As the album is about Hurricane Sandy and the destruction of Laurie Anderson’s house, the opening motif established in “CNN Predicts a Monster Storm” is suspenseful, somber and jarring. Cellos churn underneath violins that push and pull the dissonant melody. It sounds like it could score a major moment in a movie. The next tracks show the destructive winds, the slow rising of the water, and the flow of the river.

“Our Street is a Black River” is the first track that is narrated by Anderson, which pushes into “Galaxies”, a comparison between the shape of a hurricane and a cosmic element. The track swirls and whirrs before transitioning into a more swift and dangerous violin-centric melody.

Sometimes the theme gets lost, especially in “Dreams”, which seems to be something that is happening as Anderson is hunkered up in her house as the storm rages outside. She tells the hypothetical person that she doesn’t want to hear about their dream, and then she tells you about her wild dreams through this and several other tracks. It teeters on pretentiousness, but never actually falls in.

“Built You A Mountain” brings back the motif from “CNN Predicts a Monster Storm” and goes to complete silence before sliding into a new, more sparse melody. It picks up and begins to chug into a higher tempo moment. It’s aided by an electronic effect over the violins, representing the move from the house to a hotel, where there is electricity. “Dawn of the World” is mostly different violin effects that almost echoes those of a horror movie. It’s unnerving, but it perfectly captures the fear and desperation of a moment in time. This theme continues through the next four tracks, as the storm destroying the town and the music with it.

The last third of the album moves towards the recovery of the town. It’s full of longing and regret, but also hopefulness. Anderson talks about the loss of all of her possessions, things she had had from a lifetime of creating and performing, and how they have been reduced to nothing.

This is not an album to pull tracks off of to listen to for fun. This album is a transformative art piece that tries to reconcile with the damage of the hurricane, physically and mentally. It’s worth listening to in the right mindset.

Listen here:

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