The release of musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson’s latest studio album, Homeland, was a long time coming.
Originally slated for release more than two years ago, Homeland was pushed further and further back as Anderson continued to tour the material, changing it a little with each new performance.
“It’s totally unrecognisable from how it started,” Anderson told Sydney Star Observer when she was in Australia earlier this month, co-curating Sydney’s Vivid Festival with husband Lou Reed.
“I’m very improvisational, and in the end, I pieced the album together in the most painstaking way you could possibly imagine — it was like putting together a 50-storey building without any plans.”
The finished work is well worth the nine-year wait since her previous album, featuring collaborations with artists as diverse as Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons and a group of Tuvan throat singers from Siberia.
“The Tuvans, I love those guys, because it’s a tradition that’s so from the other side of the world. They’re nomads, really.
“And Antony’s one of my favourite singers, and similar to the Tuvan throat singers in that his sounds come from another place. His is a very fragile sort of place, where it’s almost breaking. They have a lot in common, when you think about it.”
As with all of Anderson’s work, Homeland provides a wry commentary on the state of contemporary America — take Only An Expert, a throbbing seven-minute disco number about the global financial crisis.
She’s also found inspiration in the form of alter ego Fenway Bergamot, whose face (Anderson with giant stick-on eyebrows and a fluffy ‘tache) adorns the cover, and whose voice (Anderson’s own, fed through a machine) can be heard on several tracks.
“I think I first invented that guy in the late ’70s when I needed a windbag-type character. Audio drag is really fun to do, it’s very freeing. I’d put Fenway back in the box, and every time I took him out again, he seemed to have another personality. It was a fun thing to toy around with.
“Then I thought, I’m sick of being on the cover, I’m gonna stick him on the cover instead. It’s a relief — sometimes, you just get sick of being yourself.”
Anderson was pleased with the suggestion that queer fans might pay special attention to this new album, blurring the gender lines as it does.
“That would be good. I love anyone who plays around with gender. Lou and I are actually going to be King and Queen of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade later this month — we ride in a float with about 10,000 people in drag and mermaid outfits following us. Does it get better than that? I don’t think so!”
info: Homeland (Warner) is out June 25.