Laurie Anderson is no stranger to the political landscape. Ever since United States I-IV, the music theatre work from which Big Science came in the early 1980s, Anderson has taken her role as the artist, as the one who questions, seriously. Homeland has been some years in the making and has shifted its emphasis over this time. It arrives nearly two years after George W Bush’s presidential defeat, but it is still an astonishing thing. Building on earlier work – there is a replication of imagery, sounds and patterns of speech – it is a howl, a lamentation, for America from one of the most consistently clear-sighted artists that the country has ever produced.
She has pulled in a wide range of help on Homeland: Tuvan throat singers and igil players from the group Chirgilchin, ghostly occasional vocals from Antony Hegarty and delicate percussion from Shahzad Ismaily. But the real focus, as always, is the voice and the stories it tells. Economic disaster and foreign policy (the furious, incisive ‘Only an Expert’); the passing of the American empire; the weightlessness of being (‘Falling’): all are here. Even Fenway Bergamot, the newly named voice of authority who has often cropped up on Anderson’s recordings, is no longer sinister – simply sad and a little lost. Homeland is without doubt the inheritor of the America of Big Science, and a brilliant, compassionate one. ‘Oh, my brothers, and oh my sisters, can’t we begin again?’ Bergamot asks in ‘Another Day in America’. Anderson ends the song there.