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Electronic - Released January 19, 2018 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Grammy Awards - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik
Accessibility and exclusivity are by turns peddled as a measure of value when the agenda dictates. Often, when Laurie Anderson's music finds favor with critics, it's the former they praise. Arguably, her work has always been approachable. It may not adhere to common structures, and often employs innovative resources for achieving original sounds. But at its core, her music has always been so warm, so human, and often so very funny that it never feels exclusive. Now in her fourth decade as a recording artist, she presents the album of a lifetime -- well, of one of them. Landfall pairs nicely with Big Science and Homeland as a concluding work in a trilogy of indefatigable imagination and compassion. Always adept at conjuring past, present, and future as if time flexes at her touch, those records share an underlying sense of doom, tempered by a healthy dose of the absurd and nods to the tragi-comic nature of collective existential dread. Her chief inspiration this time around was Hurricane Sandy and the things she lost in the flood. And this record sees her collaborate with the inimitable Kronos Quartet, who lend their exquisite string work to an album epic in scale and reach. Musically, the record navigates an uneven terrain with a fluid combination of acoustic instrumentation and electronic flashes that conjure a landscape both devastating and curiously fascinating. At this part of her career, Anderson remains as intrepid a sonic adventurer as ever. "Never What You Think It Will Be" embraces the very best of what electronic music can do, and it's electrifying in a way that most artists half her age can't muster. "Dawn of the World" is as much an experiment in agitation and anxiety as it is a song, and tracks like "We Head Out" feed into the record's sustained suspense, built on the metronomic ticks that pervade it, often scarcely detectable but quietly building tension nonetheless. Since her first single, "O Superman," and subsequent decades of innovation and experimentation, she has emitted a calm and measured air. It's not that the compositions aren't often thrilling and full of drama, it's just that her response is anything but histrionic. This is particularly true of her trademark spoken-word delivery. It's most curious, powerful, and affecting toward the end of the record where she recalls her flooded basement and ruined belongings and remembers, "I thought how beautiful/how magic/and how catastrophic." It's impossible to know whether some of the loss evoked on the record is a response to the death of her husband Lou Reed in 2013, but one suspects the elegiac reflections extend beyond ruined keyboards and props: while it may be inspired by Sandy's fallout, Landfall's reach runs to a sea of loss, chaos, and confusion. It's an elemental mystery of quietly epic proportions made exceptional through clarity of thought and feeling. © Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
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Classical - Released February 7, 1995 | Nonesuch

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Folk - Released June 9, 2017 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
The Kronos Quartet have famously refused to allow themselves to be hemmed in by the narrower parameters of the traditional classical repertoire, devoting themselves to contemporary classical works, experimental pieces, and other compositions outside the usual confines of art music. Folk Songs clearly falls into the third category, and lives up to the title; it features nine selections drawn from the American, British, and French traditional songbooks, and finds the ensemble performing with vocalists Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant. With the exception of Giddens' sprightly take on "Lullaby," the tone of the vocal performances is somber, with these songs depicting tragic and unfortunate circumstances. Though Kronos' accompaniment is superb throughout, their arrangements are generally subtle and never upstage the singers. In fact, the quartet's attack imaginatively meshes with the tone and spirit of the vocalists, especially as violinists David Harrington and John Sherba mimic Olivia Chaney's harmonium on "Ramblin' Boy." While the strings don't aim for strictly Appalachian effects on these songs, most of these performances strike a satisfying balance between honoring the melodies of these numbers (the austere backing to Merchant's turn on "The Butcher's Boy") and bending them into new and intriguing shapes ("I See the Sign," where Amidon's guitar picks out the framework of the tune and the quartet spins around it, by turns sweet and chaotic). And the instrumental version of "Last Kind Words" is a memorable blend of percussive pizzicato lines and bluesy sway that suggests this album could have been nearly as strong without the work of the vocalists, fine as they are (especially Giddens and Merchant, both of whom rise to this challenge with flying colors). Folk Songs is a smart and emotionally effective exploration of the folk tradition that respects musical history without being chained to it, and it's an experiment the Kronos Quartet would do well to repeat in the future. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Classical - Released June 12, 2015 | Nonesuch

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
"[T]he highlight of the disc featuring new material winds up being a recent Kronos recording of 'Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector'..." © TiVo
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Pop - Released October 9, 2020 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

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Film Soundtracks - Released June 24, 2008 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1985 | Savoy

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Classical - Released August 30, 2019 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet
Terry Riley's collaborations with the Kronos Quartet have gained substantial audiences and continue to develop in interesting ways, even into Riley's old age. They can't be called minimalist even under a broad definition of the term, for they incorporate a wide range of influences. Perhaps none of those influences has been at once as exotic and yet as directly accessible as the use of actual electronic sounds from outer space in Sun Rings, recorded during missions of the Voyager and Galileo space probes. The work was composed in 2001 and 2002 and has been tweaked periodically since then. Riley sums up the work's appeal neatly: "the intention [is] to let the sounds of space influence the string quartet writing and then to let there be an interplay between live 'string' and recorded 'space' sound." Sun Rings is thus a part of the larger genre of works that combine analog and electronic sounds, but it's a unique example that has a pictorial aspect any listener can grasp. As Riley indicates, the relationship between the string quartet and the space sounds has two modalities: the string quartet can either become part of outer space or represent the human element. A chorus enters later on, and the finale has some abstract intoned texts of a vaguely astrological nature; these, Riley says, are "to further emphasize that this work is largely about humans as they reach out from earth to gain an awareness of their solar system neighborhood." They detract from the focus though: the string quartet is capable of representing the human element by itself. You can sample anywhere to hear the work's characteristic mixture of spooky and calmly warm. Highly recommended. © James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released March 1, 2019 | Kirkelig Kulturverksted

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Classical - Released February 21, 1992 | Nonesuch

When released, Pieces of Africa was subject to some of the same "cultural imperialist" criticism that had been more successfully leveled at performers like David Byrne and Paul Simon. The album consists of commissions from African composers working at varying distances from European conventions. But whereas Byrne and Simon arguably used the music of Brazil or South Africa as backgrounds over which to display their own egos, the Kronos Quartet's members managed to sublimate themselves in service to the compositions, never giving the listener any sense of condescension. All of which is to say that Pieces of Africa is a very beautiful recording with several superb individual works. Zimbabwe's Dumisani Maraire's opening piece, "Mai Nozipo," with the composer accompanying the quartet on drums, is a rousing, triumphant anthem with a resonant melodic line that will long linger. Thematically, most of the pieces draw on African sources, very clearly in the case of the Arabic-infused songs of Hassan Hakmoun and the great Sudanese composer Hamza el Din. Unsurprisingly, South African Kevin Volan's "White Man Sleeps" comes closest to European traditions, though even this piece, which is gorgeous and inspired throughout, draws inspiration from native environmental sounds. The disc closes with another composition by Maraire, with an accompanying gospel choir making explicit the link between Africa's music and that of the American South. Pieces of Africa teems with beguiling melodies, making it one of this quartet's more accessible projects and also one of its best. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 15, 1997 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

What's interesting about the latest outing from this prolific chamber group is not so much that they've chosen to create string quartet adaptations of music from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance -- after all, these are folks who have commissioned arrangements of Jimi Hendrix and Bo Diddley, so we've learned not to be shocked -- but rather that they've chosen to juxtapose the works of Machaut, Pérotin and Tye with pieces by John Cage, Moondog and Harry Partch, among other twentieth-century notables. But maybe that shouldn't come as a surprise, either. It certainly makes lovely musical sense: the stark and static beauty of Arvo Pärt's Psalom fits perfectly with John Dowland's Lachrymae Antiquae (did that man never cheer up?) and John Cage's Quodlibet sounds just right next to Pérotin's "Viderunt Omnes." Was Cage poking fun at his composition teachers with a parody of the raw, open harmonies of the twelfth century? If so, the Kronos folks have turned his intent on its ear in a way that he himself would probably have loved. Puckishness, however, is not really on the agenda here: the overriding mood is one of sadness and devotion, as the album's subtitle (Latin for "ancient tears") makes clear. Like most of Kronos' best work, this is dark, lovely, eerie stuff. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 20, 1998 | Nonesuch

Booklet
The 20th century has not been kind to most standard classical music forms. The piano sonata, the concerto, the symphony -- none of them have disappeared entirely, but none remain in a state that could be called even remotely healthy. The same was true of the string quartet until 1973, when violinist David Harrington got some friends together to play contemporary music and offered his old high-school composition teacher a bag of donuts if he'd write a piece for them. The resulting composition was the first of over 400 works that have been written for the Kronos Quartet over the course of the following 25 years, a period which has seen the revitalization of the previously moribund string quartet format. But Kronos has done more than simply triple the size of the string quartet repertoire; by focusing on living composers, by cultivating a somewhat rebellious image, and by playing with impeccable professionalism and skill, Kronos has brought a new and primarily young audience to classical music. This massive ten-disc retrospective includes performances of 31 major compositions, most previously released, but some in new recordings. There are none of the miniature works that fill so many of Kronos' individual albums; these are all long-form compositions, all but one presented in their entirety. They include two string quartets by Henryk Gorecki, Terry Riley's post-minimalist Cadenza on the Night Plain, Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet, three quartets by Philip Glass, and many others, but the highlights of the collection are the tremendously moving Different Trains by Steve Reich (who combined train sounds, multi-tracked string quartet, and the recorded voices of concentration camp survivors and Pullman porters to create a powerful and deeply personal statement on the Holocaust) and Alfred Schnittke's exquisite Collected Songs Where Every Verse Is Filled With Grief. The packaging is excellent as well, and includes a booklet packed with photos, essays, and notes on the individual composers and compositions. © TiVo
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Electronic - Released February 16, 2018 | Nonesuch

Booklet
Accessibility and exclusivity are by turns peddled as a measure of value when the agenda dictates. Often, when Laurie Anderson's music finds favor with critics, it's the former they praise. Arguably, her work has always been approachable. It may not adhere to common structures, and often employs innovative resources for achieving original sounds. But at its core, her music has always been so warm, so human, and often so very funny that it never feels exclusive. Now in her fourth decade as a recording artist, she presents the album of a lifetime -- well, of one of them. Landfall pairs nicely with Big Science and Homeland as a concluding work in a trilogy of indefatigable imagination and compassion. Always adept at conjuring past, present, and future as if time flexes at her touch, those records share an underlying sense of doom, tempered by a healthy dose of the absurd and nods to the tragi-comic nature of collective existential dread. Her chief inspiration this time around was Hurricane Sandy and the things she lost in the flood. And this record sees her collaborate with the inimitable Kronos Quartet, who lend their exquisite string work to an album epic in scale and reach. Musically, the record navigates an uneven terrain with a fluid combination of acoustic instrumentation and electronic flashes that conjure a landscape both devastating and curiously fascinating. At this part of her career, Anderson remains as intrepid a sonic adventurer as ever. "Never What You Think It Will Be" embraces the very best of what electronic music can do, and it's electrifying in a way that most artists half her age can't muster. "Dawn of the World" is as much an experiment in agitation and anxiety as it is a song, and tracks like "We Head Out" feed into the record's sustained suspense, built on the metronomic ticks that pervade it, often scarcely detectable but quietly building tension nonetheless. Since her first single, "O Superman," and subsequent decades of innovation and experimentation, she has emitted a calm and measured air. It's not that the compositions aren't often thrilling and full of drama, it's just that her response is anything but histrionic. This is particularly true of her trademark spoken-word delivery. It's most curious, powerful, and affecting toward the end of the record where she recalls her flooded basement and ruined belongings and remembers, "I thought how beautiful/how magic/and how catastrophic." It's impossible to know whether some of the loss evoked on the record is a response to the death of her husband Lou Reed in 2013, but one suspects the elegiac reflections extend beyond ruined keyboards and props: while it may be inspired by Sandy's fallout, Landfall's reach runs to a sea of loss, chaos, and confusion. It's an elemental mystery of quietly epic proportions made exceptional through clarity of thought and feeling. © Bekki Bemrose /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1984 | Savoy

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Classical - Released February 7, 1995 | Nonesuch - Warner Records

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Classical - Released August 30, 2005 | Nonesuch

The undisputed lord of nuevo tango, Astor Piazzolla conceived of five tangos, written for himself on bandoneon, and the Kronos Quartet on strings. The neo-classical style of Kronos fits surprisingly well on Piazzolla's new style of tango and provides a wonderful backing for the maestro at work. Though there are only five songs on the album, the title fits well, Five Tango Sensations. Each of the tangos presented is a sensation and conveys the full emotion or scene given in the titles: "Asleep," "Loving," "Anxiety," "Despertar" (waking up), and "Fear." Piazzolla plays his heart out on his trusty bandoneon, and the Kronos players accompany to perfection. If it's the tango the listener wants, Piazzolla is the man to listen to. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 6, 2012 | Nonesuch

Booklet
Vladimir Martynov, born in 1946, is one of the cohort of composers that includes Arvo Pärt, Giya Kancheli, and Valentin Silvestrov, who grew up under the influence of the former Soviet Union and abandoned the modernism of their youth to embrace a tonal language of greater simplicity with an aesthetic informed by an intimate spirituality. In spite of the similarities in their backgrounds and journeys, each has a distinctive sound, and Martynov, who is perhaps the least well-known in the West, brings a new perspective to the tradition of European music shaped by mysticism and minimalism. On the surface Martynov's music doesn't have an immediate resemblance to minimalism (apart from the directness of its tonal language), but like minimalism it uses repetition as a structural element and it is concerned with the perception of the passage of time, which it tends to stretch out with almost unbearable poignancy into what commentator Greg Dubinsky describes as "a prolonged state of grace." His harmonic vocabulary is characterized by the fecund tonal richness of post-Romanticism without the angst or decadence sometimes associated with the music of that era. The two composers Martynov references in the pieces recorded here are Schubert and Mahler, both of whom had immense expressive range but were especially noted for the pure, unsentimental sweetness they could summon. Der Abschied (The Farewell), written in memory of the composer's father, draws on material from Das Lied von der Erde. It opens with a bleak, sinking desolation, but over the course of its 40 minutes the music blossoms into an unabashed hyper-Romanticism of unguarded expressiveness and intense sweetness. Martynov wrote his Schubert-Quintet (Unfinished) for the current members of the Kronos plus Joan Jeanrenaud, the group's original cellist. Its two movements take as their core material the rising octave figure of Schubert's great C major Quintet, and the composer interweaves other themes from the Schubert throughout. Martynov originally wrote The Beatitudes for chorus, but arranged it especially for Kronos. The performances are wrenchingly heartfelt, steeped more in the kind of old-school Romanticism of groups like the Budapest Quartet than is typical for Kronos, but the approach is utterly appropriate for the music. Nonesuch's sound is clean, warmly immediate, and vibrant. Martynov could provide an ideal entryway into contemporary music for listeners open to new works and new ideas, but who tend to be shy of dissonance. Highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released June 23, 2015 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet
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Classical - Released April 8, 2014 | Nonesuch

Booklet
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Folk - Released June 9, 2017 | Nonesuch

Booklet
The Kronos Quartet have famously refused to allow themselves to be hemmed in by the narrower parameters of the traditional classical repertoire, devoting themselves to contemporary classical works, experimental pieces, and other compositions outside the usual confines of art music. Folk Songs clearly falls into the third category, and lives up to the title; it features nine selections drawn from the American, British, and French traditional songbooks, and finds the ensemble performing with vocalists Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant. With the exception of Giddens' sprightly take on "Lullaby," the tone of the vocal performances is somber, with these songs depicting tragic and unfortunate circumstances. Though Kronos' accompaniment is superb throughout, their arrangements are generally subtle and never upstage the singers. In fact, the quartet's attack imaginatively meshes with the tone and spirit of the vocalists, especially as violinists David Harrington and John Sherba mimic Olivia Chaney's harmonium on "Ramblin' Boy." While the strings don't aim for strictly Appalachian effects on these songs, most of these performances strike a satisfying balance between honoring the melodies of these numbers (the austere backing to Merchant's turn on "The Butcher's Boy") and bending them into new and intriguing shapes ("I See the Sign," where Amidon's guitar picks out the framework of the tune and the quartet spins around it, by turns sweet and chaotic). And the instrumental version of "Last Kind Words" is a memorable blend of percussive pizzicato lines and bluesy sway that suggests this album could have been nearly as strong without the work of the vocalists, fine as they are (especially Giddens and Merchant, both of whom rise to this challenge with flying colors). Folk Songs is a smart and emotionally effective exploration of the folk tradition that respects musical history without being chained to it, and it's an experiment the Kronos Quartet would do well to repeat in the future. © Mark Deming /TiVo

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Kronos Quartet in the magazine