Album review: Anohni, Hopelessness

By Graham Reid

Anohni Aka Antony of Antony and the Johnson.
Anohni Aka Antony of Antony and the Johnson.

Formerly Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), Anohni here fully embraces her femininity and leaps straight into brittle and often dazzlingly appropriate electronica from Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never.

And - still often deploying that gorgeously aching, soulful voice - becomes more overtly political than she has been previously.

Obama offers a darkly declamatory litany of the disreputable legacy of the outgoing president (Guantanamo, drones attacks etc) from one who was a Barack cheerleader and early supporter; the bouncy pop of Execution is skewered by the lyrics ("Execution, it's an American dream"); 4 Degrees addresses climate change over urgent, apocalyptic and strident drums and horns ("I want to see this world boil, it's only four degrees") and Drone Bomb Me invites a similarly end-of-days martyr's vision ("I want to die . . . explode my crystal guts").

This is emotionally and musically powerful stuff which both repels and embraces, and succeeds by virtue of the angry, sometimes heartbroken sincerity of her sentiments and delivery.

As often as the staccato electronica pushes the listener away it also seduces, as on the almost romantic Watch Me about the constant surveillance (by the protective "Daddy") we live with unquestioningly in the 21st century.

Crisis follows the inevitably violent consequences of drone strikes murdering civilians and imprisoning the innocent at Guantanamo ("Now you're cutting heads off innocent people on TV") and on I Don't Love You Anymore she deploys that gorgeous voice on an ethereal ballad about abandonment.

Anohni never sounds bluntly accusatory here, because she points the finger back at herself for her own complacency (the yearning "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" on Crisis), naivety, indifference and inaction: "After all I'm partly to blame," she sings on Drone Bomb Me and "how did I become a virus" on the title track.

Rarely has there been such a powerful personal and political reinvention and - although this is more in the lineage of somewhat difficult art music alongside the likes Scott Walker - it also redraws the possibilities of popular music which are impossible to unhear.

Or respond to at an emotional and visceral level.

Graham Reid (elsewhere.co.nz)

Review: Anohni, Hopelessness



Verdict: An extraordinary musical, personal and political repositioning

- TimeOut

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