Antony and the Johnsons
Cut The World
He's acclaimed for his genre-bending musical works with their modern operatic quality, and on this new release, Antony Hegarty creates a beautiful overview of his songs and ideas to date.
Of the 12 tracks, the first,Cut The World, is a new studio recording taken from his recent EP. The second, Future Feminism, is a seven-minute speech touching on many of his lyrical themes: spiritual orders, the problems with patriarchal systems, reincarnation, the slow ecological degradation of the Earth, and finding paradise.
It might sound like a bunch of fruity ramblings, but his bold musings are delivered with intelligence and humour and frame the tracks to come.
From track three onwards, Cripple and the Starfish, the magic really unfolds.
Presented as exquisite live performances with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, the tracks draw from his four previous albums and multiple EPs, creating not exactly a story, but a series of ideological moments linked by Hegarty's philosophies and imagery.
The orchestral arrangements are pretty well perfect, providing a rich bed for Hegarty's ethereal, yet sonorous voice.
There's sadness, and mortal contemplation to Hegarty's work, particularly on the stunning Swanlights and Another World, but also acceptance and joy, and though the album spans more than 10 years, this selection is an amazingly cohesive artistic whole.
Trembling Bells and Bonnie Prince Billy
(Honest Jon's Records)
Wonderful worldly troubadour Bonnie Prince Billy (aka Will Oldham) is known for his collaborative musical projects, and on this release he has teamed up with Glasgow's eclectic psychedelic, medieval, folk pop outfit Trembling Bells.
With layers of guitars, keys, harpsichord, horns and drums, their often frenetic rambles through 60s influences and baroque riffs almost border on sensory overload, but they provide an interesting counterpoint for Oldham's searingly true, black-humoured voice.
With the strong soprano strains of Lavinia Blackwell in the mix as well, many tracks are a veritable wall of sound - and while that instrumental competition for space sometimes works to create an epic, swirling ride, sometimes it just ends up sounding like a competition.
The pairing of Blackwell and Oldham's voices is an odd one too, but they do occasionally create an engaging vocal texture together (like on I Can Tell You're Leaving).
Having said that, the album highlights come when Oldham is on his own, with a more pared-back arrangement (as on the first half of Excursions Into Assonance).
That reinforces the notion that solo Bonnie Prince Billy albums are a more appealing proposition than this collaboration.