Friday, October 10, 2008

Antony & the Johnsons - Another World EP (***)

This review is featured at Music In Review Online

I don't envy artists who are burdened with the task of following up a critically beloved album, and in the case of androgynous diva Antony Hegarty, I'm even more sympathetic, as his heavenly 2005 album I am a Bird Now still stands as one of this decade's most special records. As many artists tend to do following a breakthrough album, Antony has recorded an EP's worth of material in advance of his wildly anticipated Bird follow-up, The Crying Light. Unsurprisingly, the Another World EP falls in line nicely with the fragile beauty of Bird, at times feeling (for better or worse) like nothing more than an extension of that near-perfect album.

In comparison to Bird, the five songs on Another World are more sparse and delicately arranged, with most every song built around just Antony's otherworldly vox and accompanying piano. Opener and standout track "Another World" is perhaps the most ghostly and minimal song Antony has recorded thus far. The song's themes of death, the afterlife and rebirth are part and parcel for Antony at this point, but the track's ominous piano chords combined with the singer's always vivid vocals position this as the EP's biggest selling point. Following the title track is the compact "Crackagen", which along with penultimate track "Sing For Me", are solid Antony B-sides.

Antony throws his biggest stylistic curve ball yet with centerpiece track "Shake that Devil", which begins as an a capella piece before subtly adding droning static as a foundation for Antony's expressive quaver. Halfway in though, big drums and free jazz sax enter the mix, building a sleazy strut for this propulsive and surprising track. Antony has proven time and again, whether through his collaborations with Bjork or his vocal work on the new Hercules and Love Affair album, that his voice is a malleable instrument, easily transferable between seemingly disparate poles. "Shake That Devil" stands apart from what is generally associated with the singer, but it is one of the most successful experiments he has yet attempted.

Closing track "Hope Mountain" returns to the spare beauty of the title track, and it ends the EP on an appropriately ambiguous note as it quietly fades into nothingness. Another World does what any good EP should do, and that is to solidify the past while hinting at the future, and these 5 tracks effectively trace the entire trajectory that Antony has charted through the decade. It's a luminous stand alone piece of work, but as an appetizer for the forthcoming Crying Light LP, it more than satiates.

Highlights: "Another World", "Shake That Devil", "Hope Mountain"

"Another World"

"Shake That Devil"

"Hope Mountain"

1 comment:

The Effete Bomb said...

We have a remix of Another World up on our MySpace page. Hope you like it.