Sunday, February 15, 2009

CD REVIEW - Antony & The Johnsons


Antony Hegarty's voice has a strange, otherworldly timbre to it, it can possess a warmth and intimacy, and yet also force you to stand back and observe him, like he's an alien life form. He can be simultaneously close and distant. Similar to, 'I am a bird now' that preceded it four or so years ago, 'The Crying Light' has a sparse monochrome richness to its orchestration, and a heightened sense of melodrama, like the photo of Kazuo Ohno that adorns its cover. I heard this new album before 'I am a bird now' his Mercury Prize winning album, and though I can see why it would win accolades, I think this current offering is superior,even to that. There is something about it that appears to be reaching out to life expectant of an embrace. 'I am a bird now', similar to its cover photo of 'Candy Darling on her death bed' is dishabille on messed up sheets, and emerges half alive from a private bed to stare hopelessly out at you from under the sheets.

There are moments here of transcendent, yet chilling beauty such as on the track 'Dust & Water'. His voice hauntingly ululates and mutters incoherently over a droned vocal background, sounding as if it were some traditional primal song of yearning lament or prayer -' Did you think I'd leave you here, for ever' he sings 'Love came soon, dust and water, water and dust.' There is a mood too it, of a radiant sunrise and a mirage breaking up on a horizon. After this there is the glory of the sun bursting forth on the following final track 'Everglade.' This is suffused by an appreciative grasp for true beauty, with rising cadences and a full voiced clarity bellowing from his lungs, like an exultant liberating trumpet, breaking free of restraint. There are times when Hegarty's warbling, if not wayward, style of vibrato, can be a tad grating, but if one can wait and hold ones breath through these moments, he more than repays ones forbearance. Uniqueness can be disquieting.

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