After more than a decade of fronting Antony and the Johnsons, front woman Anohni released her much-celebrated, debut album, Hopelessness, in May 2016. With the benefit of hindsight, the album was more than just a masterpiece. It was timely and poignant, revealing the instability and chaos that were brimming below the surface but have risen since the events of last autumn. Last week, she unveiled Paradise, a six-track EP, which is essentially an appendix to her stellar LP.
Collaborating once again with Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, Anohni has made electronic music into the palette for contemporary protest songs. The result is a fascinating and at times visceral experience, such as the incredibly moving title track, “Paradise”. The track verges of trip-hop with its hypnotic and dark soundscapes while Anohni describes a dystopian world that is both beautiful and terrifying and where the notion of freedom is a fleeting memory.
My mother’s love, her gentle touch.
My father’s hand rests on my throat.
Hopelessness, myself I’m here not here.
“Jesus Will Kill You” sees Anohni adopt a more menacing tone, as she takes on corporate conservatives and criticizing them for their hypocrisy. Specifically, she calls them out for putting their self-interests ahead of others and building their empires by taking advantage of the vulnerable. The song is enthralling for how Anohni has taken a well-known conservative attack and turn it back on them. On “You Are My Enemy”, a more solemn and even remorseful tone is heard. The words, “I gave birth to my own enemy”, is incredibly powerful, as it gives the image of a mother and her offspring at odds, as differing values collide and the end of a family occurs.
“Ricochet” at first sounds like a euphoric and uplifting number, as OPN and Hudson Mohawke produce a soundscape that is cosmic and verges on ethereal. But as Anohni exclaims…
I don’t want to ricochet because I’m afraid.
I’m going to hate you my god.
I’m going to curse you my god.
…it becomes immediately clear that she is expressing her rage for the events of today and of a movement that aims to turn back 300 years of progress within a single year. This rage is turned melancholic on “She Doesn’t Mourn Her Loss”. On this soothing, Radiohead-esque number, Anohni turns into a narrator, telling the story of Earth and how it is slowly crumbling away. The final words by a Native American elder is moving, and her voice adds to the gravity of the song’s message and, for that matter, the loss of innocence that permeates across Paradise.
Featured photo by Alex Thebez.
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