The release of ANOHNI's critically acclaimed 2016 LP HOPELESSNESS was, musically, a drastic departure from her previous work, but was also a beautiful, politically charged album pulsing outwardly with melancholy. Her latest PARADISE EP is every bit as powerful in its narrative, forceful in its execution, a pointed disruption of the stagnancy rife in popular music with its thunderous collision of political content and electronic composition.
The sheer force of the music, coupled with the weight of the EP's profoundly politicized lyrics, propels it well beyond that of a simple protest album.
I often wonder what kind of music will be remembered as the soundtrack to the Donald Trump years. Surely it will be some incarnation of protest music, but what form will that take? Many Americans likely associate the presidency of George W. Bush with punk rock and pop-punk like Green Day’s American Idiot and the Rock Against Bush series, for example.
In May 2016, just a few weeks after releasing her powerful record HOPELESSNESS , Anohni debuted an accompanying live performance at New York's Park Avenue Armory. The cavernous drill hall amplified her thunderous production to prophetic heights, but the presentation was less a showcase of artistry than it was a persuasive address. Anohni herself stood shrouded in a veiled habit beneath a towering screen that showed an assortment of women mouthing along to her songs.
The past two years have been very fruitful for ANOHNI. An identity rebirth, a boycotted Oscar nomination, political activism in LGBTQ causes, curatorial projects and detachment from The Johnsons has led the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty to a new stage in her life. While a new direction under a new identity has already made a clear social statement, her Hudson Mohawk and Oneohtrix Point Never-produced album HOPELESSNESS finally saw ANONHI stepping out of a box that has mostly limited her creativity to being held behind a piano and a heartbreaking voice.
As a transgender eco-warrior who sees smashing the patriarchy as humanity's only hope for survival, ANOHNI must have taken Trump's victory especially hard. Unless she saw it coming. On last spring's Hopelessness, the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty set her soul-squeezing alto to songs about drone warfare, government spying and the links between environmental degradation and the subjugation of women.
With her 2016 album Hopelessness, Anohni struck out in a bold new creative direction, embracing electronic production with collaborators Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, and moving away from personal lyrical themes in favor of explicitly political and topical statements. Ten months later, Anohni released Paradise, a six-song EP that serves as a companion piece, following the stylistic and thematic path of that album. Using economic and political patriarchy and the subjugation of female power as her dominant themes, Anohni has made clear with this music that Hopelessness wasn't a one-off project, but the first salvo in a series of uncompromising works redefining her sonic trademark.
The apocalypse will not arrive in a flash, but through the slow melting of ice, the smogging of clear skies, the rising of low seas that will eventually lead us to watch movies like Waterworld and Judge Dredd for survival advice. These changes come so gradually it's nearly impossible to wrap your head around what the magnitude of what’s really happening, lest you go insane, and it's no wonder climate scientists are so depressed. Music about this apocalypse presented with no humor or irony is a hard sell, yet ANOHNI does it well.