Release Date: Aug 7, 2012
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Antony and the Johnsons kind of fell on to this Earth almost serendipitously. I remember a small club show in Toronto back in the early 2000s just before their debut was re-released in 2004 and way before their follow-up I Am a Bird Now garnered some serious indie attention. Ill-prepared, I was witness to a shaking of my very core from this 6’ 4” transgender creation as he wavered in such beautiful operatic precision about the delicacy of love and acceptance and nature and beauty.
Cut the World was recorded live in Denmark with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. It's essentially a "hits" collection, though the title cut is new. Antony and the Johnsons have worked with orchestras before. That said, all the arrangements of the catalog material -- provided by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and Antony Hegarty -- are new and make full use of the various timbral, textural, and dramatic elements of the orchestra.
While the power of Antony Hegarty’s vocal performances had arguably relied on the raw simplicity of the accompaniment, there was always a sense that, if given wings, the songs would soar to empyrean reaches. And this live, symphonic recording with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra bears that out to dazzling and devastating effect. “Cripple and the Starfish” (Antony and the Johnsons), “You Are My Sister” (I Am a Bird Now) and “Epilepsy Is Dancing” (The Crying Light) take on new and epic beauties.
Antony and the JohnsonsCut the World[Secretly Canadian; 2012]By Weston Fleming; August 9, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetOnly the first two tracks on Antony and the Johnsons’ new live album, Cut the World, bear completely new material. The opening title track, “Cut the World,” was written as part of the score for stage production of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovi?. It’s enormously dramatic (and deeper than what its more literal video treatment may suggest), and it sets the tone for the rest of what is a pure, cinematic performance.
The second track on Antony's new live album, Cut the World, is a monologue called "Future Feminism." It runs nearly eight minutes. "I've been thinking all day about the moon," Antony begins. "Like, is it an accident that women menstruate once a month and that the moon comes once a month? ...And then what about the fact that we're made of 70% water?" It goes on like this, referencing "patriarchal monotheism," the matter-of-fact revelation that he's a witch who "de-baptized" himself," and ruminations on "the feminization of deities." Behold: Antony stage banter.
In most cases, only a band's diehard fans love their live albums, which are often a cheap way to buy time between studio albums. But when you've got a stunningly beautiful voice like Antony Hegarty's, you can get away with it. He's the kind of singer who makes people remember what they were doing when they first heard him. Hearing him let loose over lush arrangements played by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra is immensely pleasurable, even if the title cut is the only new song.
Cut The World is an appropriate title for an album which spans the musical history of Antony and the Johnsons. Antony Hegarty’s lyrical obsessions follow those battered and hurt by the world’s brutality; having been cut so much at the hands of the world it’s only natural to want to turn round and ask the question, “But when will I turn and cut the world?”, as Hegarty begs on the title track (and only new song on the album). But Antony and the Johnsons’ music has always been a gleaming little razor blade and sure as hell makes its mark.
In 2008, New Yorker Antony Hegarty lent his vox to the Hercules & Love Affair song ‘Blind’. The universe went nuts for it, and it was seen as a breather from the painful prettiness of Hegarty’s usual work. Which was unfair. His only crime as leader of Antony & The Johnsons was making music that was almost too perfect, so it made this flirtation with hedonistic disco feel pleasingly dirty.But now he’s back to beauty on ‘Cut The World’, a live album recorded in Copenhagen in 2011 with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra.
To simply listen to Cut the World, the new collection of live recordings from Antony and the Johnsons, is to hear something heartening. It's heartening because of the charm of Antony Hegarty himself, but also because of (in part) what he discusses on the second track, "Future Feminism." This track is Hegarty talking to the crowd about, among other things, how a shift towards femininity in power systems could help fix the world. At one point, though, he talks about how "what's great about being transgender is you're born with a natural religion." This is both a confirmation of faith and a sad admission of isolation since "none of the patriarchal monotheisms will have you," according to Hegarty.
The voice whose unfiltered ostentation fell a thousand ships, gave birth to El Niño, demoted Pluto from its position as the ninth planet in the solar system, and continually ensures the dead do not rise from the grave is somehow amiable in the guise of storyteller. Transgender British chanteuse Antony Hegarty is, to many, an acquired taste, one which seems to require leavening ingredients. When he’s backed by a no-nonsense wash of disco propulsion, as in Hercules and Love Affair’s massive “Blind,” his theatrics are unforgettable.
Discard the descriptors “heavenly”/”angelic”/”divine,” befitting as they may be for the music of Antony Hegarty; these belong to the domain of the sky-god, a place of cruel judgment and exclusion for those who, whether because of differences in sexuality or gender identification or whatever else, are denied the humanity allotted to those who conform within the punishing systems of patriarchal monotheism. Antony, who’s trying to appropriate these sorts of terms and spiritual iconographies for his own subversive purposes, is obviously unsatisfied with such a restrictive and potentially harmful framework, memorably articulating why in Cut the World’s informative standout track “Future Feminism. ” I’ll be honest: I have my finger ready on the skip button after the wearying first few listens of a hip-hop skit; I was skeptical when I realized, partway through “Future Feminism,” that not only would this be the only unheard-as-of-yet track on the album, but that there would be no musical accompaniment, simply a seven-minute monologue delivered with Antony’s customary grace and good humor.
Antony and the Johnsons' first live album, Cut the World, tells us nothing that we don't already know about New York by way of the U.K. collective. Led by frontman and songwriter Antony Hegarty (better known simply as Antony), the band creates fragile, porcelain-like orchestral soundcapes, topped with Antony's indelible falsetto. Over the years he's oscillated between orchestral pop excess and stark minimalism, subtle shifts linked by his unrelenting passion to understand himself and the world around him.
Reykjavik's grand new Harpa concert hall is a large, black, architecturally ambitious waterside edifice, a potent symbol of Iceland's economic recovery. After their banks failed in 2008, Icelanders agreed that the men were to blame, and replaced their head of state and other key posts with women. Bank boardrooms followed suit. The decision was taken to build the concert hall, even though the coffers were empty; four years after this female takeover, Iceland appears to be well on the road to recovery.
Antony Hegarty commands a flawless trill that is easily one of the most compelling voices in contemporary music, and it lends itself well to the kind of theatrical storytelling that Antony and the Johnsons have become known for. Cut the World, Hegarty and his collaborators’ newest release, is a collection of live, symphonic performances of songs from four full-length albums, and the full-bodied rendering fits the material perfectly. With help from the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Hegarty bridges the gap, in some small way, between artist and listener, cutting out the middleman of the recording studio.
Dazzling new arrangements decorate this artfully compiled live set. Paul Whitelaw 2012 It's difficult to avoid using religious imagery when dealing with Antony Hegarty. His songs are like hymns, declamatory and tender, affirmative and desolate. The antithesis of background music, they demand to be listened to in rapt, holy communion between artist and audience.
Perhaps for many of us, the opening introduction into Antony Hegarty’s passionate music was on the initial strands of life of “Hope There’s Someone. ” Although he and his Johnsons had already developed a rich following with their self-titled effort, I Am A Bird Now flourished with emotionally-vested, brilliantly-composed forays into the human heart and all of the gripping ache around Antony’s voice. Listening to that pensive piano, the ominously discordant chords and the driving force behind the rush of sounds at the end still brings chills to any true music lover and with a strong ear for harmony and melody, Antony has been amazing for many years now.
Since he first started to perform with Antony & The Johnsons in New York in 1997, Antony Hegarty has long stood far removed from mainstream musical trends and sounds. It is therefore slightly surprising that the latest Antony & The Johnsons album is that perennial mainstream rock favourite, the live LP. ‘Cut The World’ is far from your usual live album however, instead it is a piece of performance art steeped in the beauty and resonance of Antony Hegarty’s best work.The album was recorded in 2011 in Copenhagen and is a collaboration with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra.