Live classical orchestra, mysticism and warm feminine voice notwithstanding, rest assured Antony and the Johnson’s new release Cut the World is anything but an innocent, light-hearted fairy tale. Perhaps one has only to explore Cut the World’s dark and painful—yet simultaneously gentle and hopeful—realm to discover its multiple layers.
The septet band Antony and the Johnsons is fronted by British-born singer, composer, and visual artist Antony Hegarty. Other bandmembers include cello player Julia Kent, drummer Parker Kindred, bassist Jeff Langston, horn player Doug Wieselman, violinist Maxim Moston, and guitarist/violinist Rob Moose. While Antony’s childhood years entailed growing up in the UK, Amsterdam and the San Francisco Bay Area, his move to New York City in 1990 to attend NYU would prove a rewarding choice for his artistic and musical career. Antony’s early NYC years would be spent forming and performing via his experimental drag performance group dubbed Blacklips, as well as write and perform in other theatrical productions. It’s in 1997 that Antony and the Johnsons would perform for the first time as an ensemble—after having earned a grant from New York Foundation for the Arts, no less.
Fate would have it that British experimental artist David Tibet would hear their work, resulting in a Durtro record label release of Antony and the Johnsons’s self-titled debut in 2000. The second album—I Am a Bird Now released in 2005—featured Boy George, Lou Reed, Rufus Wainwright and was highly acclaimed, earning them the UK award of the Mercury Music Prize. The Crying Light would follow in 2009, and Swanlights in 2010.
Cut the World—the band’s 5th album—was released by Rough Trade on August 6th 2012 and on August 7th 2012 by Secretely Canadian. Its 12 tracks are a result of a live session recorded in Copenhagen with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in late 2011 and are a compilation of songs from the band’s previous four albums. What ensues is a highly moving and heartfelt experience which the classical music beautifully evokes. The title track is the album’s new emotional track which is as likely to make an impression as its intense video. The intimate “Future Feminism” discourse elaborates on the album’s recurring themes, with concepts such as spirituality, patriarchal vs. matriarchal societies, and ecology discussed. Tracks like “You Are My Sister” and “The Crying Light” carry notes of optimism yet—like much of the album—allow for a variety of interpretations.
A poignant work of art set to the dream-like notes of skilled musicians, Cut the World is likely be a welcomed addition to fans’ collections as well as serve as an appropriate starting point for newer listeners.