Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another World EP - Antony & the Johnsons

Another World EP

Antony & the Johnsons
Secretly Canadian Records.

SCQ Rating: 81%

The voice of Antony Hegarty, to my ears, has always captured the timbre of winter evenings. Dramatic yet restrained, androgynous but sultry, his quivering pipes are capable of soothing frosted windowpanes and blackened skies better than your rickety apartment heater. It was a voice seemingly designed for quiet rooms or amphitheatres, solitary days with your loneliness or lover. Then Hercules and Love Affair landed with otherworldly notions I hadn’t prepared for (Antony + Disco = Fantastic?) and immediately decontextualized Hegarty’s famous cabaret-leanings. As if that lightning bolt of neon-loud, late-seventies swagger never happened, Antony re-gathers with his Johnsons and undergoes a more subtle transformation in preparation of The Crying Light (early 2009’s much-anticipated follow-up to 2005’s I Am a Bird Now), prefaced here with the Another World EP.

The title track is a fitting though predictable first-single from the upcoming full-length, performed almost entirely by Antony on piano. It’s captivating in the same vein of melancholy as any cut from his Mercury-winning sophomore album, but given its own landscape thanks to a haunted forest of woodwinds that rarely threaten to swallow Antony’s restlessness. The typical A&tJ mood is lifted with ‘Crackagen’, a bright Parisian balcony-view with a piano arrangement spontaneous as post-war jazz. Antony’s transformation climaxes in the next surprise, ‘Shake That Devil’; which spends its first half acappella (save for some awesomely tense reverb) before a standard jazz beat jumps in, a squealing saxophone shows up, and Antony croons like it’s a dance-off at the Ritz. For that first minute and a half of tension, I must admit to have been expecting a more jarring, emotional peak than what ensued, but ‘Shake That Devil’ is a deserving centerpiece nonetheless, displaying a diverse platter of influences and talents.

Another World EP steps back into familiar territory with ‘Sing For Me’, a middle-child of sorts that finds itself dwarfed by its closest siblings; the aforementioned saxophone number and ‘Hope Mountain’, a closing track as grand as its title. Windchimes, in a gentler breeze than that which opens the disc, give way to a beautifully simple piano ode to desire and forgiveness. As if from that peak’s gust comes recorded whispers, manipulated and juxtasuposed like inaudible pillow-talk, before a somewhat pretentious troupe of horns close the disc (imagine King Arthur fanfare, or don’t).

Five songs, ranging from attractive to exquisite, at nineteen minutes is one hell of a tease, and well-played when it can suddenly make January 20th (The Crying Light’s release date) seem so much further than three months away. Still, Another World EP offers much for rabid, impatient fans to chew on, despite its brevity, and provides tantalizing glimpses at what transformation Antony might take come winter.

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