Antony and the Johnsons – “Cut the World”: Viva Music Album Review

August 8, 2012 in Album Reviews

Tracklist: “Cut the World” * “Future Feminism” * “Cripple and the Starfish” * “You Are My Sister” * “Swanlights” * “Epilepsy Is Dancing” * “Another World” * “Kiss My Name” * “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy” * “Rapture” * The Crying Light” * “Twilight

About Antony and the Johnsons – “Cut the World”:

Antony and the Johnsons will release “Cut the World” through Rough Trade August 6th and August 7th via Secretly Canadian. “Cut the World” is a collection of live symphonic performances of songs from the band’s 4 full length albums (“Swanlights”, “The Crying Light”, “I Am a Bird Now”, “S/T”). Recorded in Copenhagen, with The Danish National Chamber Orchestra, “Cut the World” features arrangements by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston and Antony. Additionally the title track “Cut The World” is featured here for the first time. It is one of Antony’s new songs for “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic” directed by Robert Wilson and staring Antony, Marina Abramovic and Willem Dafoe. “Cut the World”was recorded live on September 2nd and 3rd, 2011 at the DK Concert Hall in Copenhagen, DK and represents Antony’s continued meditation on light, nature & femininity. Antony discusses his ideas on the track “Future Feminism“, a speech he made during one of the concerts. Addressing the affects of patriarchy on the global ecology, Antony explores the possibility of shifting towards feminine systems of governance in a gesture to restore our world. (source: press release)

Antony and the Johnsons – “Cut the World”: Viva Music Review:

Antony and the Johnsons are a legendary act and any new release from them is accompanied by a premeditated excitement, which outlasts the releases and lingers on until their next one. On Aug-07, “Cut the World”, an unromantic yet appealing compilation of live renditions of Antony and the Johnsons’ best, recorded in September last year in Copenhagen with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, part of the 2011 minitour the band performed in Denmark and Italy (with Bari’s Orchestra Petruzzelli). We had the immense joy and privilege to attend the Rome concert of their tour and be able to witness the virtuosity and creativity of one of the key artists of recent years and also years to come. With almost identical sets throughout, what Antony and the Johnsons did in the tour, was a roundup of their career so far, with non-equivocal choices of classical pieces, which unpretentiously describe the vibrant inner world everyone has come to associate with the persona of Antony Hegarty.

With the exception of the title track of the compilation, “Cut the World”, the compilation tracks are previously released material; while the title track, excerpted from Antony Hegarty’s work with artist Marina Abramovic on “The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic”, the video of which was simultaneously released with the compilation, in a very sharp and minimal video starring Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramovic herself, is probably a messenger of a new direction in Antony and the Johnsons’s work, in the fashion of their latest album, “Swanlights”, with a very overt and easy to grasp manifesto. The stress put on “Cut the World” is not accidental: after “Swanlights”, the number of alternative projects undertaken by Antony Hegarty exceeded by far the work he’s done with his original group; and mention should be made of the attention grabbing “Life and Death of Marina Abramovic”, of Antony Hegarty’s curator work for Meltdown festival, of his new collaboration with peer CocoRosie for “Tearz for Animals”, as well as his work with Charles Atlas on the soundtrack for “Turning”).

Cut the World” is the opening piece by which the induction into the uncomfortable and alluring world of Antony and the Johnsons is made; and though it is the sole new piece of the album, it is not the one that causes the real stir – for many Antony and the Johnsons fans, it is actually the old material, reworked for a full orchestra that grabs the attention and it is in their weft that you find the actual new work Antony and the Johnsons can make out of their previously released material into an altogether new experience.

Of equal importance in the album is the spoken piece “Future Feminism” – spanning over 7 minutes, no less, in which Antony Hegarty takes time to explain the philosophy of the new feminism in which one needs to integrate, in which concepts that have been too stubborn to cringe over the eons of patriarchal servitude, can actually bend and give creative possibilities to the world to evolve through new interpretations and new opportunities for religion, magic, ecology and social life among others to be embraced in novel, pertinent ways.

Alongside the vibe of new interpretation granted by the manifesto of “Future Feminism”, the gems included in the compilation actually take a very unsubmissive curve – they start from the intimate, and heart-rending “Cripple and the Starfish”, and the elegiac tone of “You Are My Sister”, two actually of the most known songs of the band, only to plunge head-first through the freezing waters of “Swanlights” – the cosmic value of which is truly unparalleled in many ways by most of what the singing scene has to offer today. Its natural lore, combined with the notion that the stealthy way of nature to deal with life, death and survival of the fittest carries a drama we have come to meet with obedient eyes, provoke sheer communion, and this is why, from the point of view of the compilation, it is followed by more pensive pieces such as “Epilepsy Is Dancing” and “Another World”. “Kiss My Name”, the only remotely joyous and careless song of the entire compilation is followed by the Antony and the Johnsons classic “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy”, as well as by the funereal and brisk “Rapture”. “The Crying Light”, and “Twilight” meet toward the end of the compilation, in a new statement of natural life and evasion from the cycles and roles in which humanity has imprecisely seen its place through the millennia.

Cut the World” is a well-deserved success of Antony and the Johnsons, and not only of a compilation rewritten in a classical key, but of a career in music that has trodden quite a path so far. “Cut the World” makes you hungrier for Antony and the Johnsons than you have been in the moment you decided to listen to the compilation, and that’s another sign it’s a superb success for the band. Enjoy!

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