Album of the Week: Anohni – Hopelessness: synths, drones and disillusionment

    
Artist: ANOHNI
Genre: Electronic
Label: Rough Trade

Thought you knew Antony & the Johnsons? Think again. The first solo album by Anohni – formerly known as Antony Hegarty – mixes personal and political themes while drawing from a musical palette that is almost unrecognisable from her previous fare.

That's largely down to her collaboration with electronic producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never on this collection, but there is also an unquestionable sense that Anohni desires a musical reinvention to match her newly adopted name.

Social and political consciousness rank high on the agenda on Hopelessness, an album that lives up to its title – in terms of lyrical themes, at least.

That comes as little surprise following her Oscar-nominated song Manta Ray, taken from last year's environmental documentary Racing Extinction; songs such as 4 Degrees lament the impact of man on the natural world.


Elsewhere, Execution tackles the death penalty, the atonal Obama rips into the departing US president with a sense of savage disillusionment, and there are several mentions of "drone bombs" – make no mistake, these are protest songs, through and through.

And then there's the music, which couldn't be further from the lush orchestration heard on the likes of 2005's I Am a Bird Now.

Glittering synths and experimental rhythms are combined in the futuristic pop of the title track and the tumultuous buzz of Watch Me; funereal organs dominate the clunky heartache of I Don't Love You Anymore; Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth is almost Animal Collective-esque.

Songs such as Violent Men and the tuneless Obama seem a waste of Anohni's unique voice – but as musical statements go, this is undoubtedly a brave one.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times