A beautiful diversion
Antony And The Johnsons - Cut The World

There are plenty of ‘special’ voices in modern music, voices which prompt all of those familiar muscle memories and feelings of respite from the world outside, but truly unique voices are rare. To be a unique voice is, in all likelihood, to be outside of the mainstream, as nothing sells more freely than the deeply familiar.

And so, Antony Hegarty has released four studio albums and several EPs to critical acclaim and the delight of an enchanted minority. 2005’s ‘I Am A Bird Now’ set that voice against sparsely produced, plaintive piano and invited the mass slackening of jaws and general delirious befuddlement which followed. Here was a singer who sounded unlike anything you’d ever heard before, a performer able to hold their own in the company of Rufus Wainwright, Boy George and Lou Reed, all of whom put in appearances on that album. Antony clearly didn’t belong and had no desire to blend in.

The last studio outing, 2010’s ‘Swanlights’, was a curious beast, released alongside a book of art which suggested a grander statement than its songs could live up to. The presence of the Danish National Chamber Orchestra offered an additional layer to the material and they return on this live album, recorded over several nights in Copenhagen last year, aiding re-jigged takes on the band’s finer moments. While it comes as no surprise to find that such an emotive voice can sit comfortably with rich arrangements, it is that ease which is a little disappointing. Orchestral reworkings rarely result in versions which supplant the originals, instead providing thoughtful distractions, and here Antony’s vocal seems so normal, so equal to the orchestra, that it loses some of its impact.

A track like ‘Kiss My Name’, gloriously swirling in its original form, is now grandiose, sweeping and strident on stage. But, with the arrangements sharing the limelight, something is lost. The one new track here, ‘Cut The World’, makes for a beguiling if rather slight opener, before the curiously positioned, one-listen monologue ‘Future Feminism’ halts proceedings somewhat. A beautiful diversion then, rather than an eye-opening reboot or soul-stirring call to arms.



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