Antony and the Johnsons

Cut the World

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AllMusic Review by

Cut the World was recorded live in Denmark with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. It's essentially a "hits" collection, though the title cut is new. Antony and the Johnsons have worked with orchestras before. That said, all the arrangements of the catalog material -- provided by Nico Muhly, Rob Moose, Maxim Moston, and Antony Hegarty -- are new and make full use of the various timbral, textural, and dramatic elements of the orchestra. Hegarty's compositions are all, at heart, spiritual psychodramas, drenched in an emotion so profoundly moving that it walks the balance beam between pleasure and pain. Though they are born in the (transgendered) body and look at the world and its politics -- environmental, social, sexual, economic -- through that gaze, they also struggle to free themselves from its confines and enter the world of the sacred where all things are integrated, and even the dichotomies between the first person and second are fluid. Check the lyrics in the title track -- written as part of the score for the Robert Wilson-directed stage production of The Life and Death of Marina Abramović -- which mirror this perfectly. Hegarty's voice is the channel. Whether it's expressed as a full-throated mellifluous croon or a falsetto so transparent it emits light, it elevates these versions to something approaching prayer. They each reflect the divine as it expresses itself in the natural world and sometimes address god directly. The second cut, "Future Feminism," is a seven-minute monologue to the audience. Hegarty discusses the moon, religion, the environment, politics, and the direct connections between them all leisurely, without didacticism, pretension, or pomposity. These themes are explored conversationally, humorously, and humbly. The music, however, is performed with the authority of an inner experience that celebrates as it struggles to unite flesh and spirit. "Cripple and the Starfish" is almost theatrical in its drama. "Epilepsy Is Dancing" begins as a simple ballad and concludes as a shimmering paean that seeks one's place in our tenuous environmental balance. "Kiss My Name," with its unexpected rolling snares, becomes a near anthem, a symphonic poem, with Hegarty soaring over the top. Both "Rapture" and "The Crying Light" walk a wavering line between art song and pop song. Cut the World is easily the most revealing Antony and the Johnsons album to date, joining material from various recordings in one extended, sublime document.

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