30 August 2016

Anohni - Hopelessness



Anohni - Hopelessness

Released 6th May 2016
Produced by Anohni, Hudson Mohawke, Oneohtrix Point never and Paul Corley.
Described as Electronic experimental synthpop.

This album is a sugar coated Trojan horse (Guardian 2016).

This website's (https://anohni.bandcamp.com/track/i-dont-love-you-anymore) description is perfectly succinct: 'ANOHNI has collaborated with Oneohtrix Point Never & Hudson Mohawke on the artist's latest work. The album HOPELESSNESS is a dance record with soulful vocals and lyrics addressing surveillance, drone warfare, and ecocide. A departure from the singer’s symphonic work, the album seeks to disrupt assumptions about popular music through the collision of electronic sound and highly politicized lyrics.' 

Anohni and fellow producers have created an angry, bitter, pessimistic and forceful inexorable album. 
Anohni is eloquent and highly articulate in all interviews regarding the album. This is not an angle for her, the uniqueness of pop and politics isn't particularly the way it's sold either-whether this is deliberate or not I am unsure.
The subjects raised are close to the artist's heart and the seething anger and fathomless depths of sorrow seep through with the lyrics, the music and Anhoni's vocal performance.

On stage the albums tracks are performed in a strong theatrical manner. Anohni is almost a shadow whilst a large screen behind her and the musicians show a figure head for each track. 

The album has had critical success, nominated for sheer powerful creativity and connections, lyrics and overall message, in the usually pretty bland world of pop.

You can imagine it as she is dressed in her dark garb with her black hair and sombre look, the angry seething dark political commentary, that Anohni would be in a punk or black metal band, or at least prog rock or gothic/industrial or even indie. But no-its crisp clear pop electronica. "...with teeth". And it works.

I am sceptical of anyone who thinks they will make a difference by recording music with angry political lyrics. However, as I researched this blog by reading and watching various interviews and reviews over Anhoni's careers-and about this Album-I understand now why Anohni states she feels she needs to be accountable for her own non reaction to the world's tragedies. And I wouldn't want to get into a written or verbal sparring match over this, as Anohni presents as very intelligent, knowledgeable, eloquent, articulate, forceful, and inexorable in her views. There's no way with my scant knowledge of global events that I'd even come close to discussing this with her on anything like an equal platform. 

But it makes me a little concerned for her frame of mind that she appears (in print and works at least) to see only the negative. There is absolutely no mention of anything positive, anything hopeful. And I think that's the key, if you are looking for hate and anger and limitless, cruelty and suffering, pollution and extinction, you will find it because tragically it's there. But if you also look for those who care for others, work to reduce the impact on the environment, develop new resources, rescue those in need, if you look for those moments of kindness and sacrifice you will find them. There is hope. 
Track Listing (Wikipedia)


1.
§  Anohni
§   
4:10
2.
"4 Degrees"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Birchard
3:51
3.
"Watch Me"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Birchard
3:26
4.
"Execution"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Birchard
3:38
5.
"I Don't Love You Anymore"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Lopatin
5:00
6.
"Obama"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Lopatin
4:11
7.
"Violent Men"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Lopatin
2:10
8.
"Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth?"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Birchard
3:36
9.
"Crisis"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Lopatin
§   
§  Birchard
4:42
10.
"Hopelessness"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Lopatin
3:54
11.
"Marrow"  
§  Anohni
§   
§  Birchard
3:01
Total length:

Overall: Anohni has a wonderful voice-very feminine but deep and dark -it's breathy and unique. It's rich and I love it.
Her vocals glide over familiar pop territory, and, just before I get bored-there’s gritty dirty scratching noise and a thumping vibrating beat rumbles in and it's saved from the mundane-it is elevated. If you listen to the lyrics, the politically seething furious opinions and it's raging in a cage but it's also pretty funky. It's an insidious seeping riot it's a jazz pop rebellion/march/protest-against a pretty fucked up political economical and environmental climate.

Separate tracks: 
1. Drone bomb me: accompanied by an amplified gritty emotional video staring the beautiful Naomi Campbell who looks beautiful even when crying pretty realistically -the musky velvety voice crystallises- a love song to death. It's about the wish of a person whose family has been killed by a drone bomb in an appalling fucking war-the poor person is desperate for death. Survivors guilt, real desperation.  Typically for Anohni and in line with the title of the album-there's no hope to the end of this-we don't find out if the girl lives. 

2. 4 Degrees: The theme appears to be climate change.  The general rise in temperature - disappointment at the lack of action by those who promised better. There's some lovely rather hefty drums and low rumbling brass-the music is industrial Pop-I've heard nothing like it before. Although admittedly this isn't my usual go to genre. The track is dirty and tribal and drum and base, and her jazz voice ripples over this. The ending is gently plucked synthetic and string sounds. It's a punchy track with spikes. 

3. Watch Me. Straight in with the repeated phrases expected perhaps of a generic pop song. But then it gets Anhoni’s the subjects are as dear and gritty-dirty and disturbing as the deep dirty gritty beats. The patriarchal state-the monitoring/surveillance of the population. It ends suddenly with simple electronic beats fading away.

4.Execution. a very upbeat tinkle beginning with the insidious sounding lower beat in the background. Like the distraction -the concerts/sports/huge events-a population with their eyes fixed to a screen while there's torture and executions. It's a confused sounding track-there's layering and quite punchy lyrics with layering of the messages the melodies -and perhaps this is deliberate. The minor note that it goes into towards the end brings the feeling of unease that has been building throughout the song to the fore. Clever. 

5. I don't love you anymore. It's a beautiful sound-the background melancholy music works. Almost a hymn-the electronic keyboard sounds like an organ in a church. It's a lament. But her voice is so gentle, it's a silky feather caress across a scar. 

6.Obama. Anohni is cross at Obama. She feels there was no follow up of Obamas pre-election promises. This is one of the least accessible song musically and vocally. It's a singing shout and there's no sign of the gentle feminine here, there's some heavy deep vocal deep breaths to support the projection. It's a chant and a lament. The build to the music backed chant is effective and easier to listen to-seems more musical with the heavily layered build. Without that and the repeated effect it's more a performance at a poetry slam.

7. Violent Men. This is bizarre and follows the overtly angry track. The effects are gritty like static feedback and an eastern influence in samples. It's confused sounding and almost nauseating. It's choppy and short-staccato.  There's nothing of the smooth rippling melodious tracks of the previous tracks. 

8. Why did you separate me from the earth. Beautiful this one-lovely composition of melodies and vocals. The choppy lyrics are now accompanied by the layers of electronica which make it palatable. Just before your comfortable it sinks into sub-woofer type static sounds and Anohni voice and builds up to an emotion entreaty.

9. Crisis. A simple start a mixture of this electronic medium with politics. It's a gentle track the music and slow beat with none of the earlier grittiness-is a shocking contrast to the lyrics. It's almost like a love song but instead deals with awful topics and presents them to you in a way in which you can't help but listen -there's no anger-it brings you closer to the issues seen on the news-which seem distanced from our lives in the west. It makes the listener think about how it would be if their families had been killed tortured or beheaded. There's is a notable hitch in her voice-the emotion bare.

10. Hopelessness: the music on this is very much in the background here. It’s the usual synthetic rubbish pop dance rubbish I’ve come to expect from anything that isn’t a live band, but there are sound effects layering- reminiscent of industrial destruction, and reinforces in a way the message of humanity being a virus on the earth 'I've been taking more than I deserve, giving nothing in return' it's clever-it's dark and her voice grips me-even though the music is secondary. In the live version the crowds cheer and shout and it's as if they are just watching a show and not the intelligent commentary and protest it is.
About 2 minutes 30 in there is an unusual 70's style A Capella which builds to spiky notes over a thumping tribal sounding base beat. Ends suddenly.  

11. Marrow. Infections and cancers are the topic. Although the track is dark-the subject matter undeniably so, the vocals are high and breezy and the track is short but not sweet. 

Score: 9 out of 10
Favourite Track: Done Bomb me. I know this is perhaps the obvious choice-but it's 1st for a reason. 

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