Mixed Media: Music
by Anohni (Rough Trade/Secretly Canadian, RTRAD 823 CD, LP + digital)
This release from the artist formerly known as Antony (Hegarty) and the Johnsons, is a truly radical, passionate album that uses art to rise above politics and point to the mess of the world. Global warming, surveillance, state terrorism: these are the themes of Hopelessness. They are, jointly and separately, all so important that Anohni’s website offers the album’s lyrics in 16 languages.
Anohni’s bluesy timbres are familiar to anyone who followed her earlier work with the Johnsons, an unclassifiable New York ensemble that achieved success with I Am A Bird Now and The Crying Light, albums that advanced the politics of love, environmentalism, queerness and transgender, into a kind of mainstream.
With Hopelessness, Anohni has turned to two former collaborators, Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, to create an album that stuns. Electronic beats, sequenced melodies and synth tones cluster with such spatial force that they crowd one’s ears. Anohni’s voice – growly, ugly at points, too – has never been more transcendent. For all the beauty of the songs, this is a brilliantly horrifying album. ‘4 Degrees’ is a nightmare vision of a boiling world; ‘Daddy’ a comment on surveillance couched in a queasy setting that references breaching of intimate boundaries.
Just at the point at which the world prepares to bid the current US president adieu, on ‘Obama’ Anohni sings: ‘When you were elected, the world cried for joy,’ before enveloping a chant in drone sounds that buzz like flies around a carcass. Not a single song is wasted on this extraordinary album.
Legend of Funaná –The Forbidden Music ofthe Cape Verde Islands
by Bitori (Analog Africa AA 082, CD, LP + digital)
Think of the music of Cape Verde and it’s Cesária Évora who springs to mind, with her slow, emotive sonorous morna. Less known is the accordion-based funaná, quite possibly because the upbeat dance music was banned by the islands’ colonial Portuguese overlords for being too ‘backward’, ‘too African’. Harsh consequences were meted out to anyone who played it during this period. Even after independence came in 1975, it took a while for funaná to get going again.
Accordionist Victor ‘Bitori’ Tavares certainly has the band and the backstory to do that. The veteran musician left Cape Verde in the mid-1950s: it took him two years to be able to afford his instrument and once back on his home island of Santiago, he set about learning the intricacies of the accordion.
Since then – well, the proof is in the listening. With a simple drum and bass set-up augmenting the accordion, plus Portuguese Creole vocals from Chando Graciosa, Legend of Funaná is a fiercely joyful release. Inevitably, the funaná form has been updated since Bitori first got going and this release reflects this in the amped-up reggae bass that suffuses several songs. Even so, this is its own affair and a pretty marvellous one at that.