Anohni's Paradise EP offers a tussle between hope and hopelessness

Anohni, formerly known as Antony Hegarty, is an English-born singer, musician and visual artist.
Anohni, formerly known as Antony Hegarty, is an English-born singer, musician and visual artist.PHOTO: SECRETLY CANADIAN

For Anohni, the British-born, United States-based transgender artist once known as Antony Hegarty, the new world disorder is a result of patriarchy.

"Fathers and sons now compulsively prepare to commit ecocide, in a final and irreversible assault upon creation itself," she says in a statement on the new companion EP to last year's Hopelessness album.

"Only an intervention by women around the world, with their innate knowledge of interdependency, deep listening, empathy and self-sacrifice, could possibly alter our species' desperate course."

On the cover of Paradise, she reconvenes nine poets and artists whose activism collectively presents a strong rebuttal to misogyny and global warming denial.

  • ELECTRONICA

  • PARADISE EP

    Anohni

    Secretly Canadian

    4/5 stars

She footnotes the EP with a speech by Aboriginal artist Ngalangka Nola Taylor originally delivered at the World Economic Forum in her native tongue and then in broken English. "We are wondering what is happening to the world. Everything is change, changing," she mumbles.

That change is presented here by a clash of opposites. The protest songs here sound like disco dirges, songs to dance to even as the world around you is melting. These anthems, ably produced by Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke, fleet between electronic thumps and squiggly riffs, hard and absorbing, tough and vulnerable.

The title track exemplifies the tussle between hope and hopelessness. Paradise, the singer calls out, is "world without end", over ominous drums and skittering beats. "Myself, I'm here, not here," she confesses, slipping in and out of this feverish dream.

Granted the dystopic obsession can sometimes be fetishistic, but Anohni does not let the listener forget this is no fantasy, but rooted in reality.

She references the "burning fields" of Iraq and Nigeria, alluding to conflict and the thirst for oil, as her voice gets hit by the whiplash of thunderous drums.

In You Are My Enemy, she sings from the ambivalent point of view of a mother who has given birth to evil spawn. "I gave birth to my own enemy," she pines, as a female chorus echoes her words over arrhythmic beats.

Everything comes to a head in the centrepiece, Ricochet. "I don't wanna ricochet," she repeats the chorus, as if both weapon and victim.

All this may sound like proselytising, except that it does not. It boils down to Anohni's malleable self, pitched as crucible and cipher.

While often the current war of cultures is seen as one between "us" and "them", Anohni incriminates, and embraces, all humanity. In her body of work, she has become the space for humankind to examine its own contradictions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Tussle between hope and hopelessness'. Print Edition | Subscribe