sat 25/05/2019

CD: Antony and the Johnsons - Turning | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Antony and the Johnsons - Turning

CD: Antony and the Johnsons - Turning

Antony Hegarty's journey into joy-filled sadness

The triumph of androgyny

Antony Hegarty has one of those voices that’s poised on the edge of tears. With a singing style at times reminiscent of the great Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli, who broke a thousand hearts in the 1930s, he knows how to draw deeply from his most vulnerable self, gently but firmly taking his audience to the same fragile inner spaces.

Explorations of androgyny in popular music have often made possible a form of creativity that rides a knife-edge. Fuelled by transgender freedom, Antony Hegarty plunges resolutely into the cloud of undoing, a place where courageous speaking from the heart can assume a form that avoids sentimentality. This is music for masochists – the thrill comes from enjoying the slings and arrows of love rather than avoiding them.

Turning presents many of the best songs from his first three albums, performed here live in 2006. This is the soundtrack of a concert film made by Charles Atlas but it stands perfectly well on its own.

Accompanied by a discrete and yet wholly supportive group of musicians – including warm-toned strings, the emotionally rich sounds of clarinet and saxophone, as well as guitar, keyboard and accordeon – Hegarty stays mostly in melancholy mode, enjoying the pain of longing that colours favourites such as “Spiralling”, “My Lord”,  and “For Today I Am a Boy”. The intensity of emotion on songs such as “One Dove”, with an inspired sax solo,  is almost too much to bear but never less than very beautiful. Although he is undoubtedly a very dramatic performer, Hegarty’s theatricality is always rooted in authentic feeling. This is a fully embodied mixture of suffering and joy, all the textures of those emotions expressed in the unique timbre of his voice.

When he emerges from the slowness and interiority that characterizes his work most, as on “Kiss My Name” a waltz-pulsed song, you can sense the energy that has allowed such an introvert’s passion to be expressed on the stage. But no sooner as he touched the communal spirit of the anthem, that he returns, on the rest of the album to the exquisite sadness which provides the essence of his song.

This is music for masochists – the thrill comes from enjoying the slings and arrows of love rather than avoiding them

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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