Music review: Hopelessness

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Having identified as female for years, it was only natural for the artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty to use a more feminised name.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Playhouse

The public debut of Anohni has coincided with a move away from the fragile chamber pop of Antony and the Johnsons to a much heavier electronica sound in order to drive home the more confrontational message of new album Hopelessness, now manifested as an intense, theatrical show.

But before the main course, the huge screen which loomed over the stage flickered to life for a full 15 minutes of footage of Naomi Campbell having a party for one in slo-mo, while ever so slowly the lights dimmed and the ambient noise started to encroach.

Anohni’s cloaked musical sentinels, the electro producers/composers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, took up their sentry positions on either side of the stage, and Campbell was replaced by a close-up image of performance artist and long-time Anohni associate Johanna Constantine, lip syncing along to the first song, delivered by a hooded and veiled Anohni below the screen.

And so this austere set-up continued, as different women, varying in age and ethnicity, mimed along earnestly on screen to the minimal performance unfolding on stage, at least some of which involved Anohni lip syncing to her own voice. Her fragile tenor has always been an androgynous beast: in covering herself, she may well have been showing solidarity with women who wear the veil, although as she stretched her arms wide while singing about terrorism, the image evoked was that of the Abu Ghraib prisoner forced to stand on a plinth.

Campbell returned, crying along to Drone Bomb Me, probably the only electro pop song ever written from the perspective of an Afghan orphan pleading for her own mercy killing.

The last face to appear was an older Aboriginal woman but this time she was given a voice to lament that “everything is going upside down”, her own sombre expression of hopelessness.

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