|Secretly Canadian | discogs.com|
"Love, drone bomb me /
Blow me from the mountains /
And into the sea"
So begins forty minutes of the most slickly produced acrimony you will hear all year. Through violent synthesisers, Anohni's rich, plush voice shines like a beacon. On Hopelessness, a set of pipes one would expect to hear in a cathedral or at the symphony tackles volatile subject matter.
"Blow my head off /
Explode my crystal guts /
Lay my purple on the grass"
Anohni is no stranger to dualistic art. Already tucked under her prodigious belt are collaborations with many cutting-edge musicians, including the inimitable Icelander, Björk. Infamous for her singular, surreal vision, she requested Anohni's presence on two occasions — perhaps by coincidence on the two albums in Björk's voluminous discography most concerned with thematic contrast: 2004's Volta, an extended soliloquy on symbiosis between humankind and nature, and 2015's Vulnicura, an apocalyptic odyssey from loss to acceptance.
Much as Anohni's velvety vocals complement Björk's own rough delivery, Hopelessness is a maelstrom of harsh, clashing electronic elements — a cacophony haloed by Anohni's luminous intonations.
Hopelessness is a project of spontaneity. Equivocating is for other people, Anohni seems to say. Drafting and self-reflection are frivolous luxuries — this album is a direct insight into the artist's mind, unadulterated by overproduction or any form of excess. This is the greatest strength of Hopelessness: the immediacy and clarity of emotion are striking.
But it is also Anohni's most dreadful weakness: her incandescence is at some points undercut by oversimplification. The pertinently titled track 'Obama' purports to lay the blame for eight years of warfare and bloodshed at the feet of one individual who, while his office bears ultimate responsibility, is undeserving of the vitriol, the white-hot rage Anohni spews. Where elevated expectations meet the reality of politics, she comes across as naive.
But for most of Hopelessness her anger hits the bullseye. If ever you need help mustering up your temper, rest assured Anohni has you covered.