The eagerly awaited new release from Antony and the Johnsons, The Crying Light was finally released on January 19th but isn’t quite what I expected. If any of you have ever read any of Federico García Lorca‘s drama or seen a Pedro Almodóvar film then hopefully you will share my sentiments that listening to this album is like doing both at once, with a touch of Tim Burton thrown in for good measure. Should such multi-tasking not be amongst your strong suits I shall attempt to explain in a less oblique fashion. Ever since I became aware of Ted Hughes‘ perversion of the intended order of Sylvia Plath‘s Ariel I have paid an inordinate amount of attention to how things begin and end, and on such consideration The Crying Light exhibits a desolate tone only parallelled by Mary Shelley‘s Matilda, opening with the phrase “her eyes are beneath the ground” and ending with the instruction to “taste the blade of the everglade”.
As far as tracks go, “Epilepsy is Dancing” speaks for itself as the most beautiful but distorted image of a snow angel (“I am finding my rhythm as I twist in the snow”) I have yet discovered. The real highlight is “One Dove” which can only be described as a ghostly rendezvous of the reincarnations of Chopin, DuPre, and a few equally talented musical companions stirring up a breeze. Picture a 5am stroll along a craggy, moonlit beach, with this eerie accompaniment swirling around you until the moon slips behind a dark cloud. “Kiss my Name” transforms eerie to uncomfortable. The drums sound irritable, and the vocals similarly appear to be trying to escape what they are attempting to express but most bizarre are the oscillating strings which are tetchy at best. A further highlight is the epic “Daylight and the Sun.” Its orchestration and scenic shifts are akin to Joanna Newsom‘s, and the crowbar banging on the prison fence works surprisingly well. Violins never wept before quite like they do throughout “Everglade.” At times this track is a little too close for comfort to the old “Hovis” commercial but it perhaps surprisingly manages to avoid any emotional dilution as a result.
The prevailing impression of the record is one of isolation more typical of the unnerving artistic produce of early Twentieth Century Spain or the contemporary Americas. I always anticipated the projection of understated inner turmoil but that is not a patch on the pain etched into the record. That said, I love the macabre.