This week’s random review features a transgender artist, to mark the Trans Awareness campaign running throughout the Students’ Union as part of national Trans Awareness Week (12-18 November).
When I say the words “protest song” it will probably conjure up images of Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg with their guitar chords and aesthetically down-to-earth singing styles. However, Anohni’s debut solo album Hopelessness offers the protest song in a different form. Categorised as “electropop, dance, experimental and synth-pop”, it is a collection of eleven simple political statements on subjects ranging from global warming to government surveillance via military imperialism.[pullquote]full to the brim with strange sounds, evocative of the increasingly mechanised and digitised world we live in[/pullquote]
At first the lyrics felt somewhat forced because they lack the subtlety and metaphor that many traditional protest songs are known for. Pretty soon though I realised that this is precisely the intention – Anohni goes straight to the point with unparalleled bluntness. She presents a dystopian view of our modern world usually reserved for blockbuster films set far in the future. With the album’s title a constant theme, she calls on the rulers of the world to ‘Drone Bomb Me’, ‘Watch Me’ and ‘Have No Mercy On Me’. The only track which at first doesn’t appear to fit this theme is ‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’ (track five), which seems like a standard lament over an unnamed ex-lover. However, in the wider context of the album, it becomes a clever message of lost patriotism; the ex-lover is actually the nation which she was brought up to love but has let her down.
The other instantly noticeable aspect of the album is the production. It is full to the brim with strange sounds, evocative of the increasingly mechanised and digitised world we live in. What strikes me the most is how Anohni uses ugly sounds in such a way that it forms a twistedly beautiful whole. This is perhaps to emphasise the way our world can seem beautiful when in fact it is falling apart at the hands of the ruling elites and rampaging greed. The use of stereo sound to create spatial effects is also exemplary – to properly appreciate this the album should be listened to through either headphones or a really good stereo sound system.
This is not an album which I would normally have listened to, but I’m glad that I have. It’s incredibly important to publicise the work of transgender musicians as we are too often ignored; and when we are given a morsel of media attention it usually triggers a public debate over our very existence. It’s a pleasure to have Anohni’s work brought to my attention.