Alasdair Roberts: The Crook of My Arm
From the fertile urban trench known as Glasgow, Scotland, comes a knight on horseback. He wears not the cloth of his more famous neighbors -- the Belle & Sebastians, Pastels, Arab Straps and Mogwais. No, this knight comes trotting out of camp with nary a stitch on his body. Bearded and weary, he's got the look of a convalescent after a long night of hard rain. This isn't your father's round table story. There's a new lord in town and his name is Alasdair Roberts. Most know him from the few beautiful records he's recorded with his band Appendix Out (THE RYE BEARS A POISON, DAYLIGHT SAVING and THE NIGHT IS ADVANCING). He also recently played a role on the debut International Airport full-length, as well as repeated appearances on Songs: Ohia records. On this, his debut solo album, he offers twelve traditional Scottish, English and Irish songs, unaccompanied by anything other than his voice and guitar.A word from Alasdair Roberts on THE CROOK OF MY ARM:When I began to gather together some of my favourite old songs with a view to making a record out of them, it didn't occur to me initially that most of them were love songs and ballads. I still don't know why I was, subconsciously or otherwise, drawn to such material. True, the love expressed in many of these songs is often unrequited or tragic (there are many deaths on this record), but they are love songs nonetheless: at times beautiful, at times sick, and frequently both at the same time.Moreover, it was only after the recording session that I could see how this record could be considered a "suite" of songs (although making a "concept album" in the conventional sense was not my intention at the time). With hindsight, the connections between songs became more apparent. It even seems as if the very same characters turn up again and again in different songs: is the Nancy of "Bonnie Lass Among The Heather" the same Nancy as in "Master Kilby"? Is the long-lost lover of "Standing In Yon Flow'ry Garden" the same young sailor feared drowned in "Lowlands"? The themes are age-old, the situations and characters universal, archetypal. They gain their power from the fact that we have all experienced the beauty and sickness of love; and so each listener breathes his or her own life into the phantoms which populate the songs. Similarly, the performer is charged with the task of reanimating their dark and ancient heart, and in this regard I am greatly indebted to the many fine Scottish, English and Irish singers whose interpretations of the songs inspired my own. For the most part, I have stayed fairly true to the songs as I first heard them, only occasionally modifying a tune or editing a lyric (and in the case of "As I Came In By Huntly Town", derived from the Aberdeenshire ballad "Bogie's Bonnie Belle", rewriting most of the melody). I also took the liberty of changing some geographical locations. Such tactics are, of course, likely to infuriate certain sections of the "traditional music" orthodoxy. On the other hand, underground rock music (a genre to which this record may or may not belong) places such a premium on the notion of artistic "originality" and "innovation" that many fans might dismiss the relevance of playing this supposedly long-dead music. In my own defence, I would cite Roland Barthes' point in "The Death Of The Author" that in some societies "the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person but by a mediator, shaman or relator whose 'performance' -- the mastery of the narrative code -- may possibly be admired but never his genius." I would liken the subtle re- or de-formation of the songs in individual performances to the way years of footsteps gradually and imperceptibly wear down and remould a staircase.
Release date: 04/02/01
Antony and the Johnsons: You Are My Sister
Antony & The Johnsons breakthrough album I Am A Bird Now has certainly touched fans and critics alike. His second full-length - released in February - stands as one of the most globally acclaimed albums of 2005. The album?s latest single is the anthemic and heart-rending ?You Are My Sister?, presentedas a duet between Antony and Boy George. Together these two vocalists climb to the highest peak of emotional vulnerability, providing for the listener one of the most touching and uncanny duets of thepast decade. It?s heartbreaking when Antony sings, ?You are my sister / we were born / so innocent, sofull of need / there were times we were friends / but times I was so cruel / at night I?d asked for to watchme as I sleep?. With soaring and world-weary intensity, Boy George utterly commands the refrain: ?Youare my sister / and I love you / may all of your dreams come true.? In ?You Are My Sister,? the pair singfrom the depths of their hearts for the world.This extended single also includes three new, unreleased songs recorded during the I Am A BirdNow sessions. ?Poorest Ear? is a harrowing and complex vision from the perspective of an alienatedchild. Responding perhaps to ?You Are My Sister,? Antony sings of a girl who wishes to save her imperiledbrother in ?Forest of Love.? Finally, ?Paddy?s Gone? is a choral lament to long-lost man. Thesetracks all seem to support Antony?s recent assertion; ?Recently I have been imagining that we contain afamily inside us... a mother, a father, a boy, a girl and a baby. I Am a Bird Now represents a dialoguebetween some of these figures.?
Antony and the Johnsons: The Lake
Conceived as an introduction to Antony & the Johnsons? new full-length I Am A Bird Now (due 2/1/05 on Secretly Canadian), The Lake consists of three songs, including the lead-off single to I Am A Bird Now. The song is ?Fistful of Love? and is Antony & the Johnsons? finest work to date. Featuring a scorching horn section and the legendary Lou Reed on vocals and lead guitar, the song?s clear star is Antony. His lead vocal performance is bone-chilling. Reminiscent to that of the late Otis Redding, he sings: I accept and I collect upon my body, the memories of your devotion. I feel your fist. And I know it?s out of love. He shifts from a tremble to a wail ? a tempest of emotion. Antony and Reed are no strangers to one another. As a member of Reed?s band, Antony accompanied him on his 2003 world tour as a vocalist. There Antony was featured as the lead vocalist on the Velvet Underground classic "Candy Says" as well as Reed?s solo classic ?Perfect Day?. These performances are documented on Reed?s latest double-live album Animal Serenade. Antony also contributed vocals for Reed?s most recent album, The Raven.
The Lake also features two previously unreleased songs. Starting off with the spare "The Lake," on which Antony breathes new life into a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. An in-concert favorite, a live version of this song was also featured on Devendra Banhart?s Golden Apples of the Sun new folk compilation (Bastet) from earlier this year. Less orchestrated than Antony & the Johnsons? self-titled debut (recently re-released by Secretly Canadian on July 20, 2004), it shows a confidence & maturity that many fans in New York City have grown to love in his work. Closing with "Horror is Gone," Antony plays his darker imagery against a backdrop of hope.
Antony and the Johnsons: The Crying Light
Antony and the Johnson?s breakthrough second album ?I Am a Bird Now? won the UK?s prestigious Mercury Prize in 2005. The success that followed introduced many to a pioneering soul singer unafraid to explore themes that traversed darkness and light, life and death, male and female. Antony?s inimitable voice sparked the interest of artists ranging from Bjork to Hercules and Love Affair, resulting in a series of critically acclaimed collaborations. ?The Crying Light? is the highly anticipated full-length follow-up to ?I Am a Bird Now?. Here, Antony shifts the thematic focus and explores his relationship with the natural world. The intimacy of the Johnsons? sound is enveloped by avant-classical composer Nico Muhly?s symphonic arrangements. The record?s centerpiece, ?Another World? traces the singer?s dispair in the face of a vanishing landscape. Antony and the Johnsons? music bridges the gap between avant-classical music and the blues, and the band?s sold out performances have resulted in standing ovations from Carnegie Hall to the Apollo. ?The Crying Light? is a soul-stirring new work with its daring compositions and captivating vocal performances. Antony and the Johnsons have created a subtle and timely work that brings a magical and yet changing world to the forefront of our consciousness.
Antony and the Johnsons: Thank You For Your Love
In anticipation of their new album, ?Swanlights?, Antony and the Johnsons will release "Thank You For Your Love" as the first single / EP via Secretly Canadian in the US and Rough Trade in Europe and the UK. The EP will feature 4 additional non-album tracks including originals "You Are The Treasure," and "My Lord My Love" as well as a cover of Dylan's "Pressing On" and Lennon's "Imagine" in collaboration with experimental composer William Basinski. The CD will also contain the video for "Thank You For Your Love" made from archival Super 8 footage of Antony upon his first arriving in NYC in 1991, edited by David Boatman.
Antony and the Johnsons: Swanlights
Antony and the Johnsons will release their new album, “Swanlights”, on October 12th in the US via Secretly Canadian. Abrams Image will simultaneously release a special edition of “Swanlights” which will include the CD inside a 144-page art book containing Antony’s paintings, collages, photography and writing. The album only version of “Swanlights” on Secretly Canadian will also include the song “Flétta”, a duet with Bjork. The album and book are a continuation of Antony’s work exploring environmental issues and his connection to the natural world.
While “I Am a Bird Now” was arresting in its simplicity and vision and “The Crying Light” is a masterpiece of austerity, “Swanlights” may be Antony's most wide-ranging emotional work to date. It is a record that is at moments excruciating and tender, and at other times has a wicked gleam to its teeth. Musically it’s the most maximal of his work to date. Whereas on “The Crying Light”, Antony paired everything back to its most distilled and essential, on “Swanlights” the vines have become overgrown and the sound palette has become more exotic, strange percussive elements, John Cale-esque string drones, heavily distorted guitars and symphonic voicings thread the song cycle together.
“Everything is New” opens the album with subtle piano and an insistence that each moment takes its own breath and is reborn. Strings and bursts of percussion carry the melody as it soars through a cacophonous wilderness. “The title track finds us navigating a primordial and seemingly amorphous plane of expanding guitar tones and an almost Eastern influenced melody, exclaiming the elusive, magical and perhaps ominous, even dangerous majesty of "the Swanlights on the water, on that shining face". On “Thank You For Your Love”, he repeats what at first seems to be a simple sentiment and infuses it with a gradually escalating sense of urgency, breaking completely from the 4/4, Otis Redding-esque structure of the song into much more intense. over.
The book is a collection of visual art, thought-provoking dreamscapes composed of paintings, drawings, photography, collage, song lyrics, and writings. Often fragmentary images, these pieces capture liminal states and elements of the unconscious. Some images are reclaimed and reconfigured in order to transcend their previous form. The intersecting mediums inform each other and create an interesting dialogue with Antony’s music, his creative muse, and personal mythology.
“Swanlights” is the fourth Antony and the Johnsons album and the follow up to the critically acclaimed smash “The Crying Light” which topped year-end best of lists across the globe in 2009. Antony burst into the international spotlight with his second album, “I am a Bird Now”, which won the UK’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Antony and the Johnsons: s/t
Antony and the Johnsons present chamber cabaret in darkest blue, creating music that is highly dramatic, emotional, and lyrical. Compared to everyone from Nina Simone to Lotte Lenya, Antony's voice is hauntingly evocative. The Johnsons, an ensemble featuring a string trio, piano, bass and drums, lay a foundation of lush yet minimal orchestral arrangements. Antony & the Johnsons is a reissue of the group?s debut album, which was originally released in 1998 on the London-based label Durtro, which is run by David Tibet of Current 93. It was followed by the EP I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy EP, which includes a cover of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti's "Mysteries of Love." Antony accompanied Lou Reed as a part of his band on his 2003 world tour, on which Antony sang lead vocals on the Velvet Underground classic "Candy Says". It, as well as several other songs on which Antony sings back-up vocals, was documented on Reed?s latest double-live album Animal Serenade. Antony also contributed vocals for Reed?s most recent album, The Raven.
Antony and the Johnsons: I Am A Bird Now
There is a myth that great artists operate in seclusion. One need look no further than to the ten songs of Antony and the Johnsons' new album, I Am A Bird Now, to realize this is an utter fallacy. To be sure, with his androgynous features, the singularly named Antony is an original. Have you ever heard a voice like this, imbued with the transcendental emotion of the blues, yet deployed with an unadorned simplicity reminiscent of medieval music practice, and graced with a top note of childlike wonder? Or songs that blur distinctions of gender and identity, yet which still summon up such powerful feelings: longing, love, lust, loss? No. Because Antony is one-of-a-kind. But he is certainly not alone. We are proud to present you with a record filled with one of the most gifted voices heard in a long time. Antony's vocals are almost inhuman, coming together to compile a creature that's as beautiful and enigmatic as the Peter Hujar photo, Candy Darling on Her Deathbed, that graces its cover. The lead-off single to I Am A Bird Now, "Fistful of Love" is perhaps Antony & the Johnsons' finest work to date. It features a scorching horn section and subcultural icon Lou Reed on vocals and searing lead guitar. In the tradition of subversive soul classics The Crystals' "He Hit me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)" and Millie Jackson's "Hurts So Good," Antony sings this ode to getting the shit kicked out of you and learning to love every minute of it. The complex emotional undertow of this track reaches a cathartic roar by the song?s finale. Antony shifts from a tremble to a wail ? a tempest of emotion. I Am A Bird Now also includes contributions from friends Boy George (duet with Antony on "You Are My Sister"), Devandra Banhart (vocals on "Spiralling"), and Rufus Wainright (lead vocals on "What Can I Do").