PARADISE by ANOHNI
Genre: Electropop, Art Pop
Favorite Tracks: “In My Dreams,” “Paradise”
PARADISE is a project that involves some of the most influential artists in indie, trap, and drone music, with Hudson Mohawke (Ross Birchard) and Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) exclusively handling production behind Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. While this is certainly an unexpected and impressive collective of collaborators, the project is ultimately crippled by the diverse sounds of its contributors, which never manage to coalesce.
On paper, this lineup seems to be one of the most masterful groups making music at the moment, featuring three virtuoso artists who have helped to influence and even create the genres they fall into. Instrumentally, the album is reminiscent of Bjork: elegant and minimal, while still being eccentric and difficult to pigeonhole. With the contrasting styles of Birchard and Lopatin at play, PARADISE is often challenging to follow in a way that is technically impressive. However, the album being so arduous can also make it difficult to appreciate, much like Lopatin’s work under the aforementioned moniker. At the end of the day, what holds PARADISE back is the fact that it consistently sounds like each artist wrote different sections of the album without consulting with the others. A prime example of this is the track “Jesus Will Kill You,” which sounds like a hodgepodge of each collaborator’s trademark style, without care put into complementing the diverse sounds.
Though having two well regarded producers working on the project establishes a lot of potential for cutting edge production, it surprisingly often falls flat. At times PARADISE’s production is so lackluster that it comes across as if it were created by someone with little experience behind the boards. “You Are My Enemy” is a prime example of this. The track is ambient and minimal, but not satisfying. Instead, it is simply bland and hard to get through.
The instrumentals also work poorly alongside Hegarty’s unique and already abrasive vocal style, which at times sounds like a mix between Björk and Rick Astley. “Ricochet” is a prime example of this eclectic delivery. At its climax, the vocals and the instrumental work together to sound like an esoteric “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and while it is undeniably innovative, it is also just not that accessible.
There’s no way around the fact that PARADISE falls incredibly short of its predecessor HOPELESSNESS, and even shorter of the work of Antony and the Johnsons. It sacrifices all pop appeal in favor of ANOHNI’s already droning and laborious tendencies. While HOPELESSNESS presented a wearisome yet engaging listen, PARADISE is simply a drag. Hegarty’s more welcoming characteristics don’t shine through, making it clear that pretension was prioritized in the writing and recording process, causing the album to sound overtly ostentatious, as opposed to the more subtle tendencies of the singer’s past.
Enjoyment is ultimately the purpose of music, even when experimental. PARADISE does not appeal to the average listener, and is likely to not even appeal to ANOHNI’s niche fanbase, as the most impressive moments are often the least traditionally meritable. Though each of the voices on PARADISE should be individually praised, the EP often feels like it relies too heavily on the names of its members as a way to justify an exclusionary approach to songwriting. For genuine fans of left field music, PARADISE is a worthwhile listen, but for the uninitiated, the project can be avoided.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend