“I’m a witch,” Antony Hegarty declares, “I actually de-baptized myself.” Such observations in the speech “Future Feminism” are not what you’d find on most live albums. But then again, Hegarty is not just any old performer. Antony and the Johnsons performed with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in late 2011, and the resulting album, recorded over a couple of nights, is a stunning vision into Hegarty’s world as an artist.
As a transgender artist, Hegarty straddles many barriers. Likewise, this album combines chamber pop with classical music to create gorgeous results. On “Cripple and the Starfish,” Hegarty’s voice trills with enough emotion to make it sound as delicate as the accompanying flute. On the more delicate, melodic songs, such as “Rapture,” everything flows together to sound as precise as the movements of a musical play.
But the songs that are a bit creepier likewise benefit from the orchestral augmentation. “I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy” may have spooky lyrics, but the song is filled with such longing and sadness that it becomes easy to relate to. Likewise, the way the strings soar on “Twilight” gives the closing track an urgency that goes beyond what mere lyrics can.
The normal intensity of Hegarty’s music is perfectly suited to being joined by a symphony, and the end result is not disappointing. Cut the World is a nuanced, brilliantly arranged album that is a treat for those who are not even normal listeners of Antony and the Johnsons.