Words by Ed King / Pics by Katja Ogrin – taken at The Glee Club for Birmingham Review
On Friday 9th June, Ani DiFranco releases her latest studio album, Binary – out on Righteous Babe Records and Aveline Records.
Touring the UK, Ani DiFranco will be performing at the Birmingham Town Hall on 30th June. Doors open at 7:30pm, with tickets priced at £28 (+booking fee) – for direct gig info, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.
Ani DiFranco’s twentieth solo studio album… just let that sink in for a while, Binary is rooted in the principle ‘that nothing can truly exist except in relationship with something else.’ As Flaubert propagated, truth is just an individual’s perception of the subject. So we’re all right and all wrong. Kinda.
Galvanized by the seesaw co-dependency of most modern democracies, Ani DiFrancio has given Big ‘P’ politics an unashamed spotlight on her latest LP – turning her attention to the machinations and administrations that control everything from foreign policy to what a woman can do with her body (check the video to ‘Play God’ below). None of these topics are ever off the table with DiFranco, but the shift that Binary makes is about being more than just a personal context – and this, to a member of the post Pax Britannica generation, self publishing on the day a duel of fear and anger filled rhetoric ended in a hung parliament, feels like a pertinent move.
The title track opens the album and outlines this concept, with some Latin beat percussion to hold your hand along the way (I think Maceo Parker is in there too but I haven’t got an inlay card to check). Next up the six string story returns with ‘Pacifist’s Lament’, as DiFranco and a subtle horn section implore us to “stop in the middle of a battle and say you’re sorry” and not run to the solitary ideology of our “prime evil caves”. Love your neighbor, I guess. Even when you don’t like the colour of their pin badge.
There’s some beautiful production on Binary as a whole, with the ‘Little Folksinger’ of albums past embracing a wider ensemble for a much richer sound. Nothing new with this (circa Knuckle Down, at least) and whilst I’ll always be a fan of the raw edge this recording room maturity gives weight to the message Binary is delivering. And track three, the dreamlike ‘Zizzing’, reminds me of The Velvet Underground’s outtake homage to the big blue… never a bad thing. That and our responsibility to (and culpability for) the ever crumbling world.
The problem with politics defining an album, is just that; at best you sound like a garrulous soapbox, at worst you give birth to a one sided manifesto that has no recourse for debate. Most land in the middle.
But what DiFranco has done with Binary is healthier – challenging the predisposition that one side is ever right in absolute and championing the call, even need, for collaborative evolution. To quote the title track: “Consciousness is binary, consciousness is spinning. Consciousness is a circuit when consciousness is winning”. Be they thoughts or mandates, be they liberal or conservative (small caps), if you only listen to one voice then you are pandering to autocracy. It’s that simple.
So Binary is an album that everyone can enjoy, or appreciate, or at least sink their DiFranco dentures into; wherever you want to shove the Electoral College or Northern Ireland Assembly, there’s a seat at this table.
What you make of Binary musically is, of course, up to you. As it should be; as it needs to be. But honestly I’ve only had a chance to listen to the album a few times and would need more plays to make an informed declaration.
Although, in my opinion…
‘Play God’ – Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco releases Binary on 9th June, through Righteous Babe Records and Aveline Records. Ani DiFranco will be performing at the Birmingham Town Hall on 30th June – for direct gig info, click here.
For more on Ani DiFranco and the wider Righteous Babe roster, visit www.righteousbabe.com
For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk