angel-ho’s ‘death becomes her’ is everything
By Nathan Leigh
March 8, 2019
Early on in my journey through queerness, I hit a conundrum: if we’re trying to dismantle the boundaries around gender and sexuality, why are we all getting down to the most boring possible warmed over house music? We need music that’s as transgressive, challenging, thrilling, and earth-shaking as we are. Enter Angel-Ho, the South African trans electronic music visionary.
Angel-Ho’s spellbinding new record, Death Becomes Her, is an album fixated on living in the face mortality. Fitting for an artist who described her work as “using sound as their medium to articulate the recurring violence on non-white bodies.” Album highlights like “Live” flip the detritus of pop culture into defiant stances: “ha ha ha I’m staying alive.” While “Muse To You” overcomes the trauma inflicted daily on queer bodies, to be able to exist on ones own terms: “No longer beaten and abused / You are the girl who paid her dues / You are the muse.”
The songs vary from ambient fractured soundscapes to hip-hop to more industrial looks. It’s a kaleidoscope, constantly re-configuring itself; here it’s abstract, here it’s danceable. But in the best moments, it’s both. Opening track “Business” telescopes out from an intoxicating groove to an overwhelming cascade of vocals, before scaling back again, never giving you time to clock the journey. “Pose” puts the vocals front and center, teasing a subterranean beat buried down in the mantle. The tension is exhilarating; the rare song that’s as rewarding on the dance floor as it is in your headphones.
The multi-timbrel vocals in “Bussy” hover above earthquake drums. You can almost hear the gender binary shatter beneath the weight of the distorted kick. “Baby Tee” makes the best use of a guest vocal on the record, with K-$ preaching consent and healthy boundaries before declaring themselves, in what may be the finest lyric 2019 has to offer a “dysphoria warrior.”
Death Becomes Her closes with the stunning “Parachute,” a noise collage that’s at once jagged and beautiful. It’s a shattered mirror. Sounds range from contorted strings to delicate washes of noises, pounding timpani insist on the soundscape and are subsumed. The whole thing evaporates. Don’t forget to breathe before you play it again.
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