➤ ANGEL-HO, from p.24 a buzzing hive of bees; singing actual words seems beside the point. “Good Friday Daddy,” on which she’s joined by singer Queezy, takes this in an overtly feminist direction without becoming a conventional protest song. Angel-Ho layers anguished voices repeating “good Friday Daddy” and “it’s Daddy” five or six thick, with a sinister implication quite clear from their tone, as well as the screeching synthesizers, sudden leaps in volume, and a stop-and-start beat. While the song doesn’t spell this out explicitly, it’s hard to avoid both its hints of incest and “daddy” in a general sense of overbearing patriarchy. The production on these songs makes it clear how much pain lies behind the pleasure described by their lyrics. Angel-Ho presents herself as a glamorous star — a “trans goddess,” in her words — but she keeps the seams of her music visible and makes it obvious that she’s enacting a persona. Her lyrics are strewn with quotes and pop culture references: Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Lil’ Kim, Spears, Marilyn Monroe, “V For Vendetta.” But if minority artists are frequently called to make explicitly autobiographical work commodifying a traumatic
➤ ELEPHANT, from p.24 European communism would never improve its characters’ lives and only make them susceptible to false prophets, “An Elephant Sitting Still” begins with a sense of emptiness, taken as the norm for contemporary China (or just modern life as a whole), and gets darker from there. The film takes place on one eventful day, cutting back and forth between four main characters whose lives intersect. High school student Wei Bu (Yuchang Peng) runs away after he throws a bully down the stairs, which results in injuries. He’s enamored of a fellow student, Huang Ling (Uvin Wang), who is dating the school’s vice principal. Petty gangster Yu Cheng (Yu Zhang) sees his friend commit suicide by jumping out of a window. To make matters worse, he’s had sex with his friend’s wife. Sixty-year-old Wang Lin (Congxi Li) decides to resist his son’s effort GayCityNews.nyc | February 28 - March 13, 2019
past, “Death Becomes Her” resists that. If the album’s aesthetic is born out of experiences of violence, she doesn’t refer directly to them. Angel-Ho has her own personality and her sound is marked by her strong South African accent, but the album has similarities to two of the strongest 2018 albums released by LGBTQ musicians, Yves Tumor’s “Safe in the Hands of Love” and SOPHIE’s “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.” Like them, it tries to create a sound that’s both noisy and accessible in order to express a desire for comfort and figure out how to build a healthy identity in a world that regards queer people with contempt. The album’s sequencing is well thought-out, going back and forth between instrumentals and more pop-oriented songs. She finds inspiration in a lot of hip-hop tropes, even references to fashion and beauty that are often dismissed as shallow materialism, but proud trans women have been shut out of the genre’s mainstream. “Death Becomes Her” locates something subversive in achieving a joy that cisgender people take for granted.
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ANGEL-HO | “Death Becomes Her” | Hyperdub | Drops Mar. 1 | hyperdub.net
to send him to a nursing home and joins Wei and Huang as they prepare for a bus trip to the northern city of Manzhouli. That destination represents something beyond a physical escape, even if that becomes increasingly urgent — the legend Wei has heard about an elephant in that city’s circus who sits still, immune to pain and ignoring the world around him, becomes the only symbol of hope these characters have. I’ve waited this long to mention the fact that Hu committed suicide in 2017, while “An Elephant Sitting Still” was in post-production because I don’t want to romanticize it via the myth that it lends authenticity to his film’s grimness. (Someone on Letterboxd called it “a cry for help,” which is awfully reductive.) Any 29-year-old man’s suicide is tragic. His film shows that he was a great talent who
➤ ELEPHANT, continued on p.28
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February 28, 2019