ANGEL-HO Death Drop From Heaven

[NON; 2015]

Styles: uncanny, bass music, death mix, non-binary
Others: Arca, Venus X, Dope Saint Jude, E+E, Crazy 3

NON Records comprises “African artists, and of the diaspora,” working in directions to challenge the contemporary (“boring/stifling/binary”) dance music canon. Cape Town artist Angelo Antonio Valerio comprises 1/3 of NON’s founders, whose work as ANGEL-HO is interwoven nicely on the arresting Death Drop From Heaven through a visceral brickwall mixdown. The whole thing, an exhausting 27-minute mix of unpretentious explosions and hyperactive staging, courses through the pulse of contemporary electronic music. But it does so divisively, deliberately outside of it, a destructive, fierce spatialization. ANGEL-HO’s music, making up a good portion of this mix, offers one of the more distinct approaches to sound-shaping in 2015, a hybridization of newly developed sonic wizardy and thick kick drums, delivered with noticeable rudeness ~

More than that though, ANGEL-HO’s particular, shifting sound serves as a kind of narrative bridge between these eclectic African artists, who seek new styles outside the stingy genre barriers. It is deconstructive, mood-killing work in places, but it adheres to intrinsic rules of rhythm; when the song falls off an edge, there’s always a snare to catch it. As much as I can pin it to one sound or another, it doesn’t feel appropriate; the main appeal of this 27-minute mix is the uncanny. Non-traditional music? Non-genre? Not quite, but it’s NON music. It refuses to engage with modern notions of club music (except insofar as it’s already dictating them re: Arca) and pointless, codified, and troublesome terms like “African music.” As in, this kinda sounds like something, sure. But as much as this kinda sounds like something, it’s more not anything, specifically. It is cerebral to a fault, even when it is harshing all the vibes up over-playing the “glass shatter” sound ~

The mix opens strong with “Boys Of Armageddon,” rattling hand drums and frightened horns signaling fire raining down; literal pyrotechnics. It’s the work of the unresearchable Crazy 3, a group who made the song as part of a soundtrack for a Nigerian action film, a low-budget Nollywood flick. Here, it introduces the whole shebang like the fever dream of a dictator. Removed from its visual context, “Boys Of Armageddon” takes up a flurry of associations. Something religious, heralding, but acerbic, offput by sssllluuurrrppps left over from the movie’s title credits ~

Much of Death Drop emerges like a commitment to a serious presentation: the insistent pulse of a bass wave, deep in the uncanny valley, skeleton bones striking on cave rocks, an epic in the making. Arca’s “Bullet Chained” is an easy sticking point for virgin ears. Things build up and collide. Suddenly, the white noise fades off, and it feels like there’s so little underneath, just someone clicking a mouse. This is all fake. Fireworks and spooky skeletons. Then: Venus X’s repeated “beautiful” and some silvery percussion and a car passing. Sounds that don’t sound like they should sound good together start sounding together. Like actual friction throughout the songs. Patches of klaxons and mute trumpets twist along to typewriter-reset beatwork. Extracts of culture, absent of conditioning, weave in and out of recognizable forms. Gorgeous repetitions of good samples. Death and dying. Male laughter ~

At its best (that “CUNTY HORSE” remix), Death Drop feels like emerging new magics. Over chintzy radio compression, into windblown noise and out of a breathing cavern, these songs careen through their concepts, unforgiving to the uninitiated. Death Drop is a highlight reel of potential from like-minded artists who share the same kind of combustible nonchalance about their work. ANGEL-HO’s expertise is clearly in forcing difficult, counter-intuitive productions into being and making it better than you could ever expect. Arca nailed the “car’s subwoofer distortion” effect. The heavenly kin are adept at configuring precise, stunning forms of “what was that” out of whatever trashy frequencies they feel like and using the leftovers as fuel for the next thing ~



Easy listening music. As in, it’s been worked over again and again, so it’s easy to consume, or “get,” with a little discerning patience. The artful contrasts, the spectacle, the closeness, the way everything sounds raw and exposed but familiar. A few years ago, this would have seemed too exaggerated, too coarse for consumption, too abstract. But innovation creeps into the spaces people forget about. It goes there and does what seems most obvious, and it gets better at it. Look at it linguistically. Slang evolves from ease of use. It seems brusque because it’s a desire path, cut by a producer from brain to machine, to make a kind of sense in need. Subwoofer distortion is meta. It’s mimicry ~

Some critical observations: while great in the parts that are great, NON’s oeuvre can also be bonkers, hyperactive, inner-ear depressurizing-pop dynamic weirdness, like the loudness war ate itself and began regurgitating all this broken glass everywhere. The production is sharp and crisp, but caustic, unclear, so it’s alien. With a lot of reverb abuse. It prickles and scrapes and bombs. It’s tech-heavy. It’s hyperactive, easily bored, easily discarded stuff. Like fireworks. It gets super-present with saturation and then super into its own deconstruction. ANGEL-HO likes the thinness of basic samples, likes to play them in a small cave, likes to predict the moment you start to adapt, and counters with a gunshot loop ~

It’s the uncanny sensation of unreality, of being unknown, of being out of your element. As in, I don’t dance. Or, I dance, but I don’t relate. I understand the ease of slang, but hearing this entire new language at once is hard for me. I acquiesce to the possibility this might be the future. Language evolves. Maybe it makes sense, but not a specific sense. Maybe it’s more about the idea and if it works. Maybe I can dance about it and not think about it so much ~

Links: ANGEL-HO - NON

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