Angel-Ho, “Woman Call”
By Lorena Cupcake · April 20, 2020

Angel-Ho’s second album Woman Call is her most powerful pop statement yet, her sound stripped back to propulsive beats while retaining the experimental extravagance that’s defined her career. She draws inspiration from the queer history of house, dance, and electronic music to create tracks for “serving face in linen and lace” while cameras (real or imagined) follow every move.

It’s an evolution from her work for NON Records; those abrasive and fragmented early releases are shredded into layers by the sounds of broken glass, bullets, and industrial machinery, speaking to the racism she witnessed and experienced as a young Black performance artist growing up in Cape Town, South Africa. Against that backdrop, the album’s themes of confidence and transfeminine empowerment are not just aspirational—they’re political. “I don’t see luxury as wealth,” she said in a 2019 interview. Instead, it’s “something that is created by your own self and your own sense of expression”—like the time she whipped licorice-black trash bags into a glossy couture ensemble for a photoshoot, reminding her Instagram followers that “you don’t need money to be a star.”

The energetic opening track “Fame” remixes lyrics from “Muse to You” to introduce us to a futuristic world of fashion. Valerio chants robotically one moment, raps the next, then coaxes us to “Work for the camera, darling,” in a seductive purr. On “Spell on You,” her voice is “sweet as pie” as she reworks bluesman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’s famous words over funky bass and warm, analog saxophone. The range displayed by the self-produced tracks shows the breadth of her talents. “Rewind” allows her regal voice to take center stage as snare and bass drum thud in the background, providing less structure than texture. On the other hand, “Golden” is a frothy big band fantasy, beginning with synthesized stabs of horn and a glamorous announcement: “Welcome to the Angel-Ho Band! We are pleased to bring you this extravaganza.”

Valerio’s choice of words references the New York-based House of Xtravaganza, just one of many nods to ballroom culture throughout in her oeuvre. In the video for “Pose,” a song off her  Hyperdub debut album, Death Becomes Her, the tap of a makeup brush activates a digital heads-up display. It’s a reminder that the glamour she chooses to embody isn’t merely performance; it’s the lens through which she views the world.

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