The New Yorker - USA (2022-01-31)

(Antfer) #1


As ever, it’s advisable to confirm engagements
in advance and to check the requirements for
in-person attendance.




Earl Sweatshirt: “Sick!”
HIP-HOP In recent years, the rapper Thebe Kgo­
sitsile, who performs as Earl Sweatshirt, has
tried to reassess the music of his youth in an at­
tempt to reincarnate himself. An artist since his
teens—as a prominent member of the collective
Odd Future—Kgositsile and his songs of self­ex­
amination have grown more and more cryptic.
His latest album, “Sick!,” reflects his position
as a twentysomething veteran who has already
endured several career transitions, but it is also
a calculated pivot into being more listenable—
his previous record, “Feet of Clay,” was nearly
impenetrable. These verses are punchy and an­
ecdotal, among his most brisk and clearheaded.
Before the pandemic, he’d planned to release
an album based on “The People Could Fly,”
a 1985 book of Black folktales. Then COVID
and the lockdown hit. “Sick!,” with its coiling
production from the Alchemist and Black Noi$e,
is a reflection of the atmosphere. Kgositsile
knows a thing or two about isolating—in 2015,
he released an album called “I Don’t Like Shit,
I Don’t Go Outside”—but this music is more
fidgety than closed off, eager to come up for air.
Kgositsile, now a dad, learns poise, patience,
and transparency, pushing through the cabin­
fever­induced disquietude.—Sheldon Pearce
(Streaming on select platforms.)

Jake Xerxes Fussell:
“Good and Green Again”
FOLK Untold artists perform nominal folk music.
Jake Xerxes Fussell is the rare contemporary
to approach folk in its pure form, shunning
self­penned compositions about bummer re­
lationships to concentrate on material handed
down from bygone, hardened times. The North
Carolina singer is the son of a folklorist—as a
teen, he got to play guitar with the blueswoman
Precious Bryant—and he approaches his source
material with an intuitive ease. On his fourth
album, “Good and Green Again,” Fussell and the
producer James Elkington avoid a period pose,
casting songs in lush arrangements that belong
to the modern indie landscape. (Bonnie “Prince”
Billy even shows up in the background.) The
most dramatic shift is emotional. With their
funny banjos and old­timey voices, folk artists
of yore could read as chipper even when singing
of shipwreck or famine. A creature of his own
time, Fussell sounds unfailingly downcast.—Jay
Ruttenberg (Streaming on select platforms.)

Jlin: “Embryo”
ELECTRONIC The Gary, Indiana, electronic pro­
ducer Jlin makes sharp, antic dance tracks
that travel fleetly even as they are encrusted
in detail. Her new four­song EP, “Embryo,”
moves away from complex rhythms of foot­
work, the Chicago­rooted style in which Jlin
made her name, and into straighter techno
beats, but even those are far from straight­
forward. Tricky turnarounds and jumping
cross­patterns remain the norm. Even when
she slows the tempo, as on the EP’s finale,

“Rabbit Hole,” the pulse remains dauntingly
alert. It seems to breathe autonomously, par­
ticularly striking for music made with ma­
chines—as heady as bebop.—Michaelangelo
Matos (Streaming on select platforms.)

“Soldier Songs”
CLASSICAL Opera Philadelphia’s film of DavidT.
Little’s 2006 monodrama, “Soldier Songs,”
is up for Best Opera Recording at this year’s
Grammys—further proof, if any were needed,
that the company’s streaming channel is one
of the most successful pandemic pivots among
American opera presenters. Incorporating the
composer’s conversations with six war veterans,
the opera sketches out, in brutal if oversim­
plified fashion, the way in which video games
and action figures condition young men for
service. The baritone Johnathan McCullough
directs, and he also stars, as a veteran who,
addled by P.T.S.D., has squirrelled himself
away in a trailer in an open field. Little’s score,
a mélange of chamber and rock music, is most
riveting as sound design, interweaving inter­
view audio with ominous musical touches.
Without the immediacy of live performance,
the classically sung passages sound aloof, but
McCullough’s expressive Everyman makes the
film of a piece.—Oussama Zahr (Available as a
rental or as part of a subscription.)

“2 Blues for Cecil”
JAZZ A tribute to the iconoclastic free­jazz pi­
anist Cecil Taylor wouldn’t usually forgo the
piano, much less feature two discernible blues
recordings and a reading of a standard (“My
Funny Valentine”), but these three alumni of
Taylor’s collaborative ensembles—the bassist
William Parker, the drummer Andrew Cyrille,
and the flügelhornist Enrico Rava—recognize
that defying expectations may be the most honest
way of honoring Taylor’s vision of improvisation.
If the performances are somewhat contained,

at times swinging in a distinctly less Cecilian
manner, so be it; these compelling pieces confirm
that Taylor’s message of personal expression
speaks to those who still hear it.—Steve Futter-
man (Streaming on select platforms.)

In 2019, the English singer and pro-
ducer FKA Twigs released her second
album, “Magdalene,” a breathtaking,
voice-driven electronic-pop aria inspired
by heartbreak. After the first COVID
lockdown in the U.K., she feared she
might be done making music, but she
found restoration, and collaboration,
in connecting with others—confidants
and colleagues. Her new mixtape,
“Caprisongs,” finds freedom from sol-
itude in using field recordings as sound
design. Produced by Twigs with El
Guincho, the project is jubilant and ex-
ploratory, scanning Afro-pop, hymnals,
club music, alt-R. & B., road rap, and
even sound bites. Notable U.K. under-
ground artists chime in on a sweeping
mix, but the project feels most intimate
when her songs are in conversation
with her close friends.—Sheldon Pearce




“Inspiring Walt Disney” 
What explains the lasting wonderment of French
rococo, the theatrically frivolous, flauntingly
costly mode in art and décor that flourished
in mid­eighteenth­century aristocratic circles
before being squelched utterly by the Revolution
of 1789? And why did that bedazzling visual
repertoire recur in twentieth­ century America
as a species of imitation art—kitsch, in a word,
although managed with undoubtable genius—in
the animated films of Walt Disney? This fun
show at the Met answers those questions by
conjoining the pleasures of authentically frou­
frou historical objects, mostly from the muse­
um’s collection, with their style’s application
in production drawings and video clips from
Disney movies. The films include an early short,
from 1934, called “The China Shop,” in which
porcelain figurines have come to life and are
prettily dancing minuets; two classics of the
nineteen­fifties, “Cinderella” and “Sleeping
Beauty”; and, forming the pièce de résistance, an
extravaganza in which atavistic pottery and can­
dlesticks and clocks athletically celebrate a ro­
mance for their owner in “Beauty and the Beast,”
from 1991. Disney steered his studio to exploit
rococo’s gratuitous swank, emulating the feck­
less hedonism of the court of LouisXV while
chastely suppressing its frequent eroticism.
The language of antic curlicues, increasingly
abstracted from film to film, blended smoothly
into the insouciance of Disney’s fairyland fan­
tasies: escapist worlds, complete in themselves.
Though thoroughly secular, like his nostalgic
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