You need to hear crushed, the LA duo reimagining lush 90s dream-pop

Ahead of the release of their debut EP extra life, the duo discuss inspirations, secret enemies and their worst nightmares

crushed, in all the best ways, sound like your favourite song from a mid-90’s coming-of-age movie – something that makes complete sense when lead singer Bre Morell explains the band’s initial inspirations. “We said we should make a band that sounds like Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’,” she says over Zoom. The band’s new EP extra life (out February 10) serves as a fitting tribute to some of the finest pop tunes of the 1990s: lead single and standout track “waterlily” merges a trip-hop drum loop, aqueous guitar lines reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins, and chord progressions straight out of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. The rest of extra life showcases a knack for crafting transcendent, melancholy alt-pop layered against lush soundscapes. 

The duo came together in what turned out to be a “full circle moment”, according to vocalist Shaun Durkan. Having both been fans of each other’s work in previous bands [Soft Kill and Temple of Angels], Durkan got in touch with Morell to collaborate. “The thing that really stood out to me was her voice,” he tells Dazed. “I had a lot of song ideas, and things that I couldn’t do with the other bands that I was in, so I reached out.” We caught up with the band to talk about their inspirations, secret enemies and favourite artists.

Hey! I thought extra life was so great – how did you guys find the process of writing and recording your debut EP?

Bre Morell: What’s funny about these songs is that when Shaun and I wrote and recorded most of them, we hadn’t even met in person before. It came together with him in Portland and me being in LA. We had already written a handful of songs before we even met, we were just literally just talking online. We were just sending stuff back and forth, which was new for both of us.

What inspired the album, outside of musical sources?

Shaun Durkan: There are a lot of samples on the EP – we both play a lot of video games and so that informed a lot of it. We were absolutely obsessed with playing Elden Ring at the time we were writing and recording this – we probably talked 90 per cent about Elden Ring and then 10 per cent about the music when we were making the EP.

Bre Morell: Stardew Valley is another game that we started talking about before we even started writing music, we both really love that game. We included samples from both of those games in the songs, too. 

How would you describe your sound?

Shaun Durkan: It’s hard to say because I think a lot of the music has this atmosphere that can be dark but romantic. It also has an optimistic and hopeful spirit to a lot of it.

Bre Morell: The meme Shaun made [see below] was perfect, that’s our answer. My two huge genres are Britpop and trip-hop. I feel like crushed intersects both things pretty well – it’s the lighter, fun poppier side of trip-hop like Sneaker Pimps, who I love a lot. I’ve always wanted to do a project like that, and I feel like we’re able to lean into that a bit here.

What adjective would you least like to be described as?

Bre Morell: The first thing that comes to my head is shoegaze. Also boring, I wouldn’t want to be called boring.

Shaun Durkan Retro.

Who is your nemesis?

Shaun Durkan: I can’t name them but I think I have one enemy; I made my first enemy this year. It’s an interesting and weird experience. Maybe I’ve been other people’s enemies and I just didn’t know it, but this is a very almost comic book-level rival. I can’t reveal the name.

Bre Morell: It would be sick if we did – they know who they are. They’re definitely gonna see this and read it.

If you could only listen to one musician for the rest of your life who would it be?

Shaun Durkan: First thing that comes to mind is My Bloody Valentine or also Kevin Shields’ soundtrack work – basically anything that Kevin Shields makes. 

Bre Morell: The person who comes to mind for me is the person with the shortest discography: Jeff Buckley. I’ve pretty much been listening to Grace on repeat for 15 years. If I went for a longer discography, I feel almost the same way about Radiohead. If I wanted to be a little bit smarter, I might choose Radiohead but I could go either way. I could listen to Grace for the rest of my life and nothing else and I’d be perfectly happy.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Bre Morell: I could just spend forever looking at stupid stuff on eBay that I’ll never buy, particularly Parappa the Rapper merchandise from the 90s that’s only available in Japan. I have a whole folder of saved shit that I’ll never buy, but I just enjoy looking at it.

Shaun Durkan: It’s usually just whatever video game I’m playing, I’m looking up whatever I can find about it on Reddit. 

You encounter a hostile alien race and sound is their only mechanism for communication. What song would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

Bre Morell: I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to be weird, but Shaun can vouch because I make everyone listen to this shit: it’s the Bulgarian Women’s State choir, the song is “Kalimankou Denkou”. It sounds like a good song to play for an alien. If you listen to it, I don’t know if you know it, but it’s such an incredibly beautiful song. Please listen to it, it’s so crazy. You’ll understand when you hear it – you’ll be like yeah, aliens would probably dig this.

Shaun Durkan: Aliens would love “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik, it would soothe them!

extra life is out February 10 

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Opera by Haitian-Canadian composer to premiere during Black History Month: Collaboration between David Bontemps and the OCM | Arts

When 44-year-old Haitian-Canadian composer David Bontemps was told in the summer of 2020 that the Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM), then led by the late Boris Brott, wanted to produce his first chamber opera, La Flambeau, he was more than thankful.  That the work will premiere next Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Salle Pierre Mercure during Black History Month is an added bonus.

“I feel very privileged and humbled to just have my opera produced, because there are so many composers that have written major works that never had the chance to be presented to the public,” said Bontemps. “The opportunity to have it first presented in the city where I live is a big honour.”

Born in Port-au-Prince, Bontemps moved to Montreal in 2002, where he was quickly recognized by his peers. He has since written and recorded several albums and has received working grants from the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec and the Canada Council for the Arts

His opera is based on the 2014 award-winning play of the same name by his friend, Faubert Bolivar. The two former Port-au-Prince schoolmates have known each other for years and continued to follow each other’s careers as they took different paths, Bolivar as a teacher, writer, poet and dramaturge and Bontemps as a pianist and composer. 

Cameroonian-born soprano Suzanne Taffot, Canadian mezzo soprano Catherine Daniel, and Jamaican Canadian tenor Paul Williamson.

“He sent me his book in 2014 and when I read it I knew I had to write an opera based on it, but I never had the time or the opportunity. It was only in 2020, during the first pandemic lockdown, that I found the time and I wrote it in five weeks,” Bontemps explained during our recent interview.

Steeped in Haitian lore and West African mythology, La Flambeau is a critique of misogyny, corruption and the abuse of power. It tells the story of a dysfunctional couple, Monsieur (a narcissistic, ambitious and idealistic intellectual), Madame (who talks to her dead parents), and their working-class housekeeper, Mademoiselle. Violating his own principles, Monsieur rapes Mademoiselle. After a surreal trial, the corrupt elitist, who cloaks himself in virtue to subjugate the disadvantaged, confesses, and is subjected to a form of mob justice and turned into a zombie in service to his community.

Bontemps says he loves the story because it touches many aspects of pluralism, including language (Haiti’s divide between French and Creole speakers), class, education, as well as justice and belief systems — Western Christianity vs. the demonized West African-inspired Voodoo that some still manage to maintain and preserve. “But mainly, it’s about respecting everyone and observing that a society that is without respect and love is just a crazy, crazy place — a real dystopia.”

Like the play, Bontemps says his musical compositions both blend and contrast European classical music with Afro-Caribbean as well as traditional African rhythms, melodies and harmonies.

American bass Brandon Coleman, Montreal actress and director Mariah Inger, and Maestro Alain Trudel.

His 80-minute opera — sung in French, with short passages in Haitian Creole — is scored for four singers, a string orchestra and maracas. Conducted by Maestro Alain Trudel, the cast features Cameroonian-born soprano Suzanne Taffot, Canadian mezzo soprano Catherine Daniel, Jamaican Canadian tenor Paul Williamson, and American bass Brandon Coleman, with stage direction by Montreal actress and director Mariah Inger.

Maestro Brott, who at age 78 was killed on April 5, 2022, in a hit-and-run in Hamilton, Ontario, left his mark on the final product. “We had the chance to have a workshop in September 2021 with him, so the score has a lot of his recommendations and his influence is there somewhere. Unfortunately, he won’t conduct it although he said he really liked the music,” said Bontemps, adding, “But I’m very lucky to have Alain Trudel, a long-time friend of Boris.”

Salle Pierre Mercure in L’Université du Québec à Montréal is located at 300 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E. For tickets and information, visit

OSU alumna to receive Women in Arts award | News

By CNHI Oklahoma

STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma artist Anita Fields has been selected to receive the Women in the Arts Recognition Award from the Cimarron Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Fields, a member of the Osage and Muscogee tribes, is noted for her clay and textile arts that reflect her native Osage culture. She was born in Oklahoma and is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. The Cimarron Chapter — located in Stillwater, in partnership with the OSU Museum of Art — nominated Fields for this award.

An award ceremony and reception will be 5-7 p.m. Jan. 19, at the OSU Museum of Art.

The Women in the Arts Recognition Award recognizes women for outstanding achievements in the non-performance arts, including fiber arts, fine arts, sculpture, music composition, literature and drama authorship, jewelry, metalwork, decorative painting and pottery. Recipients of the award demonstrate an outstanding contribution to their artistic field beyond mastery of technique. This may include innovative design work, featured exhibitions, publication, research and technique development. The criteria for this award are strict, and not all nominations are successful.

“Fields’ resume features an extensive list of exhibitions, publications and highly-coveted artist residencies for which she has been invited to participate,” Vicky Berry, OSU Museum of Art director said. “As an Osage textile and ceramic artist, she portrays her cultural influences through her highly textured and layered works. In addition to her work as an artist, Anita is recognized as an advocate for the Osage community and is an accomplished and highly sought-after teaching artist. Fields’ achievements are well-deserving of such an award.”

Her work can be found in several collections, such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Art and Design, New York City; Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, N.M.; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark.; Heard Museum, Phoenix; and the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

‘Tár’ Has an Answer to Art’s Toughest Question

This story contains major spoilers for Tár.

As someone who writes about art and artists for a living, I confess that I find no question more exhausting than “Can we separate the art from the artist?” The only good answer is a frustrating one: “It depends.” So I went into Tár, Todd Field’s acclaimed movie starring Cate Blanchett, with some dread. The film, which follows a fictional famed classical-music conductor who’s subjected to public shaming, has been hyped as asking difficult questions and celebrating ambiguity. The premise seems designed to win Oscar campaigns and ruin dinner parties, restarting old arguments without resolving them.

Yet Tár’s mostly riveting two-and-a-half-hour saga turned out to be oddly clarifying. The film does tell its story in an elliptical, at times confounding way, but that stylistic choice shouldn’t be mistaken for moral indecision. Field ends up making a fierce case that creator and creation usually can’t be separated—and has a sharp, surprising take on what happens when they are.

The accented anagram of the film’s title hints at Field’s first mission: getting inside the definitions of art and artist. When we meet Blanchett’s character, Lydia Tár, she is speaking at the New Yorker Festival and has reached the pinnacle of her profession. As her onstage interviewer points out, this means she does more than conduct: She’s also a teacher, writer, composer, philanthropist, boss, and, perhaps more than anything, living spectacle, commanding fascination simply by moving through a room. The Q&A audience didn’t come to hear music; they came to see her. And certainly, music isn’t the sole reason she’s attained money, glory, jet rides, and power over beautiful women. Artist, in both Tár’s life and in so many real-world examples, is synonymous with star (or stár?).

Art, however, did get her here. Although Field implies that Tár’s career ascent involved schemes and favor-trading, he never calls into question her conducting skills. Her ability to manipulate time, emotion, attention, and sound makes her formidable both behind the scenes and behind the music stand. Envious peers covet not just her status but also her creative insights. Perhaps most important, a coherent artistic philosophy underlies her work—as well as her eventual downfall.

According to that philosophy, conducting is an act of empathy. Tár uses the Hebrew term kavvanah—referring to the divination of sacred meaning—to explain, for example, why understanding Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony requires understanding his “very complex marriage.” Being true to a work, she argues, means getting inside its creator’s intentions, biography, and even soul. (Is Lydia Tár reading Lydia Goehr, the music scholar who’s written influentially on the principle of werktreue?) This is not a universally held point of view—beware the intentional fallacybut it is a common one. It’s why we make artists into celebrities in the first place: Loving art can mean loving people.

However, this approach also makes Tár a hypocrite. She berates a Juilliard student who criticizes Johann Sebastian Bach for fathering 20 children. She raises no objection when her mentor muses that Arthur Schopenhauer’s violence against a woman was irrelevant to his work as a philosopher. But if conducting requires closely reading a composer’s life, why would some parts of that life be exempt? Tár abhors this question. In her Julliard lecture, she doesn’t make the case that Bach’s personal excesses should be incorporated into an understanding of his accomplishments. Rather, she launches a rhetorical barrage to shut down dissent.

That’s likely because the character herself has things to hide, and she, on some level, knows those things are baked into her own creative output. Field was smart to select conducting as the art form at the center of his movie’s investigation: Tár’s job is basically to exert power for aesthetic ends. The music her orchestra plays, the identity of each player, and the relative volume of instruments are theoretically creative choices—but the movie subtly demonstrates how each can be shaped by personal lust and pettiness. Were audiences to apply kavvanah to Tár’s work, they’d need to understand her attraction to a hot young cellist, her role in a former student’s suicide, and her talent for disguising her motives—even from herself.

Cognitive dissonance is a hard thing to portray, but the movie’s shadowy vibe does a good job of it. With creepy jogging scenes and tell-tale-heart sound effects, Field sketches a woman haunted by internal contradictions and simmering shame. Had Tár engaged with her former protegé’s distressing emails or leveled with her own wife, she might have been able to stymie the damage. Instead, she doubles down on silence and scheming as the movie unfolds. Her downfall begins in earnest once she denies her assistant a conducting job—a decision made out of paranoia. The resulting collapse of personal and public support has a satisfying symmetry: Tár’s manipulative abilities fail in the same way that a singer’s voice might after ill-advised overexertion.

What role does the culture play in Tár’s cancellation? Field doesn’t seem especially interested in that question, and thank goodness. Like Jean-Baptiste Lully (the 17th-century conductor referenced early in the movie), Tár has stabbed herself in the foot. Her demise is as predictable and ugly as Lully’s gangrene, and Field understandably wants to only glance at it—the conspiring text messages, the deceitful social-media video, the ferocious protesters. Besides, we’ve been locked in Tár’s subjectivity all along, and, as we’ve learned, she is an expert at ignoring anything that contradicts her own self-image.

Perhaps there’s something a little tidy and fantastical about the way Field makes Tár the author of her own demise. Harvey Weinstein, for example, didn’t so directly cause his own ruin per se—accusers and investigators (not to mention a cultural tide against abuse) should get the credit for that. But Field is right to hint that the very traits that turn artists into alleged villains often inform those artists’ work (see: one common interpretation of Woody Allen’s filmography). In many cases, cancellation is best understood not as some capricious social force, but as a system of cause-and-effect led primarily by the artist. (How long has Ye, formerly Kanye West, been driving his own recriminatory spiral?)

The logic behind Tár’s collapse, in the end, is ironclad. The penumbra of rigor and respectability that drew people to her in the first place has been ruined by her own actions. So has the basis for the personality cult that drew people to her book, Tár on Tár. If she had produced any artwork of lasting merit (For Petra, the composition she was working on, doesn’t quite sound like a future classic), it would surely have been studied in the context of her life. And as to whether she should retain the post and clout that she routinely abused: Of course not. Tár’s inseparability from her art made her career; it also, as in so many real-life cases, destroyed it.

But a different relationship between art and artist is possible—as the movie’s final act shows. Disgraced, Tár returns to the unglamorous home she grew up in, rifles through artifacts of her pre-fame identity (Linda Tarr), and rewatches Leonard Bernstein tapes. During a 1958 Young People’s Concert, Bernstein argued that the purpose of music lies not in its hidden meanings but in its invocation of “feelings [that] are so special and so deep, they can’t even be described in words.” Bernstein’s view makes the artist’s life incidental: What matters is what comes out of a composition, not what goes into it.

This is a dangerous definition of art for the Tár we once knew: A culture in which art matters only for the sensation it produces is probably not one in which a classical conductor becomes a household name. Yet art that satisfies Bernstein’s definition is all around us; it’s just often tagged as “decorative” or treated as mere entertainment. One great example: the video-game music Tár conducts somewhere in Asia in the final moments of the movie.

The closing image of a costumed crowd enraptured by Tár’s baby-faced orchestra might seem like a cheap shot at the gaming world, and a cruel, absurd end to Tár’s tale. But it is only either of those things if the viewer buys into the economy of prestige that enabled Tár all along. The audience for the Monster Hunter orchestra appears genuinely thrilled. Tár has committed herself to the gig with the same ferocity that defined her high-art career. Setting aside quality comparisons between Mahler and video-game soundtracks, what exactly makes Tár’s post-cancellation work different? The art matters more than the artist.

Field, to be clear, isn’t arguing that a more naive, less star-driven culture is purer or better. People can enjoy art without knowing anything about who made it—but in many cases, the experience really is better, more intense, with context. Just ask the gallerygoers who linger over explanatory wall text, or the listeners poring over the personal references in Taylor Swift’s new album. Or ask why Field placed Tár’s credits at the beginning of the movie, drawing attention to its makers. We worship creators for good reasons—the same reasons we sometimes must tear them down. The art may remain, but it does not remain what it was.

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AROUND CAPE ANN: Love letters focus of Olson lecture | News

The work of the late Charles Olson, a 20th century American poet who made Gloucester his home, still makes ripples around the world.

In that spirit, the annual Charles Olson Lecture will take place on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. at the Cape Ann Museum auditorium at 27 Pleasant St., in downtown Gloucester. The talk is free to the public but reservations are required. The lecture also will be live-streamed on Facebook and Vimeo.

The featured speaker will be Sharon Thesen, a poet and scholar, who will give a talk titled “Olson & Love: The Transformative Correspondence of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff.” Thesen will talk about working with Ralph Maud on the pair’s correspondence for which there are two editions: “A Modern Correspondence,” published by Wesleyan in 1999, and “After Completion: The Later Letters,” published in 2014.

“In this lecture, Thesen will show how Olson’s love affair with Frances Boldereff set his compass intellectually in his move toward the recovery of what could be found in the archaic as a guide or inspiration for a new poetics,” according to the museum.

Thesen, who grew up in western Canada, attended Simon Fraser University in British Columbia where she studied poetry with Robin Blaser, George Bowering, and Maud. She later began teaching English and creative writing. This lecture is presented in collaboration with the Gloucester Writers Center.

Olson, a literary giant in the post-modern realm, created a personal library of massive proportions at his home at 28 Fort Square in Gloucester. That library is now housed at the University of Connecticut, along with other Olson papers. Maud created a near duplicate of Olson’s library, which was later given to the Gloucester Writers Center. Earlier this year, the Gloucester Writers Center donated the Maud/Olson Library to the Cape Ann Museum Library & Archives. This is a collection of 4,000 volumes owned, read, or referenced by Charles Olson. The library is now housed within the Janet & William Ellery James Center at the CAM Green.

To mark this new acquisition, the museum will offer a tour of the Maud/Olson Library at the CAM Green,13 Poplar St., on Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. The library is situated next to the Vincent Ferrini Library. Attendees registered for the 1 p.m. talk are welcome to join the tour at 11 a.m. To register and for more details, visit

Halloween party

The Knowles Halloween Bash, open to the public, takes place Thursday, Oct. 27, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Gloucester Elks, at 101 Atlantic Road on Gloucester’s Back Shore. Costumes encouraged for those wanting to dress up but are not required. There will be food, cash bar and live music from Tregony Bow. Tickets are $20. For details and advance tickets, go to Kenneth J. Knowles’ Facebook page. Tickets also at the door.

Musicians Unleashed

Cape Ann Symphony announces the return of its popular Musicians Unleashed Concert Series with its next performance, “American Classical Music,” on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 10 Church St., Gloucester.

“We wanted to put together a program of great music that reflects the vast and wide diversity of peoples and cultures that have made up and continue to make up our great country of America” said Cape Ann Symphony Conductor Yoichi Udagawa.

The concert program features an array of musical styles, from Dvorak to the Grateful Dead. Selections include works by Florence Price, Cape Ann Symphony Concertmaster and violinist Scott Moore, William Grant Still, and Rachel Grimes. The concert will be performed by Cape Ann Symphony violinist Erica Pisaturo, cellist Seth MacLeod and violist Brandon White as well as Moore.

Udagawa said he is thrilled that the audiences will get a chance to hear and meet the new concertmaster.

“Scott Moore is a fabulous violinist who plays at an incredibly high level in all kinds of styles from classical music to Kentucky Bluegrass,” he said.

For more information and tickets, visit

NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner

The 2022 NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner, Alisa Amador, will perform on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Old Sloop Presents performing arts series, held at the handicap-accessible Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church of Rockport, 12 School St.

Amador’s music is known for its synthesis of many styles, including rock, jazz, funk and alternative folk, wrapped in the spirit of Latin music. NPR’s Cyrena Touros calls her “a pitch-perfect rendition of my wildest dreams.”

The opener will be Hayley Sabella, who was born in Massachusetts but raised in Nicaragua. She won the 2019 New England Songwriting Competition.

For tickets and information, visit

Classic films, live music

The Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation presents an afternoon of classic silent movies this Sunday, Oct. 30, at 3 pm. at the Gloucester Meetinghouse at the corner of Church and Middle streets with live keyboard accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis.

This family-friendly afternoon will feature three works from the early era of cinematic history presented on a large screen with Rapsis infusing his interpretations of this lost technique. The films, with non-stop action and knee-slapping comedy routines, were selected for their wide appeal.

The films are:

“The Haunted House” (1921) with Buster Keaton. A gang of robbers, a crooked bank manager, and a bank teller converge on a booby-trapped house decorated to appear haunted in order to fool the authorities. A series of uproarious encounters between the antagonists leaves the audience wondering who the true villain really is.

“The Floorwalker” (1916) with Charlie Chaplin in his signature role as “The Tramp.” This early comedy features “gags galore” with an early version of an attempt to run down the up escalator and one character mirroring the movements of another.

“The Kid” (1921), which was written and directed by Chaplin. He plays the role of “The Tramp” who cares for a young boy whose mother left him for adoption. The three’s lives become intertwined in this heartwarming story of reconciliation.

Tickets are available online at, or at the door. General seating $15; students with ID $5; children under 12 free.

Yellow Brick Road party

The Studio restaurant, at 51 Rocky Neck Ave. in Gloucester, will close out the season by presenting a Wizard of Oz-themed Halloween event on Sunday, Oct. 30, when the team will be decked out as their favorite characters. The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

“At Smith Cove’s own Emerald City, country crooner Annie Brobst will serenade scarecrows from 6 to 9 p.m. while the bar mixes up some potent potions,” according to a press release. Some of those libations feature The Studio’s “Oz-twist” on a rum runner, or a “Brain Shot” made with peach schnapps, Bailey’s Irish Cream and grenadine.

In an added note, the restaurant team is rallying around a fund-raiser by Sal Valenti, the sous chef, whose 10-month old dog, Trager, needs an unexpected surgery on his leg estimated to cost $8,000. To help defray the costs, a baseball signed by recent Hall of Fame inductee David “Big Papi” Ortiz as well as a signed Patriots jersey by running back LeGarrette Blount will be auctioned off. Both items will be available for bidding onsite on Oct. 30. There is a fundraiser page also on Sal Valenti’s Facebook page.

Irish folk singer

Tommy Sands, an Irish troubadour and peace activist, is performing “Music of Peace and Healing” at First Church in Ipswich, at 1 Meetinghouse Green, on Saturday, Oct. 29, at 3 p.m. This is a free presentation of the House of Peace in Ipswich.

Gloucester’s Michael O’Leary, vocals, and Carol McIntyre, harp, will open the program; Pierce Woodward, fiddle, and Harry Wagg, guitar, will welcome concertgoers with a set of fiddle tunes in the foyer before the show. For more information, visit

Around Cape Ann is a column devoted to events happening on Cape Ann and artists from Cape Ann performing elsewhere. If you would like to submit an item, contact reporter Gail McCarthy at 978-675-2706 or at least two weeks in advance.

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Ann and Gordon Getty’s Collection of 1,500 Items Achieved $150 Million Across 10 Auctions

Ann and Gordon Getty’s collection achieved more than US$150 million across four live and six online auctions at Christie’s.

Courtesy of Christie’s

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Ann and
Gordon Getty’s
collection achieved more than US$150 million across four live and six online auctions at Christie’s that concluded Tuesday, making it one of the top three collections of both decorative and fine arts ever sold at Christie’s.

Each of the 10 auctions met or exceeded their presale estimates, each with a 100% sell-through rate, the auction house said. 

Proceeds will benefit the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, which supports a range of California-based arts and science charities. 

The nearly 1,500 works in the collection were drawn from Getty’s townhouse in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood. Gordon Getty, 88, a son of oil tycoon
J. Paul Getty,
led the sale of his family’s oil business to Texaco for US$10.1 billion in 1984. Since then, he has focused on his interests in classical music composing, and philanthropy. His wife, Ann, died in 2020 at the age of 81.

At the evening auction on Thursday at Christie’s New York saleroom, 60 lots fetched a combined US$79.4 million, which didn’t include the expected sale of Venice, the Grand Canal looking East with Santa Maria della Salute by Italian Venetian-school painter
Giovanni Antonio Canal,
commonly known as Canaletto. The painting sold privately hours before the live auction to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco through a donation by
Diane B. Wilsey,
a former chair of the museum, according to Christie’s. The painting was valued between US$6 million and US$10 million. 

Mary Cassatt’s
Young Lady in a Loge Gazing to Right became the top lot, selling for US$7.5 million, setting a record at auction for the 82-year-old American painter and printmaker. The work, with a presale estimate between US$3 million and US$5 million, was acquired by the Pola Museum of Art in Hakone in Japan.

An early George III walnut and parcel-gilt side chair

Courtesy of Christie’s

“As the momentum built over 10 auctions, Christie’s was thrilled to see the funding of the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts increasing sale by sale,”
Marc Porter,
chairman of Christie’s Americas, said in a news release. “It is also important to note that museums purchased the two highest value paintings for public display.”

The other three live auctions took place from Friday to Sunday, featuring paintings, English and European furniture and silverware, as well as Chinese works of art. In total, the four live auctions achieved nearly US$140 million, against a presale estimate of US$125 million.

In addition to Cassatt, three other artists saw their auction records reset, according to Christie’s.
Jacques-Émile Blanche’s
Vaslav Nijinsky in “Danse Siamoise” sold for US$2.7 million;
Jules Bastien-Lepage’s
Portrait de Sarah Bernhardt achieved US$2.28 million, and
Jean-Antoine Watteau’s
Three Head Studies Of A Girl Wearing A Hat, fetched US$3.42 million.

The Getty Collection became the third most valuable collection of both decorative and fine arts sold at Christie’s, following the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and
Pierre Bergé
in 2009 for €373.9 million (US$483.8 million), and the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller for US$832.6 million in 2018.

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In Peckham with 454, the Looney Tune of 2020s hip-hop

Above the Rim is a now largely forgotten 1994 film about a talented college kid choosing between his school basketball team and one run by drug dealers. Though it’s cruelly underrated, especially with Tupac Shakur starring in full antagonist mode, a harsh reception from critics effectively sentenced it to life in the charity shop VHS box. But Above the Rim comes with one of the all-time great music-inspired-by-the-film albums: dripping wet R&B courtesy of SWV, Jewell and Al B; a Doggy full house (Nate, Snoop, and Tha Pound on the same track), and a late-career DJ Rogers singing “let’s do it doggie style”.

Among those transfixed by the soundtrack was a young Willie Wilson, now commonly known as 454. Wilson wasn’t born until two years after the film’s release, but around the age of five, he found the CD in his parents’ collection in between The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige’s Share My World. His personal favourite on the CD was “Regulate” by Warren G and Nate Dogg. “That was one of the first songs that I was like damn, I really like this song,” he says. “I think it was the beat. Something about it.”

When we meet, Wilson is sitting on an outdoor table at the Prince of Peckham as the death throes of summer yawn over south London. It’s two days before news breaks that Queen Elizabeth II has passed away, and I’m telling him about the UK’s other national anthem. “Yeah I fuck with Giggs,” he says, confirming his familiarity with Peckham’s most cherished offspring, the closest thing to royalty that you’ll find in these parts. Giggs filmed the video for his immortal single “Talkin’ the Hardest” but a stone’s throw from here. “That’s insane,” says Wilson. “I did not know that.”

He talks in a voice that’s almost as distinctive as his rapping style. His signature is fast vocals, pitched up to an often indistinguishable chirrup. It’s most often accredited to inspiration from Madlib’s Quasimoto albums, but equally reminiscent of Florida’s fast rap scene, the chipmunk vocals of early 90s UK hardcore, and Frank Ocean’s chorus on the Calvin Harris single “Slide”. Although much of the clamour focuses on 454’s cartoonish voice, Wilson is also a gifted producer, a purveyor of fine beats both fast and ultra-slow, touched by influences as broad as cloud rap, jungle, DJ Screw and Curren$y.

After Above the Rim, he discovered Bone Thugs N Harmony. “My parents got me their greatest hits for Christmas when I was six and ah…” he shakes his head. “That CD just changed it all.” TV and video games brought more: through Tony Hawks Underground 2 he got into skateboarding; through Cartoon Network he discovered Looney Tunes and anime; and through Grand Theft Auto III he discovered “First Contact’” by Omni Trio, his first taste of jungle music. “I was like bro this is literally so crazy,” he says. “I love ambient music, so I feel like there’s an incorporation with ambient, and then like clean, fast-paced drums. I think like maybe six or seven years ago is when I really tried to get into making it my own, learning how to do it, diving more deeply into it and seeing Goldie, all the Metalheadz, everybody.” 

These ingredients alchemised as Wilson began publishing music to his friend Tommy’s Soundcloud in 2018, initially under the names Sqvxlls and Lil 454 – an alias chosen to honour his late father, who drove a 1973 Chevy Caprice with a 454 engine. Wilson started doing decent Soundcloud numbers in 2020, first with the single “Late Night”, then Fast Trax, a mixtape/DJ mix of all-original beats and squeaky clean raps. Slo-mo R&B, rapid bars, rave horns, love-soaked lyrics and a Project Pat sample coalesced into a gooey, heavenly syrup unlike anything else on the internet. Melody was everywhere: in the rubber basslines and Nintendo keyboard, and in the vocals, which invariably occupied the highest registers, perhaps altered due to insecurity, perhaps for more creative reasons. It’s like watching an anime battle scene in the sky: there’s no real reason for it to be up there, but there’s also no denying that it gives those punches an added celestial wow factor. 

In conversation, Wilson is every bit as affable and idiosyncratic as he is on record. He even speaks melodically, his utterances peppered with mannerisms like “damn”, “crazy” and “mmhmm” – products perhaps of a southern accent, a weed habit and a bashful charisma.

He grew up in Longwood, in suburban Orlando, Florida, not far from Disney World. When he was 11 his dad was shot. He survived, but the family was shaken up. “I think that was one of the first incidents where it was like ‘Oh shit, everything is not all good right now,’” Wilson says. “Things were a little weird, like very paranoid. We felt like we had to watch our back.” 

[My dad’s death] was one of the things that probably hit me the hardest… I guess you could say I’m struggling with it. But with the music, I try to kind of talk about it… The music definitely helps” – 454 

They moved house, but a year later his dad was shot again. This time he died. “That was one of the things that probably hit me the hardest,” he says. “Even today… I guess you could say I’m struggling with it. But with the music, I try to kind of talk about it, because I don’t really be open much about that. But the music definitely helps, mmhmm.” 

Wilson spent a year studying at home through virtual school, giving him time to help his mum raise Pig, his little sister. As they grew up, she looked the more likely rapper. She made music as Pig the Gemini, as heard on 454 tracks like the unbelievable “BOSSALINI”, on which the siblings’ voices alternate and oscillate ridiculously until they’re indistinguishable and irresistible. At the time, though, Willie was more into skating, eventually filming parts for magazines like Transworld. When he reached adolescence he moved to New York with friends he’d met at skate parks. 

It was there he met his girlfriend Mandy. “My girlfriend brought me out of my shell a lot,” he says. Mandy travels with him on his tour, part of a tight team that also includes Tommy Bohn, a skate friend, videographer and the artist behind the Fast Trax cover and its two sequels. The tour opens on the night we meet at Peckham Audio, before shows in New York, Chicago and LA. Apart from a brief trip to Canada while supporting Aminé earlier this year, this is Wilson’s first time leaving the States.

American rappers often struggle to get weed in the UK, but Wilson is already rolling one as I sit down. “Our Airbnb host hooked us up,” he says, an explanation fitting of someone for whom everything seems to come naturally. Though he’s undeniably shy, he’s also magnetically likeable and unwaveringly positive. His lyrics tell of trauma, seeing demons in dreams, losing friends and even vague suggestions of beef, but there’s no detectable anger. “Yeah, so that’s my thing,” he says. “Even with the beat. Before I started putting out music, I wanted to shed a light on some things I went through growing up, but also make sure it’s like… in a positive light. Because I feel like it’s just so much negative, within the industry, everywhere else…” 

Shortly after “Late Night” dropped, a mutual friend passed Wilson’s details onto Frank Ocean. Wilson was a big fan (“I love ‘Nights’ though. When I heard ‘Nights’, as everyone did, the flows on there was just like damn, you don’t hear people flow like that”). They spoke briefly, Ocean offering his thoughts on Wilson’s early releases. Then the connection went dead for about a year, during which time Wilson kept releasing music, including his debut album 4 REAL, featuring “Late Night” and other fan favourites like “Andretti”, “FaceTime” and the incredible “Heaven”, a descriptively titled paean to loved up bliss, the second half of which is about as close as music can get to real ecstasy, a wordless coo section reminiscent of both Kanye West’s “Runaway” and Frank Sinatra singing doo-be-doo on “Strangers in the Night”.

Around the same time, Ocean resurfaced, inviting Wilson to a shoot. “So surreal,” Wilson says. “[He‘s a] very nice person, showed me nothing but love.” Nothing was said about 4 REAL, but “next thing I know someone from his team hit me up like ‘Yo, can we put the project up on the [Homer] website?’ I was like ‘Man, that’s so crazy. Hell yeah.’ I trip about it every time.” 454 became an underground star. 

I’m compelled to ask what the word “cool” means to him. “Cool is just anything that’s original man, anything that’s in its own lane, genuine. That’s really it,” he says. “I’m not really, or I wasn’t really like a social person. I always liked my alone time. I didn’t really go out and do much. So recently I just realised I was really on my individual. And I still am, on occasion.”

If you hadn’t heard of 454 before the Frank Ocean Homer launch, you may have through experimental musician Huerco S – formerly the poster child of a 2010s ambient renaissance, now a chameleonic producer who works with rappers. He’s one of a growing cognoscenti — also including Zack Fox, Danny Brown, Denzel Curry and Redditers on the hyperpop sub — who have taken a shine to the 454 sound.

There’s also the sold-out crowd at tonight’s show: kids with baggy jeans, dyed hair, vapes and tattoos. The west London rapper Lord Apex is both in the crowd and on a billboard outside the venue. 454 plays stuff from 4 REAL, Fast Trax 2 and the recently released Fast Trax 3, including a divine track called “LILO & STITCH” built around a sample of SZA oo-ing in her bedroom. The crowd goes wild and Wilson hangs around outside for at least an hour afterwards, posing for photos with fans and telling each one of them they mean the world to him. 

On Twitter the next day, a clip arrives of Wilson executing a perfect 180 heelflip at the hallowed skate park on the south bank of the Thames. Two days after that, Wilson DJs at a semi-secret party in Stoke Newington, playing everything from footwork to Playboi Carti to unreleased 454 tracks. The event flyer lists him as Gatorface, the latest in a growing alias list belying an instinctive publicity shyness. He covets anonymity: rare public appearances, low social media profile, intimate shows. “I hope we can go on forever,” he says. “I just don’t know like, I don’t know what big is. So I’m just… cooling it.” 

Does he want to be big? “I don’t know man. I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. I just wanted to produce, because I really like making music… and rapping and shit, using my voice was just, something happened.” Like Frank Ocean, he ducks the limelight. “The way he does it is amazing,” Wilson says. “You gotta dig to find stuff. Not really much information. Don’t drop that often. If somehow it was like too much going on, I would definitely be cooling it. I haven’t seen a fan page yet. I feel like when it’s at that point, it’s like oh, something else is happening. Mmhmm.”

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