Listening to Sudan Archives debut album Athena you feel as if you’ve discovered something new, something unique. The Ohio-raised violinist/songwriter mixes her influences and inspirations into something quite gorgeous and one-of-a-kind. Her EDM/Soul/R&B/glitch music combines bits of Solange, Oneohtrix Point Never, Andrew Bird, and something not quite of this earth to make a startling, dark, and gorgeous record.
When I first heard Sudan Archives I wasn’t sure I was equipped to put my thoughts into words. There’s a sophistication and depth here that my dolt brain may not be able to pull up the right vernacular for. But I want people to hear this record. Production is top notch; crisp, tight, and visceral, and very tangible. Brittany Parks, aka Sudan Archives, has a ethereal voice. Despite how unique and strong the arrangements are you never lose sight of her voice. It’s front and center. But yes, these arrangements are amazing. The violin acts as a narrator to the musical narratives. It’s the center of attention, even when you don’t notice it at first. Athena, much like its namesake, is a fully-formed warrior ready to sleigh anything that comes in its way.
Songs like “Did You Know”, “Iceland Moss”, “Limitless” are playful and carry like a wind over green hills and blue skies. Parks’ love of Irish folk music comes through in tracks like these, leaving the darker bits of EDM for later. “Confessions” is lush and slow-moving that works into a bit of a playful song, with strings taking the spotlight. “There is a place that I call home/But it’s not where I am welcome/And if I saw all the angels/Why is my presence so painful?” Sudan sings over lilting strings and a trap beat. It’s a stunning track.
Elsewhere “Black Vivaldi Sonata” moves along on a stuttering hip hop beat and subtle electronics as Sudan sings in a sultry, smokey voice. Glitchy noise comes in and out ala OPN and FKA Twigs. “Coming Up” is built around an answering machine message left for a friend by an ex-boyfriend that doesn’t know what “we’re done” means. It’s dark and mesmerizing. “Pelicans in the Summer” has a seductive rhythm and 70s-style electric piano and comes across like classic Sly Stone, but from some far-off futuristic world. Sudan Archives locks into Sly’s grooves a lot here, and it shows the most on this excellent album closer.
Sudan Archives’ Athena is an end of the year surprise, filled with sultry grooves both futuristic and classic in spirit.
8.1 out of 10