Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.
Over the course of her young career, Sudan Archives hasn't let her growing audience get too comfortable. The NPR Music Slingshot artist, born Brittney Parks, defied categorization on last year's self-titled EP (which featured "Come Meh Way," one of NPR Music's Top 100 Songs of 2017). Was it R&B? Or folk? Or funk? We never did figure it out, and she's flouting convention again on her new EP, Sink.
Sudan Archives was raised in Ohio and trained as a violinist, but she didn't study her namesake specialty — Sudanese violin traditions — until she relocated to Los Angeles. Her uncommon expertise makes her music ripe with culture, improvisation and myriad surprises.
The songs on Sink evoke a grounded, almost retroflexed picture of nature. The title track balances disjointed synths with moans and muffled lyrics like weighty raindrops on a palm plant. The sound of a lively forest is the beckoning call of "Pay Attention" before you even hear Sudan Archives' invitation: "Let's go outside / You know, you know what I like." On "Nont For Sale," pizzicati strings tiptoe over the bassline as the artist's words glide over the beat with the elegance of a gull's wings in the breeze: "This is my light don't block the sun / This is my seat can't you tell / This is my time don't waste it up / This is my land nont for sale," she declares. By the time you get to "Escape," the project's crescendo of a closer, the unexpected blend of folk, Afrobeat and R&B feel like a euphoric sun shower.
Sudan Archives' unusual musical instincts allow for her violin and tribal-like backbeats to confidently wander beyond the confines of traditional melody structure. Though Sink is only six songs, Sudan Archives' care for each note makes it feel as substantial as many albums twice its length.