From a young age Brittney Parks had the nickname Sudan. So when she started making music it felt obvious to use that moniker. Her first foray was the 2014 EP ‘Goldencity’ under Sudan Moon. This EP was all over the shop, in a good way, as it mixed her love of classical - Sudan is a self-taught violinist - R&B, West African rhythms, and experimental electronic music. Then it all went quiet. Sudan reappeared in 2017 with a new name, and EP. The ‘Sudan Archive’ EP was a more cohesive, and reined in version of Sudan Moon. It showed a progression in her style and song-writing.
2018 saw the release of the flawless ‘Sink’ EP. Again, Sudan had pushed her sound and brought in more Afro-futuristic elements to create something that was not only on point, but put her ahead of her peers. Now on her debut LP ‘Athena’ Sudan Archives has created an album that is the logical next step on her evolution, but also features call-backs to her previous three releases.
The album opens with the sound of strings being plucked before Sudan’s sleek vocals swoop in with:“When I was a little girl, I thought I could rule the world". Then a third of the way through tribal rhythms explodes from the speakers. It’s at this point you realise that you had only been listening to Sudan’s voice and violin, and it’s been absolutely captivating. Through minimal elements she has the power to slowly draw you in, until everything else fades away - this is what Sudan does best. Yes, of course after the beat, basslines and synths join the party everything is elevated to another level, but from that initial minimal salvo Sudan has the complete raptured attention of her listener, and doesn’t let go until ‘Athena’ ends.
‘Glorious’ is a stand out moment with psych drenched loops, massive drums, blown-out bassline and a chorus to die for. Oh and rapper D-Eight’s guest spot is pretty decent too. But what makes ‘Glorious’ so, well, glorious, is that it is the culmination of her early EPs. Everything that made them great is in there, but it’s been added by a confidence that comes from knowing you can recreate that sound in your head perfectly. If ‘Glorious’ is one of the album’s bangers, then ‘Iceland Moss’ is one of its ballads. A story of love, loss and redemption are wrapped up in wisps of synths and vocals, but the chorus has a harder hitting clarity to it. These two songs show that Sudan can easily handle bouncy bangers as well as beguiling ballads.
‘Athena’ isn’t just an album to be listened to, it’s to be experienced. While this is arguably true of all music, this album is filled with deeply textured soundscapes that feel contemporary but also from the not-too-distant future. The beats are crisp and reference R&B/beat culture, but are backed by gossamer strings and elegant synths. Then over this Sudan Archives vocals either float gracefully in like an apparition, or come at you like a banshee. Her ability to incorporate avant-garde motifs and textures is brave, as the songs could be overloaded with too many ideas, but her deft vision means they are totally balanced and invigorating to listen to.
When Sudan was a little girl she thought she could rule the world. Given the strength of ‘Athena’ it probably won’t be long before she is.
Words: Nick Roseblade
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