Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, producer and violinist Sudan Archives, real name Brittany Denise Parks, has returned with her long-awaited sophomore effort, ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’. This sophomore album has come nearly three years after Sudan Archives’ critically acclaimed debut, 2019’s ‘Athena’, with little output in-between aside from a pair of remixes in 2020.
‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ is a shapeshifting sonic endeavour through flashes of pop, electronica, R&B and hip-hop, but still feels a facilely coalesce and coherent experience. A prime example of Sudan Archives’ multi-genre skills is opener ‘Home Maker’ which is introduced with a drawn out, ambient-tinted intro, with foundations laid by a droning synth. Instruments drop in and out, creating an unpredictable atmosphere only glued together by vintage cinematic instrumental moments. Track two, ‘NBPQ (Topless)’ works in a similar format; frantic hand claps and wobbly riffage lead into a head-on flow from Parks’.
‘Yellow Brick Road’, the penultimate track on the record, dives into the pop element with crystal clarity. But even here, the listener is treated to a delightful instrumental passage, complete with natural textures, ambient swells and jangling bells – as well as the trumpet leitmotif teased on the opening track. ‘ChevyS10’ sits at the halfway point of the record track-wise, and is a six-minute electronica epic, culminating in a club ready house-meets-afrobeat breakdown. Across the record Sudan Archives’ vocal range is prevalent, whether it be softly crooning or spitting raps. ‘Milk Me’ is a moment on the album laced with heavenly vocal harmonies, layered over a rich backbone over percussive breaks and glittery melodies. The entire project shifts and morphs so much it is never boring, an incredible achievement considering the hefty eighteen-tracks. Even the short interludes throughout are interesting, and remain on the experimental wavelength of the tracks they are sandwiched between.
While ‘Athena’ focused in on Parks’ ability as a violinist, and rightfully so, this sophomore LP clearly wants to be a distinct step forward from the debut. ‘Natural Brown Prom Queen’ opens up dozens of auditory avenues, with glitch leaning cuts like ‘Copycat (Broken Notions)’ exemplifying that perfectly. Sudan Archives is proving that she is an artist who knows no bounds, and projects like this one are what is going to propel her further into acclaim and stardom.
Words: James Mellen