Photo: Jack McKain

Sudan Archives Takes an Afrofuturist Approach on New EP ‘Sink’

New EP Sink reinforces violinist Sudan Archives' cosmic creative vision.

Sudan Archives
Stones Throw
25 May 2018

Last year, Sudan Archives’ self-titled EP showed the singer and violinist to be a master of innovation. Inspired by the fiddle techniques and common modes of northeastern Africa, hers is a totally unique blend of strings, synths, and soul. On Sink, she brings us six more tracks that follow in the same rich vein, reinforcing her cosmic creative vision.

Sonically, Sink tends toward a more overtly Afrofuturist approach than Sudan Archives. The opening title track accents space-age electronic keys with birdsong before incorporating Archives’ vocals into the mix. Her voice is celestial, processed and layered into harmonies that simultaneously evoke air and water. The whole song has a mutable quality to it, rippling and flowing with constantly shifting effects and rhythms, including light and mesmerizing touches of percussion.

A few outro seconds of birdsong lead straight into the outstanding “Nont for Sale”, where Archives’ fiddle enters the mix, dancing in plucked arpeggi over a steady, snapped-out duple meter as she delivers straightforward lyrics of emancipation from toxic relationships (“You only call me / When you need something / I need to be free / Time to spread my wings”) in what makes for a clear standout track: intriguing, accessible, hypnotic, and even catchy at times.

The rest of the EP is more ephemeral. “Pay Attention” is as close to acoustic as Sudan Archives gets, with more nature sounds bubbling behind violin strings and percussion that sounds like wood on wood. Archives’ layered chorus sounds like a sunset. “Mind Control” is a return to chill, wobbling electronics, sounding a little like it draws from acts like Little Dragon or TOKiMONSTA, though it’s a much more deconstructed number than either would likely put together. “Beautiful Mistake” rattles, clicks, and clatters, skeletal. “Escape” begins with a simple line of pizzicato and grows, blossoming into bowed flourishes and a climactic vocal finish.

As a continuation of Sudan Archives, Sink mostly shows musical virtues we already knew Archives had under her belt. Self-taught on the violin, she is still a marvelous and largely original performer, unconstrained by the often restrictive conventions of Western art music. As a producer, she has a strength of style and an understanding of what she wants to accomplish that no outsider could offer better. More time has given her even more of a chance to refine her signature sound, and Sink sounds sharper than Sudan Archives, with fewer stray echoes.

There are other, less unconditionally exciting quirks that remain from the first EP, too. Each song still starts and ends suddenly, and mixing on the more electronically-focused tracks sometimes seems to run hot at the expense of the overall sound quality. Also placing Sink just a hair behind Sudan Archives in the artist’s canon so far is that most tracks are slightly less memorable – but on the whole, they’re at least as good in most important ways.

Just as with her debut, Sudan Archives’ new release is a small sample that whets the appetite for more of her work. In spite of its name, Sink floats, and Archives continues to stun with everything she is as an artist.

RATING 8 / 10