On her previous releases — her 2017 self-titled EP and 2018’s Sink — Sudan Archives created works of experimental sound with little more than her violin, loop pedals, and an iPad. But on her new full-length debut, Athena, the musician, songwriter, and producer (born Brittney Denise Parks) takes her knack for sound manipulation to new heights. She creates a distinctly orchestral sound, layering violin and strummed guitar over choirs of her own voice, and incorporating digital clinks, rumbling bass, and quietly building synths. Working with producers like Washed Out, Paul White, and Rodaidh McDonald, on Athena, Parks luxuriates in a fuller, R&B and pop-influenced sound, using it as a backdrop to explore the concept of duality.
As an identical twin, duality is a subject that has long been in the back of Parks’s mind. On Athena, she tackles the concept with incisiveness. “He can make you stay/ He can make you go/ Now you’re stuck,” she sings on the dark interlude “Stuck.” Later, on the sonically brighter “Limitless,” she sings, “It’s OK to be afraid/ Feeling stuck, unlucky, OK/ You’re the only great escape.” This kind of call-and-response appears throughout the album, in lighter, more hopeful, songs like “Confessions” and moodier tracks like “Black Vivaldi Sonata” and “Green Eyes,” which tackle the haunting nature of relationships. The album is a reminder that light and darkness are indivorceable from one another, and that their beauty comes from their coexistence.