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When the Sudan Archives was asked to be the guest curator of Sled Island, she had mixed feelings.

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She had more time to think about it than most. The Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-based violinist and songwriter was first asked to take on the role in 2020 before the festival was canceled due to the pandemic. For the return of the 2022 festival, she finally joins the ranks of guest curators including Julien Baker, Deerhoof, Flying Lotus, Peaches and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

“I was super happy but I was a little nervous,” Sudan said in an interview with Los Angeles’ Postmedia. “I always felt like I would be a terrible DJ because I don’t think people like my type of music.”

Of course, the whole idea of ​​the guest curator program is to tap into an artist’s singular vision. It’s no surprise that the word “experimental” is sprinkled throughout the Sled Island-written biographies of Sudan’s chosen artists, who are among hundreds appearing in various venues from June 22-26.

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They include artists who had a direct impact on his career. Visual artist and producer Teebs and All City Jimmy (formerly known as Nocando) both hail from Los Angeles’ Low End Theory scene, a longtime weekly showcase for experimental hip-hop and electronic artists who turned into a festival and helped launch the careers of Flying Lotus and Gaslamp Killer, among others. As a newcomer to Los Angeles, Sudan attended weekly meetings and eventually met executives from Stone Throw Records, the label that would release her first two EPs. Sufyvn, a Sudanese producer who mixes North African strains with electronica, has been working with Sudan Archives on new music during COVID.

“He inspired me to create my own drum loops,” she says. “When I started making beats, he was like, ‘You should make your own drum loops.’ He really pushed me to do everything on my own.

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Other than that, the common thread running through the Sled list seems to be hard-to-define artists, much like the Sudan Archives. Artists such as harpist and filmmaker Ahya Simone and up-and-coming singer-songwriter and producer Kesswa, both from Detroit, are known for mixing genres and disciplines. Los Angeles’ Cat 500, a project by performance artist Cary Allison and Miami’s Suzi Analogue, are both known for their freewheeling experimentation with genre and beats.

“The experimental scene is why I make music today,” says Sudan, who will perform his own show at Sled Island on June 25 at Legion #1. “It’s such an encouraging scene. You can do anything in this scene: you can experiment and it’s a great place to start if you want to find your own unique sound. A lot of experimental music has influenced pop music. I think it always starts with the weirdos: what are they doing?

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Born Brittney Parks, Sudan Archives is no stranger to mainstream pop. Her stepfather was a music executive in Cincinnati who first encouraged Brittney and her twin sister, Cat, to become pop stars. They formed the short-lived teenage duo N2, but it wasn’t long before the Sudan Archives rebelled and moved to Los Angeles.

Even before her half-hearted stab at teenage stardom, she had become fascinated with the violin in elementary school. Sudan’s uncle bought him a violin and eventually sent him a CD of Miri Ben-Ari, an Israeli-American musician known for her groundbreaking work as a hip-hop violinist and for her collaboration with Kanye West and the Wu -Tang Clan.

“Even though my first introduction to fiddle music was Irish jig music, when I turned 18 I moved to Los Angeles and discovered artists like (Cameroonian composer) Francis Bebey and more especially the whole ethnomusicological culture. I realized there was a lot of fiddlers, not just Irish music like Celtic music, but also African music,” she says. West African violin there is traditional Sudanese violin music where they actually played the violin while I was playing it When I found out about the representation from all over the world…I felt like the possibilities of what you can do with a violin are so much bigger than an orchestra.

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Unsurprisingly, much of the buzz around Sudan Archive’s music has focused on its genre-hopping and experimentation. By the time she released her first two EPs, Sudan Archives in 2017 and Sink in 2018, she was already proclaimed as an innovative artist blending elements of pop, R&B, trip-hop, jazz, Celtic and African styles. Her reputation grew with her feature debut, 2019’s Athena, which led her to streamline her writing and reveal a penchant for honest and sometimes confessional storytelling. The Guardian called it “some of the most electrifying and viscerally beautiful music recorded this year”.

During COVID, Sudan has taken care of her home studio and added a whole range of new effects and pedals to her already sizable arsenal. Although she’s been tight-lipped about the “COVID record” she made, fans got some new material this year when she released the singles Home Maker and Selfish Soul. The latter, a catchy alt-pop anthem that contains hints of everything from dancehall to post-punk, was meant to “feature different hairstyles and different types of women and their hair” in the lyrics and explores deeper themes of standards of beauty in America.

He was directly influenced by India Arie’s 2005 Grammy nominated song I Am Not My Hair. India Arie exerted an early influence on Sudan. It was the first concert she saw as a teenager.

“I really want her to hear the song,” Sudan says. “If I keep talking about it in interviews, she’ll listen to it.”

The Sudan Archives will play Legion #1 Ground Floor June 25 at 12:30 a.m. (officially June 26) as part of Sled Island. Sled Island runs June 23-26 at various locations. Visit sledisland.com.

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