Noname, “Room 25” (Noname). The artist born Fatimah Warner sprang from the same Chicago music community that propelled Chance the Rapper to international acclaim, and she earned her first major attention for her work on Chance’s breakout mixtape, “Acid Rap.” She’s since relocated to Jefferson Park in South L.A., and those unfamiliar with her voice and singular flow need listen only to her opening bars on “Room 25” to understand why people are singing her praises.
With conversational phrasing and a sublime delivery, she dances across her beats with the confidence of an Olympic gymnast flip-flopping across the mat. She introduces the album by breaking the fourth wall, rapping that “Maybe this the album you listen to in your car / When you driving home late at night / Really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, … / Maybe this is the entrance before you get to the river.” Give it a listen here.
The river of ideas that flows from those opening couplets is as raging as it is powerful. She ends the song by boasting that an unprintable part of her body “wrote a thesis on colonialism / In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus.”
On “Regal,” Noname rides a delicate, bell-dotted, finger-snapped beat while casually tossing off complex couplets such as: “No more apples or oranges, only pickles and pacifists/Twitter ranting for martyrdom unified as capitalists.” There and elsewhere, her love of language is infectious, which makes the whole of “Room 25” a blast to listen to.
Sarah Davachi, “Gave in Rest” (Ba Da Bing). The experimental keyboard player and sound manipulator recently relocated from Vancouver, Canada, to Los Angeles to attend UCLA’s respected ethnomusicology school, and arrived with a deep expanse of ambient music already out in the world. She also brought what she describes in release notes as “a predilection for medieval and Renaissance music.”
As part of the process of constructing the seven-song “Gave in Rest,” the artist “sat for hours in muted spaces and listened to how church instruments augmented them — their pipe organs, their bells, their choral voices.”
Her goal was to “musically embody this secular mysticism,” so Davachi devised a process in which she composed skeletal ideas on piano, commissioned an ensemble to interact with them and then manipulated the resultant recordings to build each work.
Those compositions, each named for a time of day, arrive with a sacred reverence that recalls the eerie works of bad-ass 12th century mystic and composer Hildegard von Bingen. Unlike much ambient music, “Gave in Rest” isn’t made for background listening. In fact, only with volume can you fully appreciate the depth of Davachi’s creation.
Harriett Brown, “Bag Away” video (Innovative Leisure). The first video from San Francisco transplant Brown’s follow-up to his 2017 album “Contact” finds the R&B singer standing among two dozen well-styled beautiful people. As the opening bars of the synthesizer-driven rhythm develop into a pattern, all start grooving to the music.
Which is Brown? Those who didn’t know his gender might mistake him for the sweater-clad brunet. The guy at the center seems to draw the attention of director Amanda Brown (co-founder of 100% Silk Records). But with the opening verse, Brown reveals himself — absent his ill-advised bowl cut — at the center of the frame, and glides into the groove as if fully lubed up.
From there his auto-tuned voice moves through a synth-funk track that suggests the work of R&B seducer Jeremih and “Kiss”-era Prince. The song is taken from Brown’s forthcoming album for L.A.-based Innovative Leisure, which is scheduled for a February release.