After further adventures in NYC’s burgeoning multidisciplinary art scene, L’Rain aka Taja Cheek returns as a fully-formed art-pop experimentalist with her second album. While 2021’s Fatigue emerges in the midst of a wearying pandemic, it also soundtracks the murmurations of competing ideological forces — some good, and some evil — with a plethora of neo-soul, sign-of-the-times abstractions, translating overwhelming societal anxiety into a rallying cry for change.
The wide scope of Cheek’s music is reflected in the opening cacophony of ‘Fly, Die’; blaring police sirens and airhorn klaxons whizz past freewheeling jazz drums and synth funk swells bringing to mind the head-spinning instrumentals of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly condensed into a single heartbeat. When ‘Find It’ comes in swinging, Cheek’s vocal shines with the quiet intensity of sunlight poking out through clouds. While ambient forms of dream pop materialise and melt away across the likes of ‘Blame Me’ and the striking coda ‘Take Two’, Cheek cuts through genre tags in the way of Ryuichi Sakamoto and D’Angelo, developing avant-funk shapes with ‘Suck Teeth’ and a pseudo-club devotions with ‘Kill Self’.
With Fatigue, L’Rain resists one-way solutions to tangled networks of social issues. Rarely has such a polyphony of sounds felt like a truly singular vision.