ListN Up: L’Rain (May 13, 2022)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Under the mononym L’Rain, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Taja Cheek records and performs music rooted in R&B, jazz, noise, and pop, using voice memos and manipulated samples as inspiration and source material. Cheek’s latest album Fatigue was the #1 album of 2021 in The Wire and #2 in Pitchfork, also earning praise from media outlets including The New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, and Artforum. She has performed locally and internationally at venues and institutions including The Getty, The Kitchen, and the Whitney Museum of American Art several times with Kevin Beasley, Ivan Forde and Sonia Louise Davis, and Onyx Collective. Cheek was an Associate Curator at MoMA PS1 for several years where she co-organized performance programming, and she also co-founded 49 Shade, a DIY rehearsal and performance space that supported improvised and noise music.

Hi, everybody! I hope you enjoy this playlist of seven songs by contemporaries and friends who deeply inspire me. I’ve been feeling a little slow and introspective lately, so this playlist reflects that state of mind. It’s a bit meandering, a little bit ambient, and I hope it’s peaceful and healing for all of you. Thanks for listening!


Kali Malone’s slowly unfolding compositions highlight the essential sonic components of the organ, reminding me of the emotional potency of timbre and texture in all of the music I love.


I have had a fascination with the voice for as long as I can remember and Lyra’s solo record, Fountain, is created entirely from recordings and manipulations of her own voice. I am so amazed by the diversity of sounds she’s able to get from one source, and I feel a deep kinship with Lyra as we clearly share this same fascination.


Klein’s music is very cinematic, and it is no surprise that she often creates video work. In my own artistic practice, I’m beginning to become interested in video, and I often create sounds or passages of music alongside thoughts of corresponding fantasy movie scenes or video sequences. I also admire Klein’s work in general because I think she finds a beautiful balance between creating work that is highly idiosyncratic but also deeply relatable: that’s the goal!


This track is inspiring to me in the ways that it clings to a pop sensibility while being deeply experimental at its core, which is what I hope for with all of the music I create. I love the ways that Rosie Lowe and Duval Timothy deconstruct and reconstruct the “hook” and use repetition (another compositional interest of mine) and artful arrangement to transform this fragment into an entire song.


Celia Hollander’s “Big Talk, Small Talk” shares textural similarities to Beatriz Ferreyra’s “Echos,” released around the same time. Both obscure human speech to create layers and textures that remind me of the ways that I love to work with the voice in my own work: listening to the sounds of the syllables first, and filling in the sounds with actual lyrics afterwards.


I’m often told that my music feels ambient, so I like to listen to music that purposefully and masterfully fits in this genre. I love the entirety of this album but “Stranded in a Pool” is particularly special to me; I love that the title so accurately describes what I feel while listening to this track.


Jasper Marsalis performs and records as Slauson Malone. He often reuses and re-contextualizes his own imagery, musical themes, and song titles in cryptically referential ways that I feel a deep kinship with in my own artistic practice. “THE MESSAGE 2” is preceded by “THE MESSAGE 1” on this album, of course, and then continues as “THE MESSAGE 3” and playfully, “THE MASSAGE 4” on the next album. Both albums have similar album covers; the second album cover is a photo of a tattoo of the first cover, and both records reference “crater speak” which also relates to a site-specific environmental work called Stadium that he created in 2020 along with a corresponding publication. I seriously admire the way Slauson Malone builds a world with music as one, but not the only, tool.


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