“The dusty loops of J Dilla, the propulsive virtuosity of Johannes Brahms piano exercises, the jazzy chord progressions of D’Angelo, the Minimalism of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, the weightless vocal blend of the Beach Boys, the power of a gospel crescendo.” These are the widespread references The New York Times required to sketch the outline of the music that the Brooklyn experimental composer and performer Taja Cheek creates as L’Rain, in gorgeous, turbulent compositions that seem at once immaculately structured and uncommonly free.
Cheek grew up in Crown Heights, dividing her time between indie guitar and bass and classical piano and cello; now she works full-time presenting performances at MoMA PS1 in Queens. In between, she studied music at Yale and knocked around in indie bands. But it was in the mid-2010s that she came into her own as L’Rain, a name chosen in honor of her mother, who passed away while Cheek was working on her wholly original self-titled debut.
Grieving gave form to the copious ideas, fragments, and songs that Cheek had been storing up, and the process continues to unfold on her even finer second album, Fatigue. Effortlessly spanning the most shattered sound art and the most radiant songs, all rich with the personal terroir of Cheek’s site-specific and field recordings, it also highlights more clearly than before the resonant power of her voice. In a Best New Music review, Pitchfork said that its “landscapes of synth, air horn, strings, and saxophone distill a suite of low moods—depression, regret, and fear—into resilience and hope.”