Victoria Smith & Keely Cori King
River Sultan photo by Victoria Smith & Keely Cori King
Born Fadi Masad, River Sultan - who grew up in Jordan, San Diego, and Egypt - says he tells personal stories about the human experience, where east meets west, using synthesizers, drum machines, guitars, bass, and piano. He chose to change his name to remind himself that he is in control and the ruler of his own destiny. “The name ‘River’ always captivated me. It is my favorite western name. Very mystical, constantly flowing. I chose ‘Sultan’ to always remind myself of the power that I hold. A reminder that I can overcome any situation, no matter how difficult. I don’t see myself regal or better than anyone else, but I am the sultan of my own inner kingdom that I’ve created.” Sultan says he used to hold everything in, to the point that he couldn’t cry for several years. Now, for every trauma he goes through and overcomes, a new song is born. He released his first single “Purple Shelter” during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new single called “Falling Out Of Time” is due October 9. According to Sultan, “I cried through every step of the process making this song. With every note and sound I added, I was in complete tears.”
Hey, Chels was founded by Jacque Mendez (New Way On) on vocals and electric piano, Stephanie Presz (the Newports) on drums, Kevin White (Squarecrow, Londons Falling) on guitar, and Ricky Schmidt (Western Settings, Caskitt) on bass. Their debut self-titled 2018 EP was produced by Patrick Ryan Heaney (Cage the Elephant, Cold War Kids, the War On Drugs), and their full-length Everything Goes, recorded by Pat Hills at Earthtone Studios in Sacramento, premiered online for free this past May. So far during the pandemic, they’ve been unable to promote it much, other than producing a video for the album track “You’ve Got You Now.” Brainworm Records is releasing a charity 4-way split vinyl 7-inch, Shine A Light Volume 1, featuring Hey, Chels along with Typesetter (Chicago, IL), Sunshine State (Gainesville, FL), and Lousy Advice (Sacramento, CA). All proceeds will be donated to the Color of Change online racial justice organization, dedicated to designing “campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.” Limited to 300 copies on vinyl, purchase includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
Opera and chamber music singer Susan Narucki has given over one hundred world premieres, and collaborated with composers including Andriessen, Kurtág, Carter, Dusapin, and Crumb. She has appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Netherlands Opera, San Francisco Symphony, MET Chamber Ensemble, on the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center, and has performed at Carnegie Hall with conductors such as Boulez, Levine, Salonen, Tilson Thomas, de Leeuw, and Knussen. As a recording artist, her album The Light that Is Felt: Songs of Charles Ives (New World), recorded with pianist Donald Berman, was selected as Editor’s Choice by BBC Music Magazine. She earned a Latin Grammy nomination in 2017 for her bi-national chamber opera about the human trafficking of women across the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuatro Corridos, released as an album the previous year. Narucki’s performance in the 2018 stage production of Inheritance, playing Sarah Winchester of the Winchester repeating rifle family, can be heard on a newly released soundtrack album put out by Albany Records. She sings from compositions by Lei Liang, with whom she worked on Cuatro Corridos.
Electronic cholo goth rockers Prayers, now pared down to a duo featuring Leafar Seyer and Dave Parley, have developed a visual iconography that can be described as Mad Max villains emerging from a violent sandstorm in order to invoke the devil. They have released a new single and video called “CHOLOANI.” Filmed in high desert of central Tseewahktehtlahn, the oral history in video form features Teypohs’weepeehl (Iron Jacket), a member of the Chichimeca tribe who shares the history of modern day cholo subculture from its cholani origin. Says Seyer, “The yauh’kweehkahtseehntleeh or sacred opposition song that Teypohs’weepeehl sings is over 30,000 years old and has not been heard for 300 years by anyone outside of the few remaining, language speaking, traditional Cheecheemehkah who have still kept this tradition and custom.” The Cheecheemekah Kwacheeckay warrior society went underground after the scalplock bans of the 16th century, and then became the choloani of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, later evolving into the cholo of the 20th century. Another new song and video for “La Vida Es Un Sueno” drops September 30.
Based in Ocean Beach, multi-instrumentalist Skyler Lutes has played with various local outfits, including island rockers the Makua Rothman Band, punk noisemakers Defamation League, Riverside-based Everything Said, and Voice contestant Aquile. He released an acoustic EP in 2013, One Thousand Hours, while building up his home studio and recording there with locals like Through the Roots and Chris Leyva’s Falling Doves. 2016 saw the release of his reggae-influenced After the Rain album, followed by a European tour with Falling Doves. Earlier this year, Lutes signed to local Pacific Records and released a new single, “Suspect.” A full-length is due on October 30, Blue, a track-by-track recast of the iconic Weezer album. Pacific has several other releases planned for the remainder of 2020, including a new Falling Doves single that drops this week called “Be My Lover” and an album from the original Starfires, Fly Me Away, coming October 16. L.A.-based rapper Kubota just dropped a single for “You Are,” with a new still-untitled track due via Pacific on November 6.