“It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can do whatever you like and you can make something of yourself.” Those were the words of an elated Nia Archives when she took home the Best Producer gong at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 earlier this month. Beating out competition from huge names including Fred Again.. and Travis Barker, a victory shows just how far the Bradford-born, Leeds-raised DJ, producer and vocalist has come in such a short space of time.
That moment of triumph is a testament to her lifelong DIY spirit. She started out in crap writing sessions with other artists, and took control by teaching herself how to produce aged only 16. Last April, she introduced the world to her fresh take on jungle and drum‘n’bass via her self-released debut EP, ‘Headz Gone West’. Her second collection, ‘Forbidden Feelingz’ – again released on her own label, HIJINXX – features Nia’s best and most multi-layered creations to date.
Packed with self-love-promoting jungle anthems, it’s a sonic evolution from her tentative first release. This six-tracker is grittier and more in-your-face in terms of its club-focused production, all while tackling topics such as mental health and body dysmorphia. She pays homage to the musicians she worshipped, like Burial, Grace Jones and jungle pioneers Kemistry and Storm; the melting pot of genres she pulls from now include old skool hardcore, garage, dubstep, gospel and jazz.
The first sounds on opener ‘Ode 2 Maya Angelou’ – which samples the American poet and civil rights activist – paint a serene picture: wavey synths dominate as birds tweet wistfully from above. That is the case until, 30 seconds in, the record is spun back and the rumbling beat crashes in; one of Nia’s strongest skills is her ability to switch up, move on and keep listeners guessing, a recurring theme across the EP. That restlessness sets up at least two future-jungle soundsystem classics. The title track’s laser-heavy sub-bass, and the rapid breakbeats of ‘18 & Over’ – which features a Greentea Peng-style reggae lilt – will cause carnage in sweaty warehouses up and down the land.
‘Luv Like’ switches things up, musically and emotionally. Built on a relaxed guitar riff, she weaves in multiple influences to create a hybrid sound, but one that packs a punch: “To think that you could ever love someone like me / Through the highs and the lows / I’m good knowing that you got me”. Nia doesn’t need these moments of heft to elevate the rapid-fire heaters, but she provides them anyway; a strong and incomparable voice in a dance scene that often hides behind anonymity to bolster clout.
On her second EP, Nia Archives proves that not only is she a leader for a new generation of drum‘n’bass ravers, but cements her place as an elite producer. For the best not only craft soundscapes as electrifying as this, but use their skills to extract and realise universal feelings and truths. Few – if any – are doing it as well as Nia right now.
- Release date: March 10
- Record label: HIJINXX