20 Apr 2024

Review: Silence is Loud by Nia Archives

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 20 April 2024
Nia Archives

Photo: Supplied

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Nia Archives, the drum n bass producer and vocalist from Northern England, followed up her set at Auckland’s Laneway festival earlier this year with a night out dancing to local DJs. Footage emerged on social media of the 24 year old looking positively joyous as she partied behind the decks.

She must have felt good knowing her debut album was in the tank, a body of work that continues her knack for pairing anthemic pop with skittering up-tempo rhythms.

Dehaney Nia Lishahn Hunt grew up in a musical family: her ex-stepfather was a producer and rapper, and her grandma and aunty ran a pirate radio station. Her gran also owned a sound system, and would use it to play jungle by genre pioneers like Goldie and Roni Size. 

Dehaney  has been releasing music as Nia Archives since 2020, at first including her voice in snatches as part of the overall tableau, but increasingly as primary instrument… aside from maybe the drums, which are always going to define this music.

On her debut LP Silence is Loud she takes the plunge into full on pop. ‘Crowded Roomz’ mirrors the album title in the lyric “I feel so lonely in crowded rooms”, over a descending electric guitar. ‘Unfinished Business’ is even more urgent, the rhythm buffeting her voice up and down a scale.

The ambition on that track perhaps outpaces Archives’ vocal ability, but there’s a bluntness to it that fits nicely. There’s even some layered acoustic guitar, heard more prominently on ‘Cards on the Table’, one of the album’s most explicit stabs at easy going pop - but even here those clattering rhythms persist.

When Archives sings "my eyes are brown with a tint of hazel" in her Yorkshire accent, it’s one example of many where she infuses this music, largely tied to a similar tempo, with her distinct personality. 

‘Forbidden Feelingz’ harks back to her earlier days, using her voice more like a sample, alongside an amusingly out-of-context quote from TV detective Columbo.

Nia Archives is largely hailed as being at the forefront of a resurgence in drum n bass’s popularity, but Silence is Loud mostly impresses with its pop nous. There’s no feeling of two formats grafted together, but someone adding to and embellishing the music they grew up with.

She’s still just 24, and as such subject matter tends to revolve around relationships, fraught and otherwise. But throughout there’s an energy that’s impossible to deny, an artist moving at her own (very fast) tempo, inviting you to join in.