Musicians I’m Diggin’: Nia Archives

I’ve always had an affinity for all electronic music. It’s been more of a personal love that lives rent-free in my head – hitting play on any given playlist – becoming entranced by the variety of sounds these artists create; it’s like finding yourself at a DJing venue, vibing while one’s close to the DJ. Often, when they come into my ear’s plane of existence, personal discography deep dives bring these beautifully enriching DJ Mixes, but more importantly, self-produced tracks that embolden their identity. Hearing and seeing the intimate and more focused live radio mixes to the more illustrious and fun curations by places like MIXMAG and The Boiler Room, it’s not hard to hear their talent, especially within the ID tracks or newly printed singles. I’ve spoken about Nora Van Elken and Telenovel in the past; however, I never made a concerted effort to blog my thoughts about more of these artists, which had found innate replay amongst the varying electronic music I keep in a personal playlist. I’m planning on changing that because these artists have me return without hesitation, so to start the New Year, I thought, why not the artist I’ve been vibing with recently, Nia Archives.

2022 was full of momentous splashes for Nia Archives’ career – a multi-talented artist that can mix, produce, sing, and write music whose craft expands to new realms where blending styles can come subtly and delve the music to unique depths. Sometimes we get subtle dance/EDM influence in the vocals, like on “Luv Like” off her Forbidden Feelingz EP. Yet, she continuously creates these luscious and hypnotically rhythmic breakbeats and jungle/drum-n-bass overtures that are ever-shifting in tone. It also blends into her solo work as some of her chorus performances embody the grooves influenced by dancehall and reggae, like on “18 & Over.” Jungle and Drum-N-Bass – like all electronic music – take from the rhythmic soil that elevated particular instruments to the forefront. Despite House music growing with percussion as one of its core features, the sound and other instruments/sounds started to focus more on synths — not all, but some of the more popular styles we know, like EDM or Tropical House. Jungle and Drum-N-Bass take from varying influential sources like dancehall, funk, and reggae and synchronizes them with these energetically powerful percussion patterns. These genres also embolden the nuanced influences that helped elevate the standards and quality of Grime music, which, in turn, finds common ground with these genres coded from a similar camp.

In Electronic music, there is so much infusion that sometimes you never know other sub-genres (like melodic house or glitch); it’s easy to get lost through many avenues you’ll never know you’ll find yourself in; all you have to do is explore. That’s what I did, and when I hit play on Nia Archives’ Luvleh Mix, it hit me, creating an unwavering head bopping. The way she blended these arcane breakbeat tracks into one illustrious cohesion that doesn’t temper its progression, wavering fantastic levels that keep you engaged, whether you’re already a fan of the genre or discovering. We hear her blending these mesmerizing beats that shift in style, whether it’s atmospherically more echo-y or the tempo is sifting between distinct melodies with tracks that evoke danceable tangibles in the performance like that of mixed song “Greetings” by Red Light. On her Luvleh Mix, the intangibles are there as you get percussion is as vibrant as the rainbow through a glass prism.

Nia Archives has released a few Singles and EPs that embody the essence of breakbeat and jungle/drum-n-bass sounds, bringing this echo chamber of nuance and showing us upbeat energy within her performances. You can hear it in the energetic and fun “18 & Over,” which also sees Nia Archives encouraging her love of the genres that influence her. It’s continuously effervescent in the music she creates, like the monstrously bombastic “Baianá” or the more melodic (comparatively), “So Tell Me,” which brings an essence of dance grooves in the choruses while keeping to that core breakbeat aesthetic. That blend gets heard enormously on her Boiler Room set from September in London; here, we hear these luscious transitions Archives’ creates, seamlessly mixing breakbeat with these overly vigorous percussion notes.

Check out Nia Archives’ work, and let me know how you vibe. I’ll be writing about varying artists and how it was to discover them in the moment. From her EPs to her Mixes, there is a treasure trove of music to play. Unfortunately, for Spotify users, many of these mixes are accessible through Apple Music and YouTube – the former has Mixes available to stream without having to play a video. But regardless, we have that treasure trove of options to seek and listen to, and I hope you do so with Nia Archives, a DJ that I will have on steady rotation all of 2023.

Musicians I’m Diggin’: Telenova

Some of my favorite discoveries have been on a series from Australian DJ & Radio Host Triple J called, Like A Version. Within his show, the artist he interviews deliver two live performances, one original and one cover they want to do. And one artist that captivated me on both ends is Telenova, an Australian Electro-Pop/R&B band that offers intrigue to a world that can expand. I knew they could make something special from their performance of “Hung Up” by Madonna. I was on a cloud of whimsy as they delivered sonically while constantly expressing jubilance. From there, I started to dig further into their discography–two EPs and a few singles later, they have an identity built within their core, despite slightly shifting to standard sonic conventions we hear amongst their contemporaries. But that’s okay, as they follow a rhythmic pattern that makes our ears tingle with that pop-tinge from musical catchiness.

There’s “Bones,” this exuberant electro-pop groove that leans on the atmosphere, shifting between these whimsical strings and filtered synths. Contrasting that style is the percussion-driven “Haunted,” which recontextualizes atmospheric overtures as a subtle backing layer for the rhythmic and slight R&B-influenced vocals from lead singer Angeline Armstrong. There are various turns Telenova takes to make themselves stand out amongst the rest, and beyond the two tracks mentioned, they bring an excellent ear for certain instrumentations. We especially hear in the cadence brought out by the strings, whether from various guitars, mandolins, etc., weaving together the varying layers of synths and percussion into flirtations with pop. I’m an over-giddy fan who loves ambient/atmospheric electro-pop, specifically when it has an identity that separates them from contemporaries, like Chvrches. One of many indie bands I return to–I can’t wait  for the moment they release full length LP, but for now, check out their cover of “Hung Up” and EPs, and hopefully you’ll like them.

Check out their most recent EP, Stained Glass Love, here:

Musicians I’m Diggin’: – Nora Van Elken

Nora Van Elken may not be the most well known amongst her peers, but she has been exponentially growing uniquely within the otherwise colorful deep house and downtempo music. She breaches different territories by allowing her own distinct vocals to have a sense of confidence within, specifically in her debut album and covers, as well as having a beautiful array of conceptual projects. But amongst the plethora of music she has put out, there are few projects of note to check out by this unique house artist, who on her own has made some bold moves in the music she made covers for and remixed, as well changing her musical landscape to be adjunct with the culture that influences it.

The self-titled Nora Van Elken is her only work that has a consistent sonic landscape that emboldens EDM styles. The illustrious percussion notes take you on a trip through an elegant array of one-two steps and upper body dance movement-music, though at times falling into a wrought dance music consistency; it is a unique piece of work that shows an organic evolution, if you start with this and head in a chronological direction. Some of the qualities from the EDM genre have transitioned over, specifically in the elevated and polished percussion pattern, that is mixed prominent in the sonic landscape of soul and jazz/funk music.

The percussion has been a prominent feature; specifically in the way the genre has been able to create more melodic depth into the kind of sonic infusions we get, especially within the singles and EPs she has released as well. The percussion is oftentimes a more chill and relaxed genre (comparatively), but the focus on the percussion to keep a consistent dance vibe, even if you’re doing it alone in your room. And other times her music carries a vibe that doesn’t fully bring you to that headspace, instead giving you an array of elegant production for a calm summer day at that park or sitting on your porch, under an awning, in the middle of a rainy day. That is what her two subsequent albums are.

Skyforest, the follow up to her self titled debut, brings a kind sonic energy that evokes styles in-line with sounds that seems to reveal more unique constructs of a deep house and EDM that is focused more on atmosphere than forcing a dance structure. The smooth transitions are what keep it deterring itself from her vision. And though not every track is perfect on this LP there is a lot to like. One beautiful standout is “Borneo,” which bridges the two different sonic atmospheres by a simple overlay in the synths at the beat drop. It is very different and at times similar to this followup, Sakura, where at times on Skyforest you’ll hear some organic and authentic forest sounds that bring more life, like how Sakura does with Japanese music.

Sakura influence lies in the unique sonic textures of cultural Japan, like high-pitched flutes, somber piano keys, and string orchestration adjunct to their style of musical theater. It is one of the more calm LPs in her collection as its focus goes beyond a consistent sound, and is an overall sonic concept, like Skyforest. It’s hard to make something profound and perfect with a sonic concept because it requires the same, if not more meticulous attention to detail as opposed to artists who do lyrically conceptual work, where the instrumental comes as slightly second nature. Sakura is her best project out of the three albums, mostly because of the intricate detail behind the production and sticking true to the concept in a nuanced manner. 

Outside of her three albums, she has, on Youtube and unfortunately not on streaming platforms, a deep house mixtape filled with a plethora of mixed and unreleased material, that is in part a gift for the fans and as well a slight showcase of her technical and musical skills. This is similarly the case with the choices she makes for covers and remixes, which have brought about a different confidence in her artistry by taking on some high-power pop hits like Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.” They may not be everyone’s cup of tea because of the house direction to the original instrumentations, but they don’t take the stage away from the key parts of the instrumentation that make those tracks well known, like the acoustic guitar in the chorus of “Here Comes The Sun.”

Nora Van Elken was a great surprise to discover as the Breaking Dance playlist on Apple Music and diving into her music was an astronomical feeling of wows and musical glee. The way she mixes and orchestrates her music shows continuous promise as she grows and hopefully becomes a mainstay in house and electronic music.