Musicians I’m Diggin’: HAAi

Though more relevant in the indie electronic music-sphere, HAAi has been delivering captivating performances (mixes) and beautifully conscious techno rhythms that shift the parameters of the dance floor vibe. Centered within techno, Haai brings this unique range of electronica and IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) sounds into the undercoating of hypnotic rhythms and enigmatic timbre tones of techno. The IDM is subtle; there’s the atmosphere that is ambient and intriguingly staticky; the low-tempo percussion, coming from varying drum notes influenced by the breakbeat aesthetic, just more tempered on the pace. But this is just me describing her debut album, Baby, We’re Ascending (2022). It doesn’t amount to varying styles she’s infused into her mixes, where she brought the heaters with her two Boiler Room sessions and fantastic, about 2-hour set for the Lot Radio (an independent radio station based out in Brooklyn, New York City).

HAAi has this antiquated energy with how she approaches the techno sound, seemingly incorporating the old with intriguing experimentations. It’s pertinent to her DJ and producer side, but equally, her choice of songs, whether smooth independent records, either original or remixed, adds a similar feeling when performing for a crowd. HAAi has given us a few performances through festivals, videos, and uploaded mixing sessions on streaming platforms. What makes these varying mixes unique is this constant desire to switch it up; tracks that carry over get placed in a different order to test the crowd’s vibes without sidestepping from the bombastic techno rhythms emboldening the ID tracks. It’s heard within her Boiler Room and MixMag sets; they aim to bring out the best of her style while leaving room for enough experimentation to keep those ears twitching with delight. Other mixes flesh out that unconscious danceability where you’re constantly hyped within the moment, taking in this beautiful mix of songs hidden behind the ID and grooving without realizing, taking your motions up a notch as the music gets injected into you.

HAAi may not be everyone’s cup of tea as she gets down to the nitty-gritty of the techno aesthetic, almost letting it explode from the fingers and mind and creating a boastful performance that never feels too long. Her hands seem to never pulsate toward implementing notions of pop, shooting for a vibe as opposed to melodic EDM-like vocals. She brings a finite start and end that keeps the tempo moving with consistency – at times, HAAi takes the rhythms to another level, elevating the timbre to work with the nuances from the drum machines. It’s even more captivating when you hear her set at the Movement Electronic Festival in Detroit. These audio versions of the sets aren’t as immersive as being there or seeing the scope on video, where the crowd’s energy brings you goosebumps as you might yearn to be there. However, as you listen to it, you get a better glimpse of someone who can select and excel without incorporating their own work into the fray.

It’s interesting how different it is. When I spoke about Nia Archives last week, I explored the intricacies of the genre, as it differs from the more recognized (comparatively) EDM and techno. For HAAi, she’s taking it to a different level, which may not seem as much at first, but you end up seeing the nuances of her craft. That’s how I latched on so swiftly to the music. You have this remarkable balance between the performance and studio, yet, there is so much more. I wasn’t as hyperactive with Electronic releases last year, but when I say HAAi’s debut is stellar, I’m not capping. But as I keep delving more into this world – beyond hitting play on a random mix – write-ups will continue.

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.

Bicep – Isles: Review

Artists in the electronic genre always have a consistent motif, even when they take the more abstract approach on the lining of their songs. That is predominately the case on the new album Isles by Biceps, a DJ / Electronic music production duo from Ireland. In a way it doesn’t resemble their debut, as the sound generated from their production is more abstract than the fluid and colorful debut Bicep. Though it doesn’t deliver as impactful as their debut, there is a lot to take from Isles even if it is new found appreciation for chillwave-like influences in the sound.

Isles opens to a series of teasers for the later album, as it transitions from these complex orchestrations that express inner grandeur in the mixing and construction. “Atlas,” and “Cazenova,” are evident of that when the two give this sense of adventure, especially the way it shifts from lowly ominous choral interludes, before letting the synth board take over.

The slight brushes painted at times on the tracks, are subtle and enjoyed. It keeps its consistency, even when it lacks brushes of color on the external layers. And in return it drives home a type of modesty that lets them take a slight half-hazard approach.

On the other hand, one of the driving hooks that keep the ears reeling back is the way they sometimes expand and subvert the genre into an abstract form. Cellist Julia Kent does so on “Rever” with the baritone like strings brushing against the main tracking. It weaves this abstract cry of rough chillwave and ambient backing vocals.

But when they ascend into the defining style of the album in the middle of the pack, sans the certain choices in the track “X“ that takes you aback. It isn’t like the smooth electric percussion on “Sundial,” and instead feels too lenient on keeping a cohesive combination, interloping with the stagnant synths and xylophones that does not go anywhere beyond the “simplest” of forms.

It definitely took me for a spin as it didn’t feel resonate to the smooth construct the opening few tracks have.

However Isles doesn’t evolve beyond moments of grandeur into a nonsensical bombastic, and that allows it to keep composure. More so than the external layers of “Saku,” featuring Clara La San. The mainline electronic sounds shift between depth and minimalism as Clara delivers this somber and effective R&B like vocals. Unlike whatever she does on “X” that is nonsensical. Lucky for us its the only real “huh?” moment.

Isles is a solid release for the Irish duo, even when it isn’t profound as their debut. It’s a good direction to see them in, and further implicating another mainstay in the genre for years to come.

Rating: 7 out of 10.