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Noisia: flight of the navigators

A new album and incredible live show suggests that there’s more to come from Noisia

  • Words: Dave Jenkins | Photos: Conor Beary
  • 14 October 2016
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No limits

“They’ve been sitting there on drives, just waiting,” says Nik. “They’re those moments when you get into something and go ‘oh that’s cool’ – but it’s not right for what you’re currently working on, or you’re not quite sure which way to develop it, so you keep it for another context at the right time. They’re seeds and we make them grow into identities of their own. They want to be something. And when you know what that is, and you like what that is, then you can work on it.”

One of the unexpected processes they applied in the initial stages of ‘Outer Edges’ was to explore the idea of hiring topline writers and vocalists just. Not in search of a crossover hit (they already do this under the alias Nightwatch for the likes of Kraantje Pappie, Kano, Wretch32, Korn, Hadouken!, Bridget Kelly, Alexis Jordan and many more mainstream acts), but to explore the potential of using commercial techniques to create a palette that can be processed and manipulated in an experimental context.

“It was worth exploring to see if it was possible,” Thijs explains. “But we can’t send someone a complex track and expect to get what we want back. The only time it’s worked is ‘Exodus’ with KRS-One years ago. He was awesome. But our music is too full to include another layer of stuff to grab the listener’s attention. Essentially we try to grab everyone’s attention all of the time in our music.

“In most other electronic music tracks the sound design is secondary to the song,” he adds. “With us, the sound design is the song. That’s what makes us stand out – that last 1 per cent. That, and the three of us have a good rhythmic ear for a groove.”

Outer space

Back to the spaceship, and every person in the crowd would agree with Thijs’ assessment. There’s humour, in both their announcements to audience and the short-sharp moments of daftness on tracks such as ‘Tentacles’ and ‘Asteroids’, and there’s surrealism in both the sound and graphics. And with the new tracks, there’s the refreshing rejection of any type of typical form and arrangement.

But what’s really securing them a loyal following from bass fans is this: as certain corners of d’n’b teeter dangerously close to the edge of EDM sinkholes, there is complete trust and transparency here. Noisia won’t compromise. They will continually forge a path that’s true to their ambition and the challenging ideologies set by the likes of Optical and Photek 20 years ago. Whether they’re throwing down neuro-science in a dirty d’n’b dungeon or headlining the world’s biggest bass music festivals on a massive spaceship, they won’t dumb down their approach.

“Many people like to think for themselves,” says Nik. “They don’t want to hear moralising things in music, they’re not gullible, they can take subtle hints from music and interpret them in their own way. Songs can be sad. Songs can be a statement about violence or politics or oppression but you don’t have to put a massive sticker on it. I had that from the older d’n’b records. They meant shitloads to me. The sounds were so abstract. You couldn’t point at a song and say it’s about this or that, but I felt things. So when you start doing music in your own way you assume that your music can trigger in the same way. It doesn’t have to be about anything, it’s about interpretation.”

Back to the giant Czech spaceship, and the band climax with their seismic remix of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and a VIP of ‘Dead Limit’. The response is two screams short of a riot. Right at this very moment, interpretation isn’t necessary and the message is abundantly clear: we’re only beginning to peer over the outer edges of Noisia’s abilities.

Noisia play their biggest UK show so far, ‘Outer Edges’, at London’s Electric Brixton on Fri Dec 9

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