The lilting toplines and lo-fi-inflected sheen in Nia Archives’ ‘Headz Gone West’ began making waves in the Spring of 2020. The debut EP, which lasted all of 13 minutes, suggested a new turn in the jungle renaissance, tapping into a younger generation of would-be jungle and drum & bass lovers. Though deeply rooted in the hardcore continuum, Archives’ was a sound merging the breakbeat and Jamaican soundsystem cultures of her youth with leftfield artistry reminiscent of early ‘00s singer-songwriters: think Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu.
Rounding out at five tracks, the doleful themes on ‘West’, mixed with hazy, sun-kissed chords, deep rolling bass and liquid breaks, was a clear statement of intent — ravers, both young and old, took note. “Every experience I’ve had in my life has led to this sound,” Archives explains to us over Zoom. “These sounds are ingrained in my DNA.” Archives has a light touch when it comes to heavy topics.
Her debut single ‘Sober Feels’ broaches the pain of sobriety, while the record’s title track is a plaintive ode to chronic insomnia (“I guess my head has gone west / ain’t never getting no rest / I watch the sun rise and then the sunset / I wanna get high so I can forget”). ‘Crossroads’, the EP’s final single, deals with major life decisions following betrayal — not the easiest themes for a debut, but when paired with her jazzy intonations and butter-like harmonies, the results are magic.
Bradford-born and Leeds-raised, Archives came of age in a household where disco, jungle and Roots Manuva classic ‘Brand New Second Hand’ were played on loop. She claimed Manchester after moving to the city aged 16 and cut her teeth on the rave scene, building a faithful circle of music-minded friends and collaborating with producers in her new home town. She makes what she likes to call “pres and afters” music, cuts to ease you into the night, as well as soothe “when you’re on a come down”.
It begs the question: where and when does she feel most inspired? “I make the best music at 3am,” she replies instantly. “I’ve got insomnia so that feeds into it, but at that time of night it comes to me. In the night-time it flows. There’s no distraction, it’s just me and my laptop making perfect tunes.”
For Archives, making beats was a soothing distraction long before it became a singular passion, but at the age of 17, realising that she couldn’t wait on producer friends to help hone her sound, she got hold of a cracked version of Logic and started laying down tracks, some of which landed on her SoundCloud page. “Hopefully nobody finds them because they are trash,” she laughs effervescently. “But it’s all part of the journey, you know?”
March sees the release of Archives’ sophomore EP ‘Forbidden Feelingz’, a six-tracker showcasing a more confident artist dabbling in the darker tones. “I’m really excited about this EP,” Archives confides towards the end of our conversation. “It’s so different from ‘Headz Gone West’ — it sounds more mature and more where I want to go in my production.”
Also on the horizon are a number of DJ gigs, including a few warm-up sets for junglist icon, Shy FX. One shift that Archives has noted — and is most proud of — are the new ravers that line the front row of her gigs. “Most of the time you go to drum & bass nights and no one looks like you — it’s mad,” she says, slightly bewildered. “But every time I’ve done a gig it’s been bare young Black women. I feel like it’s the start of people re-claiming the sound, and I think maybe the only thing that I’m trying to push in the conversation is, I definitely want to inspire more Black women to come to the rave.” Say no more.
Listen to Nia Archives' Fresh Kicks mix below.
Nia Archives ‘Luv like’
DJ NUT NUT ‘Message From Jah’
Bow Street Runner ‘The Fear’
Coco Bryce ‘D.L.P’
Sempra ‘First Degree’
DJ Dextrous ‘Jungle Theme’
Remarc ‘Sound Murderer’
Harmony ft Peppa ‘Oxy’
Bow Street Runner ‘Murderous Style’
Conquering Lion ‘Code Red’
Kidlib ‘The Talk’
Nia Archives ‘18 & Over’
Kidlib & Tim Reaper ‘Dem Body’
Felixcw ‘Howla Dub
Harmony ‘Just a Game’
Sub Focus ‘Last Jungle (Tim Reaper Remix)’
Top Cat, DJ Monk ‘Love Me Sess’
Just Jungle ‘Make You Feel Better’
Breakage ‘The Original Certified Bubbler’
Nia Archives ‘Forbidden Feelingz’
Just Jungle Come Fi Nice It Up’
The Streets ‘Geezerz (Nia Archives Edit)’