Silence Is Loud

The self-described “emotional junglist” Nia Archives sings cursive melodies over some of the most relentless breakbeats you’ve ever heard. It’s the sound of 100 thoughts racing through your head when you realize your situationship lied to you. A few years ago, she was balancing school with a job at the UK pub chain Wetherspoons, paying out of pocket for Instagram ads to promote her first song. Soon, she became a leader of a widespread jungle and drum’n’bass revival alongside artists like dazegxd and SHERELLE. The scene has had a slew of TikTok hits and bite-sized EPs, but no defining project—until now.

Silence Is Loud injects jungle with the glittery immediacy of pop ballads. It’s emo and elated, a diary blown up into sleek yet sensitive anthems made for arena-sized catharsis. Nia is a jungle obsessive, but she’s more concerned with honoring its culture and history than imitating any one of the myriad strains spawned in its ’90s golden age. In one interview, she describes her broad interpretation of the genre as “modern-day punk music in a dance space.” This loose understanding explains why her style has always been so malleable and unruly (for starters, on her last EP, she rewired the genre with bossa nova and sped-up Brazilian body music).

She’s keen to reshape a genre historically piloted by men, in which producers rarely reference their personal lives. Nia sings fiercely about things like unrequited desire, spinning out into soulful melodies and gleaming trills. The percussion simultaneously buries and intensifies her voice, giving her cover to unleash distressing fears. On “F.A.M.I.L.Y,” Nia talks about feeling alienated from her relatives, but the molten bass and singalong chorus nearly trick you into thinking it’s a positive power-bop. “Nightmares” possesses the vitriol of a novella-length hate text: Nia disses a lying man with such jaunty keys and cheeky moxie that it’ll make even the fuckboys smile.

While the music aspires to feel both clubby and confessional, many songs offer only vague sketches of emotional conflicts, trading concrete details for catchy rhymes. This works on “Cards on the Table,” where she somersaults across the guitars’ spindly groove. But it can also feel too neat and radio-packaged; the smooth vocal rhythm sometimes misaligns with the prickly worries she’s sharing. In the absence of nuanced insights or anecdotal texture, her struggles can come across trite at times—like, who hasn’t felt lonely in a crowded room?

But maybe emotional specificity isn’t the whole point. Instead, it’s this combo of party-hard sincerity that makes her music so punchy, like she’s animatedly telling secrets to a friend while wildly raving. And unlike the madcap cyber junglists of today, who adorn beats in delirious fuzz and frazzled digi-chaos, she hews closely to the pristine angularity of classic jungle percussion, each drum hitting with a satisfying sharpness. She’s the modern link between the genre’s past and present, palling around with new-gen producers and ’90s pioneers alike; Goldie makes a brief cameo on the dizzyingly lovesick “Tell Me What It’s Like?” to pump her up.

In the process of supersizing her sound, Nia has lost some of the subtle charm that made her early music so addictive. Where listening to tunes like 2022’s “Gud Gudbyez” felt like peering into a raver’s daydream reveries, these songs sound like they’re built for a massive loudspeaker. And the instrumental flourishes that made her wilder music feel thrillingly delirious, like eclectic samples and pockets of wistful ambience, have been replaced by flashy guitar and synth.

Nia’s jungle R&B reaches peak intoxication when the tunes feel less calibrated to bounce around your brain forever and more like misty hallucinations. There’s “So Tell Me,” a complaint about mistreatment that sounds like she’s addicted to the ouroboros of overthinking. Shimmery, reversed synths and Nia’s reverb-laden lilt conjure the image of an angel skating across the plush surface of a cloud. The entrancingly eerie “Forbidden Feelingz” shatters her voice into high-pitched shards, its dusty Columbo sample charging the air with a kind of haunted electricity like the Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist.” It makes Nia’s music feel like an aural lenticular print superimposing the 2020s onto the ’90s.

The most moving tune might be the only one without drums. It’s a reprise of the title track, an affectionate ode to her brother Zac that convulses with neon vocal fragments and a pulse manic enough for a hyperpop street carnival. The sequel opens with a voice note from her brother asking after her and praising the music, before dissolving into a piano ballad with a closing sample of ecstatic crowd cheers. A canny triumph of self-remixing, the song foregrounds community warmth and celebrates the people who make her happy. It’s tricky to revive a genre closely associated with a brief time period and specific sonic attributes. Haters say you don’t make real jungle. Critics constantly compare you to the genre’s pioneers. There’s nothing woefully timestuck about these sensitive dance songs, though. They’re made by someone living passionately in the moment and rushing into the future at breakbeat speed.

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Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud