Nihiloxcia brought us energy like no other musical ensemble at the Brickyard in Carlisle last Wednesday.
Nihiloxcia (Nii-lox-ee-ca) are self described as a "project that harnesses the full force of the ancient Bugandan drumming tradition of Uganda and focuses it on the contemporary dance floor through a dark lens of techno sensibility".
Support Act: Max Tyler
Max warming up the crowd with his cultural dance music
The band's support act was Max Tyler, a DJ that authentically blended traditional Punjabi sounds with industrial and tech house synths.
Max mixed in his soft and delicate spoken-word-stylised vocals over the heavy beats which made for a tantalising polarising performance.
The serene melodies of the traditional south asian instruments mixed in with the darker tone of the riffs and reverberating dance sounds made for a captivating performance.
Max belting out his spoken word stream of consciousness
There was a noticeable hunger amongst the crowd for the more vigorously shaped tonalities to which Max was very receptive. This resulted in the crowd erupting into a dance mosh pit for people to descend into the madness of the music itself.
Next was the ever-loved cool down period that is inevitable for most live performances that have high octane sections like the hedonistic mosh. Here Max greeted us with a soft dreamscape on the piano that was married with South Asian woman’s Sufi vocals.
Max’s performance was culturally appreciative of the snippets of South Asian sounds he used to serve as a continuous thread throughout.
It felt like a mix between dreamy and dark, you could feel your senses move throughout as your ricocheted from one genre to the next and that makes the performance all the more enticing.
Max Tyler closing the stage with a heavy hitter of a record
All three Ugandan members of Nihiloxcia
The UK’s home office restrictions made applying for Visas for half the band, who are from Uganda, a living hell.
Nihiloxcia responded to the systemic issue at large with their most recent album ‘Source of Denial’ and told The Guardian:
“We wanted to create the sense of being in the endless, bureaucratic hell of attempting to travel to a foreign country that deems itself superior to where you’re from”.
Despite these difficulties at large in wider society, Nihiloxcia channeled all this frustration into an album that genuinely makes you feel the anger they are trying to communicate.
That’s what makes 'Source of Denial' such a captivating album, it’s on the same level of Rage Against the Machine’s self titled album in terms of message and outrage.
The band grooving with each other
The last time I’d seen such a level of dedicated drumming was probably when I saw Korn’s Ray Luzier way back in 2015.
The vital difference being that for Nihiloxica, the connection between the three main drummers felt effortless and from their performance you could see how the drums became an attachment of their expression and not just an instrument to be played.
Nihiloxcia performed a few tracks from 'Source of Denial' with my favourites being Kudistro, Asidi and Source of Denial.
There is an impending sense of riot and breaking free from constraints with these few tracks and an unspoken rhetorical communication of ‘do you feel it’.
The tracks border on punk in theory yet was still rooted in the traditional drumming that echoes its own language void of genre, bursting with emotion.
All the drummers working in unison to give us the full power of these instruments
Although there may be a darkness behind the stories that are being told, there is also a fair few joyous melodies brought by the electric sounds at the start of Kudistro and Diggi Dagga.
They took us on a ecstatic journey of the euphoria that can be experienced when you are unionised through rhythm and pure soul as an audience member.
The decision for incorporating electronic beats came from the DJ’s at Nyege club night in Kampala who would jam along with the drummers which the band’s website describes as an interesting but only one-way conversation.
Set in the backdrop of an intimate 320 capacity venue like the Brickyard it felt like you were being treated to something quite special.
As an audience member you feel like you are in an endless dance and this is something that can be hard to achieve for commercial bands and singers.
The band shutting it down and turning it up on the stage
Nihiloxcia are pioneers of music style that is unheard of in the UK and really took us to their roots when they played a couple songs of their self titled EP released in 2017.
The EP transports you to their rich heritage and descends you deep into a world that is unknown to you yet you cannot help but find gratification from.
Tracks like ‘Endongo’ have a level of suspense that is more likely found in film scores than typical musical drumming.
I can honestly say with over ten years experience of going to gigs and having a hugely diverse music taste that I have never seen anything like Nihiloxcia before.
It’s raw, it’s moving and it’s what can happen when two art forms, the ancient Ugandan Drumming and use of electronic instruments meet together and make something truly unheard of.
A traditional western drum kit is used in unison with the Ugandan drumming
They are continuing their tour with other UK dates and some European ones if you want to see them for yourselves.