The relationship between man and the universe has proved a fertile subject for many electronic artists, it takes a special artist then to approach the subject afresh, to engage with the anxieties that unquantifiable space inspires in a way that sounds vital rather than cliched.
We can comfortably attest that Nikka is one of them. A Barcelona-based sound artist who originally studied to become a food industry engineer, her scientific background suggests she’s qualified for grasping the big issues better than most. Despite a decade working in laboratories it’s her work in the studio that has marked Nikka out as someone to watch. Cutting her teeth as a resident DJ at London’s 1001, her debut album Isotopos was released on Lovethechaos in 2007.
This mix, the sixth in Apha-ville’s podcast series, showcases her distinct style that derives from her fascination with dualities – exploring what it means to be human through entering a dialogue with machines. That very paradox is the crux of her art as evocative, cinematic melodies build and sustain while distorted rhythms course and buckle, reflecting the chaos of infinity and the beauty that comes from it.
Nikka will be performing The Space In Between – a interdisciplinary collaboration with Alba G. Corral that explores generative art and digital sound – at the second Alpha-ville Festival, taking place in September. For now though, this podcast provides an introduction to an emerging artist who constantly asks questions of herself, and the listener.
Listen: Alpha-podcast presents Nikka
Why did you choose these records? Is the mix an accurate representation of your sound or perhaps aligned to a mood that you strive for?
“ The records have been chosen to represent my favorite frequencies, influences and musical tastes, as well as reflecting part of my life and experiences. The mix is a compilation of music I admire and also music that has inspired me. ”
How did you become involved in making music, and why electronic music?
“ The process started long time ago before I moved to London and started DJing at Cafe 1001. There, I was exposed to many different music tendencies and to international artists and it was behind the turntables when I became increasingly interested in music production and electronic music. I have been also influenced and motivated by my brother who is a music producer. Back in Barcelona I met Alba.G. Corral, a visual artist who works with real time processing graphics. We got together and we started a creative collaboration ‘the Space in Between’, a space for creativity and ‘real creation’. With this project we want to focus on the craftsmanship that is behind the production. We both are very committed to bolster digital culture, taking electronic music outside of a club environment and visuals beyond repetitive loops.
The beats throughout the podcast are predominantly arrhythmic, do you aim to challenge the listener or are you just eager to escape the predictability of ‘dance’ music?
“I guess both. I’ve always been attracted to the arrhythmia, the chaos, the antithesis and asymmetry of things. My music is equally informed by all these elements so it’s clearly far from the commercial and predictable ‘dance music’. I ultimately seek to provoke a reaction in the audience.”
“ Juxtaposition and asymmetry provide a continued source of inspiration for my work and life.”
Throughout the mix the backdrop is composed of quite cinematic elements – the piano, the sweeping, evocative soundscapes. Similarly your own productions are concerned with the play-off between almost violent rhythms and ambient textures. What is it about this juxtaposition that provides a rich source of inspiration?
“ Juxtaposition and asymmetry provide a continued source of inspiration for my work and life. I find balance and harmony within the Chaos – just as it happens in the Universe. The universe is chaos but if you look further and change the scale you can find harmony. I like to use Digital Entropry, a thermodynamics term, to define my music. It refers to a state of mind, a digital disorder where I always find creativity. ”
Your compositions often feel quite organic in how they build and flow, what’s the creative process when you create a record or play live?
“My creative process stars by thinking about a concept and idea and then build a project around it. Although research and documentation are essential in this process, I also try to let myself flow with the music and get inspired by everything that is around me. Some tracks are recorded directly in live and others tracks need to be arranged in the studio. ”
Do you see the melody and rhythm as distinct and opposed in your work or are they more closely related than that?
“Everything is fully related, it’s important to the emulsion of the track.”
Listening to your music one can sense a nod to science fiction, the sounds you use all have a futuristic, dystopian quality. Do you have any interest at all in science fiction?
“Yes I do, not only in science fiction but also in Science, Astrology, etc. My background is food chemical engineering so in a way I translate this knowledge into my music. The title and the songs of my first album Isotopos are inspired by elements of the universe and include names such us Materia, Inorganic, Uranio, etc .
Also, the titles of your music are also quite conceptual: ‘Inorganic Agent’, ‘Black Death 1348’, ‘AGE.’ They appear to tap into a corporeal anxiety. Is this a topic that appeals to you or worries you?
“I’ve always been fascinated by this topic and by the differences between the Macro-cosmos (Universe) and the Micro-cosmos (microorganisms). I’m a science girl, a food chemical engineer, and this has influenced me in my every day life and in the way I approach music.”
You use the term ‘digital entropy’, can you elaborate on that concept?
“[Laughs] I use this term to define my music and my artistic world. In thermodynamics, entropy is defined as a random distribution of a system, a measure of how disorganised a system can be. Therefore, Digital entropy is a chaotic digital space where I find harmony and balance. ”
Are there any artists that have had a lasting inspiration on you?
“I’ve always been inspired by the technoid and ambient noises of Hymen Record label.”
When you were growing up, what sort of music fascinated you? Does it still have an influence on the music you make?
“ Well, I have been always fascinated by strange things, so my friends and family say. My favourite artists were The Sugarcubes, Jane’s Addiction, Liaisons Dangerous, etc.
What is the biggest challenge faced by new musicians today?
“For some artists new technologies and the internet represent a big challenge in the careers. The old models of making money in the music business are going away. To survive, musicians and their managers need to innovate and break out of the old ways of thinking about the business. Today, living a life in music is a privilege and artists have to survive on touring and merchandise income, although this does not work for most of us. Having said that, the internet has helped me to connect with fans around the world and to open new creative collaborations and projects. ”
“The old models of making money in the music business are going away. To survive, musicians and their managers need to innovate and break out of the old ways of thinking…”
What things, outside of music, inspire you?
“Science, the world around us and the universe in which we live.”
You’re playing at Alpha-Ville festival in September – are you looking forward to it? Can you give us some insight into the kind of set you’re going to play?
“ I’m very much looking forward to it! It sounds like an amazing festival and I’m very excited to play in London for the first time. I will be presenting some tracks from ‘Isotopos” and ‘Pandemia’ as well as new tracks. It will be a sound journey through Alba G Corral’s new generative digital art work. ”
Yes, you’ll be performing The Space in Between at Alpha-ville, which is a collaboration between you and Alba G. Corral. Can you explain a bit more? Why’s it called The Space In Between?
“ Alba and I met in 2006 at Niu (Contemporary Art Venue in Barcelona) and started collaborating in various projects around Barcelona. In 2009 we created a common space where we felt comfortable working hand in hand. The Space In Between is the creative space emerged when we get together. It is a fusion between abstract generative art and melancholic sounds. We both establish a dialogue between two different disciplines, exposing the audience to a cutting edge and enriching audio-visual experience. ”
You live in Barcelona which is obviously this thriving, creative hub. How does the city feed into what you do?
“Barcelona has treated me very well. I have my audience, my friends that are like a family here that have supported me at all times. However I would like to expand my horizons, to grow as an artists and work in new projects.”
You’ve got a new LP coming out, what’s it called and can you give us some clues as to what it’s going to sound like?
“The new LP is called Pandemia and it will be released on Discontinu record label in the Autumn. The sounds are different from my previous albums and are related to human diseases. ‘Pandemia’ is not only a record but a project that comprises remixes of many artists. For the live show, I will incorporate the use of a microscope as a sound and as a visual element.
Are there any other plans in the pipeline that you want to share?
“Well, I have various projects in my agenda, mainly international residencies, live shows and also collaborations with other artists. ”