The synths whirl into life and it feels as if we are launching headfirst into the orbit of a terrifyingly exciting science-fiction universe, full of depraved darkness and epileptic seizure-inducing spasms of light. Nuha Ruby Ra gracefully struts into view, lights a thin pink candle on either side of the stage in front of her two collaborators this evening – Daisy and Panda of Matekoi – before whispering an incantation on repeat, “Progress. I’m making progress. Progress. I’m making progress…”.
Tonight Nuha appears before us ten-feet tall – she is an an avant-punk or intergalactic cowgirl who possesses the stage presence of an artier and more magnetic Nick Cave. The former Arrows Of Love songwriter and bassist says of her new musical path, “I build surreal sonic architecture that’ll make you move differently. There’s a rave in the bat cave. Don’t be fooled by the beginning, the middle or the end”. 2022 has been a juggernaut of a year for Nuha with a multitude of festival performances across a frantic summer and tours supporting the likes of Yard Act, Viagra Boys, Warmduscher and Bambara. The venue is full to capacity and there’s a warmth mixed with a heady dose of anticipation and excitement in the room. Strap yourself in, this is going to be a wild ride.
“My Voice” is an eerie snapshot of obsession laced with the swirling flashback of a bad acid trip. The song requires Nuha to employ two microphones, one in each hand, as she lunges ever closer to the stage edge, while Panda creates a controlled Nine Inch Nails-inspired guitar backdrop that lurks menacingly but never threatens to overshadow.
On the glorious “Rise”, a table becomes a makeshift drum while ghost ship booms and rave lighting fill the room. Nuha repeats a reference to “2-7-4” throughout the evening, as if the numbers represent the new meaning of life, the universe, and everything. She confides that this is the first live performance of “Eggshells” which is akin to a spooky nursery rhyme complete with a mysterious creature lurking under the bed. Nuha’s shadow appears on the backdrop – an entire row of ghostly Nuhas, in fact, as if taking to heart Björk’s “Army Of Me” – whilst moving as if orchestrating soundwaves across the room.
“Self Portraiture”, taken from the upcoming Machine Like Me EP, is a delight of cool, quasi-whispered vocals punctuated with stabs of funky new wave guitar. There’s a celebratory scream from the crowd as Nuha sings, “I take the place of six men / And I’ll keep doing it and doing it again”. For instrumental, “Cruel Ending”, Nuha straps on her bass and the trio conjure something that wouldn’t be out of place on a David Lynch film soundtrack, while the finale of “Run Run” is clawing and raw, complete with high-pitched, bloodcurdling screams of which the finest horror actor would be proud.
I’ve been fortunate enough to experience a number of Nuha’s live performances, yet I never really know what to expect. My first Nuha gig boasted a logistically-daunting seven-member line-up that barely managed to squeeze onto the stage of Dalston’s The Shacklewell Arms. Lockdowns came and went and my next glance would be an outdoor extravaganza on a damp August evening on a south London industrial estate, which saw Nuha accompanied by just a saxophone player and a backing track as she confidently strutted across table tops in thigh-high red PVC boots. The truly solo performances are something else entirely – plumes of dry ice enveloping waves of digital beats as Nuha’s powerful yelps and cries prowl our dreamscapes and wake us from sweaty night terrors. However, tonight’s performance is by far my favourite thus far. Something locked deep within is ensnared, wrangled with and set free. Musically, it joins all the dots from rave, punk, techno, new wave and beyond – this is the something special which we were promised and Nuha delivers with aplomb. As photographer, tour manager and Instagrammer, Sad Bast, eloquently enthuses, “All I need say is star power and all the elements of a true creative’s headline homecoming were clearly present, indulging the psyche and all the senses”.
Set list: Cure For Tired Business Men / Cruel / My Voice / Rise / At The Canyon’s Edge / Eggshells / Erase Me / Self Portraiture / 6 In The Morning / Cruel Ending / Sparky / Run Run
Nuha Ruby Ra releases her second EP, ‘Machine Like Me’, on 3rd March via Brace Yourself Records and pre-orders are available from Bandcamp. Nuha will be performing a one-off London date at The Shacklewell Arms for Wide Awake Festival x Dazed Magazine on 26th January before undertaking an Independent Venue Week tour, performing on:
31st Jan at The Boileroom, Guildford
1st Feb at The Cornish Bank, Falmouth
2nd Feb at The Louisiana, Bristol
3rd Feb at The Tin, Coventry
4th Feb at The Live Rooms, Chester
Follow Nuha Ruby Ra’s socials on: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Review by Mandy Bang @mandybang
Photos by Mark Dans L’Espace @mark_danslespace
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