Wu-Lu – N.A.I.S.

A raucously ambient, sonically dense, deep groove bomb of an EP.

I have been lost in Wu-Lu’s EP N.A.I.S. for a month, ever since its release on March 2. Four tracks and a tidy 17 minutes, 7 seconds — plenty of time for Wu-Lu to have his way with you. In one moment, you feel ethereal and airy and happily hypnotic. In the next, you are locked into an automatic head-nodder of a trip-hop groove. And then, you are just absolutely buried in crashing, very present, almost urgent sound.

Wu-Lu N.A.I.S ep cover
Wu-Lu N.A.I.S ep cover

Wu-Lu is a South London based producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist. He deploys all of those skills to great affect on N.A.I.S., which is an intricately and righteously layered album. Straddling the electronic, psychedelic, and hip-hop/rap categories (with a bit of soulful jazz and funk thrown in for good measure), the record feels like a raw, celebratory exploration of sound. The album’s Bandcamp page describes “…minimal and congested ethereal soundscapes crossed with hard grooves and tight melodies.”

I couldn’t have written it better myself (and I tried).

This is Wu-Lu’s second EP and I think it marks a major evolution from his first, Ginga. That album (which, to be clear, is quite good) was more straight-ahead rhythmic and ambient; easier to have playing in the background, setting the mood and ready to be paid attention to when you tuned in. Conversely,   N.A.I.S. will not be ignored. For every out of mind/body ambient moment, Wu-Lu adds a snap of punctuated percussion or slashes in a digitally-warped dissonance across the frame. The other players are worth mentioning because they are excellent: Giles Kwake Bass on drums (Sampha, Kate Tempest, MF Doom) and Joe Armon Jones on keys (Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia).

No track better captures the essence of this EP than Storms, which is also remarkable — truly — for how it sonically recreates the song title. It’s all fuzzed out lo-fi distortion at the beginning backed by a droning vocal track. There’s a feeling of pent-up, crackling electricity. Then, the storm breaks. Gile Kwake Bass goes absolutely berserk on the kit, cymbals crashing like lighting, taut, hard percussion, and a thunderous, booming kick drum. And, then, it settles into a groove, almost like rainfall — pitter-patter — until the crashes of sound and noise rise again; wind and thunder.

It’s a monster listen that, like the rest of this EP, demands to be heard and felt and explored.