The stories behind Source of Denial, the second album from UK-Uganda techno group Nihiloxica, are both grim and timely. Especially in recent years, detainments, visa cancellations, and rejections of refugees have impacted band members directly (they had to cancel a planned 2022 UK tour) and simply as conscientious members of society. Such frictions inspire their new release, a fittingly jarring amalgam of electronics, hefty rock, computer-generated bureaucrat-speak, and infuriating dial tones. With hardly a single humanly voiced word, Nihiloxica spends Source of Denial taking an uncompromising stand against discriminatory political restrictions on human movement.
Nihiloxica’s sound has always been a testament to the power of mobility. Based in Kampala and with members from the UK and Uganda, Nihiloxica merge traditional Bugandan drums and rhythms with plugged-in EDM production. The result is somewhere between IDM and industrial rock, with hand percussion and synths intertwined in dizzying combinations hot with static and fuzz. Source of Denial leans into these stylistic eddies, swirling sounds, and social commentary together with gravitas on each track.
This is serious protest music, in its own way, and as such, works to appeal to a wide range of sentiments. The opening work “Kudistro”, the title track, and “Baganga” vibrate furiously, while “Olutobazzi” and “Asidi” are metallic rave fuel. “Preloya”, “Postloya”, and “Trip Chug” are almost dreamy, though still resolute. In each case, this is music full to the brim with feeling, affectively rich and compelling in its unpredictability. The resonances between performers–acoustic percussion juxtaposed against abstract synthesizers sound totally organic here–enhance a sense of co-creation that makes the messaging in three framing tracks especially stark.
These tracks, “Exhaust/Outsourced”, “Interrogation/Welcome”, and closer “Tuuka/Bulungi”, shape the work’s overall concept clearly at Source of Denial’s beginning, middle, and end. The first of these begins with a dial tone before an automated phone tree takes over, calmly suggesting that “first-world” listeners outsource immigration work and turn in friends they suspect of illegal movement to law enforcement. The speaker on “Interrogation/Welcome” flickers between a Matt Berry level of melodramatic enunciation and distorted robotics, threatening as it rattles off a list of questions for border crossers against increasingly vexing background sound. As the record draws to a close, “Tuuka/Bulungi” offers nearly a full minute of dial tone over subtly growing engine noises, a sonically grating and emotionally chilling finale with a clear point: not everyone’s calls for help are answered.
The significance of a work like Source of Denial is its no-holds-barred questioning of the power structures that determine who gets help. Direct citations of institutional red tape, such as those in the framing tracks, scaffold the more viscerally received themes that come through the music: strength in coalition, rejection of hegemonies, insistence on movement, and collaboration as human rights. As they draw from realms of metal, hard rock, and much older musical traditions, Nihiloxica call listeners to awareness and action with vigor and skill. Source of Denial may not include verbal appeals, but there’s a direct energy to the group’s music that makes it more compelling than ever here. Understood in context, this album is a compact and dynamic package of galvanizing sound with profound relevance to the current moment.