In recent decades, the idea of ‘punk’ has shifted from the description of a single musical genre to a meaning that encompasses a state of mind or attitude. It can be applied to any genre, medium or activity, as long as what it stands for goes ‘against the grain’ and speaks up against perceived wrongs. For London ‘avant-punk’ Nuha Ruby Ra, the punk ethos is applied to her personal life and inner thoughts, as she uses her music to display her primal urges, singing about things that are normally reserved for intimate pillow talk or tearful counselling sessions, with no heed for anyone who might be upset or offended by what they’re hearing.
Building off the back of some well received singles that earned her praise from the likes of Iggy Pop and a series of live performances during which she would lead a band of up to eight people, Nuha comes into How To Move more seasoned than her scant recorded offerings would suggest, and it shows. The seven-track set might be a 24-minute EP, but it’s structured like an album, with an intro, interlude and ending, and features a performer who’s fully committed to making it count, as if she’s waited her whole life for this.
Across How To Move, Nuha reveals herself as a person who seems to have intermittent control over her erratic thoughts and body – an uncertainty that undoubtedly contributes to the EP’s constant tension. Lyrically, she’s only fully in control on “Sparky”, a pulverising rock track that finds her expressing her sexual prowess and adoration of the act, and implements industrial blasts to really emphasise how much of a demon she can be in bed. It’s the kind of overtly sex-positive and openly aroused track that you rarely hear, and could easily be a mis-step if not delivered by someone who truly embodies every guttural word emitted and action described.
Other highlights of the EP are more unhinged and delve further into Nuha’s wavering mental state. Echoing guitar chords, ghostly sax wails and chilling synth undertones are the order of the day to render this mental vista, resulting in something like an aural version of a Dali painting. Her inner monologue emanates from this vast ethereal landscape, the first words on the EP being an eerie “can you hear me?” which waft into “Cruel”, and introduce her true self by betraying the insecurity behind her outwardly confident demeanour. As “Cruel” continues, she lures us further into this endless vortex of doubt, before she cracks us over the head by suddenly yelping “Tick tock, tick tock / what’s that!? / it’s the ticking of the clock!” – a jolting display of her fears and how they manifest inside her mind.
Later, “Erase Me” takes a more melodic approach through its use of lilting acoustic guitar, but, despite the drop in intensity, it seems to find Nuha at her most unhinged. “I have a confession to make / the smell of you is heavy now / while you erase me from your mind,” she begins, before burrowing further into confessions of private addictions that fuel her reckless denial and self-delusion.
Final vocal track on the record, “Run Run”, is Nuha at the end of her tether, wailing “I crawled for 3000 miles” while the instrumentation describes an arid desert all around her. This menacing drawl stretches on with austere percussion and grinding sax until the singer eventually melts into a monstrous croak-come-shriek. It’s clear Nuha hasn’t invited us into her neuroses to make us feel at home – she wants us to share in the pain and pleasure of every burning brain cell.
How To Move may only be a short introduction to Nuha Ruby Ra, but coming out the other end of this journey we feel like we know her on a truly intimate level. Even though what we’ve heard is often unhealthy or unsettling, it has no problem getting her claws in and demanding a return visit. Ultimately, you might find yourself replaying to this EP just as compulsively as the singer returns to her own inescapable thoughts.