For Nuha Ruby Ra, music is just one aspect of her work as a self-described “experimental artist”. Having emerged as part of the Vicious Collective – a collection of ziners, satirists and fashion designers, based in Hackney – music has begun to take centre-stage for Ra, following rave reviews of her appearances supporting Warmduscher (on whose recordings she has also appeared) and Snapped Ankles, as well as performances alongside some of the best emerging artists of last year, such as Amyl and the Sniffers, Bo Ningen and Bambara.
With such a diverse background in art and music, it’s perhaps no surprise that ‘Erase Me’, her debut single from the forthcoming How to Move EP, is a deftly crafted and deeply emotional performance, both in its lyrics and in the video, made by Ra in collaboration with her friend, Billie Turnbull.
Sonically, a repetitive piece, formed from warped percussion and a raw, softly detuned guitar line, ‘Erase Me’ has a dark psych feel, initially, that grows into something more foreboding through the industrial sounds that grow from the background of the track, into a roar by its close.
Lyrically, it’s similarly repetitive, particularly as Ra’s plaintive voice echoes the word “heavy”, just as the music starts to increasingly weigh on the listener. A tale of dark affections and addiction, it’s a grower, with the hypnotic effect of its sound mimicked by that of its simple-palette video, which features overlaid images of Ra dancing and singing against a black background, lit solely in a red or blue hue.
Given the balance of art, experimentalism, performance and pop in ‘Erase Me’, it’s perhaps no surprise that Ra’s diverse influences include the likes of Philip Glass, Brian Eno and Einsturzende Neubaten; the darkness of The Birthday Party, the auto-biographical hip-hop of Princess Nokia, and the Egyptian torch songs of Abdel Halim Hafez – presumably a reflection of her upbringing in Cairo. Similarly, her visual style – described by the single’s press release as “Grace Jones meets Fat White Family” and by Ra herself as “part-time punk, part-time goth” – is a unique mish-mash of old and new, art and fashion. And, with her mesmerising combination of imagery and sound, it seems unlikely that you’ll be erasing Nuha Ruby Ra from your mind, any time soon.