Questions galore surrounded Niia’s New York performance. From where the venue was to when the show began, and everything in between was a mystery. A social experiment of sorts: huddle people together from every background and age group, add drinks, some mystery, and see what happens. Evidently, a lot of grooving.
And not always to the music, sometimes fans were grooving to the awkward atmosphere instead. Public Records, in Brooklyn, New York, is known to most people as a restaurant with a musical ambience. However, now the venue can go down as the premiere location for Niia’s Mouthful of Salt tour. Around the outskirts of the restaurant are a series of black fences. When one of them cracks open, you follow a security guard down a path that can only be referred to as a secret passageway of sorts. At the end of the trail, they’ll check your ID before ushering you down the stairs and through the red lights.
You’ll enter a small room, with an even more intimate stage. The walls are layers of dowelled wood, occasionally hanging speakers or acoustic bouncing pads. As much as I will say about the environment and the experience overall, I cannot discredit the sound quality in this venue. It was phenomenal, made with modern technology in mind rather than traditional stage architecture.
However, I didn’t know that for the first two hours of my experience. Sometime was spent waiting for the doors to open, but most of the time was used during the pre-performance hour. Or two, it seemed everyone had been told a different time to arrive. From waiting at the doors outside to filling the Black Mirror-like set, people continued to trickle in until Niia took to the stage.
Once Niia filled the crevices of the room with her alto, eyes were captured. Bodies were swaying, the music was lulling, it was hypnotic. Never before, at any concert before this, had so many people been so enamored with a sound at once. Since Niia’s label, OFFAIR, requested you cover your phone’s camera, no one’s focus was taken away from the performance. No one’s face was covered from the witchy gloves that Niia used during her ambient improv. No eyes were protected from the experience of the music.
OFFAIR is a label focused on creating a space for musicians and audiences to escape the outside world. It is a label focused on reinventing the concert. Rather than recording or sharing live music, it’s about learning to experience music again.
Niia’s music is meant to be experienced, to fill all of the senses. As ambient music goes, Niia is leading the field. While many people may think of ambient music as a space filler of sorts, one grade above elevator music and one grade below traditional, Niia uses her craft to show the potential of ambience. It doesn’t fill the frame of people’s lives, it recreates their ambience. Niia entirely shifts the energy of people and places.
The Mouthful of Salt tour is still currently underway. If you are near Los Angeles or San Francisco in the coming weeks, you can also experience the Niia social experiment. However, if you missed Niia’s stop near you, the namesake album was released earlier this month along all streaming platforms. In honor of Niia’s performance, let the following music hug your day.