Silent Noise doesn’t nibble at contrast, it takes a full bite out of the oxymoronic meat of life. “Literally silent noise,” chuckles Chukwuka Nwobi aka maryyx2 over WhatsApp. Although it’s really more than an album. A visual artist by trade, maryyx2 wove sound into an image-world to bring a heftier dimension to the offbeat and erotic beauty that you can find in the 10 dense and quirky alternative tracks that feel mellow and cool, slick and modern. “I wanted to do something that resonated. That was authentic to myself. Authentic to my environment, authentic to the place where I live,” maryyx2 explains. That place is Lagos. The Nigerian megapolis that captures the imagination of Africa and the world. Pushing 15 million inhabitants, Lagos is the largest city in Africa’s largest nation ripe for chaos and diversity, creativity and madness. In maryyx2’s words, “The ambiance is very erratic. It’s very random. It’s also very dangerous, you know? So that’s the music that I wanted to make. I wanted to make the music that felt like where I am right now. Intentionally chaotic.”
In come Silent Noise and its beautiful contradictions. “It’s seeing beauty in the madness. Which, there’s one thing about my art that I’ve trained myself to do is to constantly see the beauty in things.” See the music video for “Selassie”; a slow-motion, zoom-in to a brouhaha somewhere on the streets of Lagos. The feigned violence is matched with up-close, hyper-saturated portraits and a quirky musical gem that mixes bedroom pop with internet vogue. It’s captivating and has a mismatched emotive haze that’s difficult to describe. Something the local police had a hard time interpreting as well. “There was a time when during the shoot the police had to come and stop and shut us down cause they thought we were inciting a riot,” maryyx2 laughs. Not to mention the “Silent Noise” bookends with spliced spa/lounge music and a little, “always remember we love you” at the end from some ethereal computer voice. Coming from the country that has put all of its eggs into the Afrobeats basket, it’s a refreshing reminder of diversity and kick to the gut for any outsider assumptions.
“I’ve been doing this for close to 10 years of my life now,” says maryyx2 who’s been an integral part of Nigeria’s alté scene from its inception. It’s a clique that brings together Cruel Santino (formerly Santi) Teezee or Odunsi. Chukwuka, who continues to work creative direction for Santi and Odunsi, has been taking photos, making videos and building the visual standards for the too-cool-for-school (literally) scene. “It’s just like a group of people who have the same aspirations and the same taste, which is very important,” maryyx2 says of Nigeria’s alté environment. “I know people definitely do not just listen to commercial music, not just pop. But I don’t know why people aren’t making that type of music,” maryyx2 says confounded, like the author, about the apparent lack of healthy-weird in Nigeria’s musical landscape, “It’s very, very strange.”
Though Silent Noise aims to express those overlooked eccentricities from every angle. In “RING” we’re immediately transported to the closets, bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens of “muses” in what feels like an excerpt of a long distance relationship on Skype. It’s erotic and playful, confident and clumsy. Don’t mind the dancing anime girl at the end, an improbable link which also pops up in Santi’s Subaru Boys : FINAL HEAVEN album artwork and Spotify canvas. You don’t see it until you see it. “I’m dedicated to capturing lives of people who are not seen, people who are not in the eyes of the press or the people who are not popular, like you’re everyday people,” maryyx2 says of the project and broader work on Silent Noise Productions.
And it all comes back to Lagos. Plus the assumptions that are shattered when confronted with a project like this one. “The way Lagos has been portrayed to the outside world is a place where you can just come, have fun, enjoy yourself and also have a bit of danger, which is kind of cool,” maryyx2 beguiles of the typical narrative. “But people who live here are in a constant war with themselves and with the government and even day-to-day activities because nothing is easy. I just wanted to show that honest side of Lagos to the world. These people are real people and you can learn stuff from them. And you can see the beauty in them through what they do and how they dress and how their personality is…” And maryyx2 has certainly exposed audiences to a Lagos that has evaded headlines. Whether it’s the attention to detail that surrounds Silent Noise’s visuals, a fly-on-the-wall masterpiece like in “BRANDY DJ REMIX” or the indie aesthetic of an alté insider, it’s a reminder that there’s always more than meets the eye.
“I know that my own generation is breaking those boundaries of becoming the status quo, like what the traditional version of an adult in Nigeria is,” maryyx2 says of the burgeoning alternative community. “I feel like that’s what drives us to become the artist that we are, the resistance against us becoming the artist that we are. I’m very, very, fluid in who I am. And I feel like that has been silenced by the outside community or frowned upon. So the music was a way to scream out, ‘This is who I am and this is what I do!’ You don’t have to be perceived, nothing has to really make sense.” Does Silent Noise make sense? In title or in scope? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s proud and unique, illuminated like an EXIT sign around the corner for those who want to get off the beaten path. Or not. What’s important is it’s there, and even without the right words, it remains beautiful.
“You know, you can just be and exist…” maryyx2 concludes.
Be with Silent Noise, out now.