You know the general sentiment of ‘being an outside’ that alternative musicians love to extol, so much so that it’s been beaten into the ground to the point of meaningless buzzwordry now? Well, just take a look at n0trixx, and it becomes abundantly clear how different the stakes are by comparison. She’s an artist from Russia who was arrested in March last year for peacefully demonstrating against the war in Ukraine, and has since gone into a self-imposed exile in Europe to speak out against the atrocities safely. That in itself is the kind of existence that really no one else can stake a claim to, though it speaks to the luminary spirit of n0trixx as both an artist and an activist. Between political activity and speaking out about her experiences with dissociative identity disorder—through the striking visual and necessary anonymity of her own custom-made mask—n0trixx already feels like a paragon of individuality and personhood that alternative music often proclaims but seldom full feels true to. This is a creative for whom bringing her own revolution is really the only option.
Admittedly, the story does surpass n0trixx’s music in terms of true impact, though that’s also to be expected. Something that radical isn’t easily mirrored in a medium that, by design, has a degree of artifice (no matter how small), but it’s also something that effort is put into managing. The self-proclaimed tag of ‘bedlamcore’ certainly feels apt, in conjuring images of dank, claustrophobic, industrial cells that’s well executed in terms of mood. It’s the kind of hip-hop that bears similarities to an artist like Mimi Barks, in which the crossover trap bones have been mutated and rearranged further into its own beast. Thus, there’s Rejected, an EP of completely singular vision and lack of compromise that nails n0trixx’s colours to the mast firmly and proudly. To co-opt an oft-overused term, it’s a statement of intent down to its core, and entirely certain of how loudly it wants to scream that.
Chiefly, that’s exemplified in how totally uninterest n0trixx seems in the concept of ‘mainstream viability’. The closest it comes is in the fact that it is nominally a hip-hop release, though even the biggest genre in the world has gradations that go way, way down. For n0trixx, hers is influenced by a lot of industrial rock and nu-metal, on a song like Do I Exist with its clanking drums and rusty sawblades riffs, or how 14 Left is a cover of a Factory 81 track only known by devoted nu-metal savants. Filling in the gaps are the expected blows of thick bass and trap grime on Hard To Be A God or Satn, albeit shaped in atmosphere and sonic peritext to feel as though they’re coming from a dilapidated concrete bunker than a glitzy studio. That in itself lays down the groundwork for how evocative Rejected is; even on what could be called its most ‘accessible’ track Morphine, there’s a dirgelike trudge forming its main melody that’s still laced with a cold, hostile texture.
As for n0trixx herself, she’s about what you’d expect from this kind of artist, though not said in a way that diminishes her contributions. After all, she does definitely have her own quirks that shine through—being able to rap in Russian on the opener Tvar is a big one, and a penchant for Middle Eastern-inspired leads and rhythms like on Do I Exist brings in some addition flavour. Outside of that, she’s certainly competent with the key tenets of this sound. Technical rapping ability is often put to the side in favour of low-hanging grimness, either screamed or in gruffer growls, both of which she pulls off pretty adeptly. It’s the outlet and execution that’s necessary for a more interpretive brand of release, in which the details do feel tied to n0trixx’s own internal monologue in a way that mightn’t be the easiest to articulate. That said, Rejected is much better at it than many of its contemporaries, in terms of how the creeping dread and terror festers and formulates, rather than being laid out simply for aesthetic credit.
It’s true that the limits within sounds like this are pretty well-known, and although n0trixx can brush against them, she isn’t crushed by them like so many others are. For one, keeping this trimmed down as an EP is just a far more effective tactic, but more importantly, what Rejected does is a lot more compelling overall. As a culmination of everything that n0trixx has presented about her identity—musical, personal, philosophical and otherwise—it’s a body of work empowered by the information around it, instead of living and dying on perfunctory details that are tangentially related at best. For n0trixx, everything is necessary and everything is worthwhile, and Rejected paints such a fascinating picture of that at full power.
For fans of: Mimi Barks, Scarlxrd, Static-X
‘Rejected’ by n0trixx is out now.
Words by Luke Nuttall