The dissolution of Noisia in 2020 was a seismic event in drum & bass, leaving more than just the fans shaken — the trio themselves had a lot to process. Sleepnet is the new project by Noisia’s Nik Roos, which he announced in March before immediately dropping a filthy, emotional, experimental EP called ‘First Light’. The stark synths, punishing snares and cinematic gaming vibes of teaser single ‘Angel Blade’ instantly told fans that Roos was not messing about musically; however, he says ‘First Light’ was a highly emotional and personal EP about processing grief, letting go and finding balance in his new reality.
“I wanted to keep making music with the technical vocabulary that I’d built up with Noisia, but I also wanted to make something that meant something to me,” Roos explains. “I wanted to have a real reason for it to be different — I had to make it personal and emotional and to really show myself in the project.”
Going solo was a novel experience for Roos, having worked with two other producers since Noisia formed in 2000. “I already put a lot of myself into all the various projects I’ve done with Noisia and other people over the years, so that’s not new, but it was kind of weird being ‘the guy’. There was nobody else people could ask about the music or take a photo of. It’s got to be me and that does feel a little bit strange,” he admits. “On the other hand, I had the freedom to really run with my emotions and my style, so that part of striking out on my own felt really good.”
The emotional journey that inspired ‘First Light’ was a gruelling one. Each track represents a step in the grieving process, from the anger of ‘Love No More’ to the acceptance in the title track. “Because of Noisia ending, there’s obviously a grief process over that, and then we lost Ebow [of close friends and collaborators Foreign Beggars] last year. I also became a dad, which is a whole other process. So, in the tracklist, it goes through those phases of grief, including the rebirth, opening your heart again and looking back with a smile,” says Roos.
With techy, soaring synths and fast, experimental beat patterns, there’s a very real current of Noisia running through the EP. “You can obviously hear some of the Noisia elements in there; that link is just instantly there. You can’t deny it and I wouldn’t want to because I love those sounds,” Roos continues. “I’m not saying I wasn’t ready for Noisia to end, but I’d say between me, Thijs and Martijn, I am the one who still wants to continue working with that sound in some way.”
That said and with ‘First Light' done and dusted, Roos isn’t sure where he wants to go next with the Sleepnet project, and he seems okay with that uncertainty. It’s not like he’s wanting for work in the meantime: he’s still creative director for Noisia’s flagship label VISION, running a monthly tutorial series for the imprint’s Patreon, and working on his Body Ocean house project with The Upbeats’ Jeremy Glenn. He says there’s lots of unfinished music to get stuck into, at least. “I know I don’t want the next release to be like ‘First Light’; this EP was really aggressive and flexy and I think it would be nice to do something a little more ambient and chill — but that’s all in the future. Right now, I’m just going to deal with this EP being out there, how people respond and what it feels like to be Sleepnet.”