When Sicaria Sound announced their split in 2021, it was hard to imagine a solo iteration of the project coming to life with the same vigour of two. Sancha Ndeko and Imbratura Lou went their separate ways due to health and wellbeing factors, but returned with solo projects that still nod to their Sicaria Sound alias. Lou, one half of the duo, ran with the name SICARIA - a hopeful continuation of everything that the pair created together, but with a personal twist.
SICARIA continues to champion the sounds of 140 and dubstep in her own unique style. Since breaking off on her own, she’s bagged shows all over the world from Miami to Tbilisi, playing alongside scene legends and newcomers all the same. She’s also continuing to take the reins on London-based imprint Cutcross Recordings, a label she started up in 2020 alongside Sancha ,with releases from LCY, Ehua, Conzi, and plenty more.
Formative influence from SWANA culture and her Moroccan roots also give SICARIA’s sound a distinctive edge - her live performances capture the raw, unpredictable nature of 140 and its adjacent genres. Since we last caught up with Lou, she’s made enormous waves with her solo project and found a biting point between dark, low-end beats and UK dubstep & grime that sits a little rougher around the edges.
SICARIA crammed 31 tracks into her fresh In Session mix, venturing through sounds old and new. We also caught up with the Cutcross boss to chat about her solo project, the recent resurgence of dubstep and 140, and her busy summer ahead - check it out below.
The last time you caught up with Mixmag was under the Sicaria Sound alias - what have you been up to since we last spoke?
Establishing myself as a solo artist for one, I’ve only ever done the duo thing and I didn’t know what it was like being a solo artist, so I’ve been coming to terms with that and figuring out what I want to represent and what resonates with me sonically and in terms of my artistry. Mainly that, and going at it with shows and making sure I establish a pool of fans who understand what I do.
How does your solo project break away from Sicaria Sound? What are you doing differently or perhaps even the same?
It’s very similar, but the only thing that I would say is different now is that when I select my tracks, I tend to emphasise the fun elements of dubstep. I incorporate a lot more grime than we did as Sicaria Sound. I want to create an atmosphere of fun and the dance music element of dubstep which we weren’t really focusing on before, I think we were always catering to the hardcore heads.
How did you first get drawn to 140 and bass music? What was the initial appeal?
I always tell people that it soundtracked my rebellious era in life [laughs]. It was the first type of music I was listening to when I started going out at 15 or 16, and all I knew back then was chart music or Lady Gaga and alternative pop. Once I started going out to these underground raves, I discovered dubstep and I completely fell in love with it. That was really popping at the time, and I think I still play those sounds because it’s nostalgic for me.
It feels like we’re having a bit of a resurgence of the early dubstep sound right now, do you feel that too? Have you noticed a lot of movement in that scene?
I’m really starting to feel that now! If you asked me the same question at the start of the year I probably would have said no, but as summer is approaching I’m starting to hear it. A lot of the smaller record labels that established themselves before the pandemic are really going at it, but unfortunately, these small record labels are closing. The dubstep scene relies predominantly on vinyl manufacturing and selling those directly to fans, but when that came to a standstill a lot of labels went under meaning there was far less music being put out. It also had an impact on producers because there wasn’t an outlet for them to put their music out on. Now that bass music is being heralded and the older brothers in bass like garage and drum ‘n’ bass are flying the flag for bass music, people are starting to pay attention to dubstep again and a lot of the older producers are starting to return.
Do you think that those older dubstep white labels and vinyl releases are starting to get digitised now because of that?
I think so - I think there will always be lost dub plates that will stay dubs forever, but for example, Mala during the pandemic was digitising a lot of older stuff meaning it became readily available for older fans and maybe the new ones he established during the pandemic. You have to make music accessible, and if it’s not, you’re not gonna grow the scene.
Can you tell us a bit about your label Cutcross Recordings, how has that been going?
It’s looking like the final release is coming out in June, we’ve been gearing towards that. This In Session mix is partly based on Cutcross. Sancha and I have decided we’re not going to run it anymore because it’s been so difficult - we established the label during the pandemic so we don’t know what it’s like to run a record label during normal times. There were a lot of setbacks and we learnt a lot, but we managed to support a whole new roster of artists which has been great. I’m establishing a new imprint in September which is going off the same ideas as Cutcross, but it will focus more on what I’m trying to do with SICARIA.
Where are you drawing inspiration from at the moment? Who’s inspiring you?
The early decade of dubstep and 140 is inspiring me at the moment and the grime movement I grew up with. I used to work at Radar Radio back in 2015 to 2018, and maybe it draws on that nostalgic era of music for me, but I was surrounded by a lot of grime music at the time.
Can we expect some solo productions this year?
Yes! My first EP is coming in September. I can’t say too much at this point, but it’s one of the biggest things I’m excited about this year.
You were born in London but you’re of Moroccan descent - do you often go back to Morocco? If so, does that environment inspire you?
I try to go back to Morocco every year - if I don’t, my family will kill me! When I was younger I kind of fell out of love with it but now that I go back, I see the beauty in it all again and appreciate my culture. It does have a knock-on effect on my music, Moroccan music was what I grew up with and it soundtracked my existence. The older I get, the more beauty I see rhythmically in the music itself and how different it is from Western music. It’s been inspiring a lot of my productions, especially when it comes to drums and percussion patterns and melody lines and vocal chops. You’ll definitely see a lot more Moroccan inspiration in my productions going forward.
You’re getting booked up for a lot of festivals this summer - what are you excited about?
Glastonbury! I have three different sets there so it’s a chance to showcase all the different personalities and sides of SICARIA. I’m going back to North America and doing a lot of festivals there. They pay so much attention to production value and the festivals themselves over there, it feels like a mad out-of-world experience compared to UK festivals. I’m also playing Dekmantel for the first time!
What’s next for you?
The EP coming in September fingers crossed, and I’m also doing Australia and New Zealand for the first time. I’ve never been to that side of the world!
Can you tell us about your In Session mix?
I decided to dedicate this mix to ventures old and new: I've basically split it into two parts. The first half of the mix is a spotlight on all the artists affiliated with Cutcross whereas the second half of the mix teases some of the sounds and energy that you can expect via my new imprint, Club Confi:DANCE. As a whole, the mix proves how diverse 140 can be and how different sounds can be woven in with dubstep to create an interesting and unexpected journey for the listener. And then right at the end, I thought it would be fitting to throw in one of my favourite 'boss bitch' tracks from Remy Ma!
DRTY HBTZ 'Recluse' (Woven Thorns Remix)
Mia Koden 'Hot Take'
Saule 'Talkin Down'
Nonames 'Dads & Mums' ft. Roachee & Killa P (Soukah Remix)
Ebb & Headland 'Less Talky'
Cause & Nova 'Memory Lane'
Taiko 'Rise Above'
Texture x Neesnu 'Full Circle'
Aloha 'Morose x Rudy Dialogue Snippet' [SICARIA's Confi:DANCE Introduction & Interlude]
Barrett x Soukah 'Untitled'
Cimm 'Chamber' (ft. Jammz)
Distinct Motive 'ID'
Numa Crew 'Masai Duty'
Modelle 'Dum Dumb'
Merricat Black 'BRA ZA ZILLLL'
Radical DJ 'Balaclava'
Drone x Snowy 'All I Know' (JC Flip)
CONTRA 'Two Clips'
Low Deep 'Down Like' (VIANA Bootleg)
DMVU 'Let Em Talk' (Wiley Vox)
Burna 'Speedy Skank'
Remy Ma 'Conceited'