January 23, 2013


Hannah Thiem


soundcloud: /nyxyss
facebook: /nyxyss
twitter: @nyxyss


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Evocative eastern violin meets ethereal sub-textures. Nyxyss is the creative collaboration between violinist/composer Hannah Thiem (Copal | Halytha Music) and producer/DJ Haj Ji (Sub Swara | Hobo Kings). The music is lush and compelling, exploring the melodic aspects of dubstep and cinematic IDM. Deep and evocative. Sounds like Arvo Pärt meets The xx.

Ethereal strings, piano and French horn meet cinematic IDM: Nyxyss sends sonic postcards from afar with debut EP Memories of Dystopia.

Memories Of Dystopia, the initial offering from NY/SF-based Nyxyss (nix-iss), is set as a series of aural vignettes. The duo's noir soundtrack paints sonic postcards that are lush, haunting, and full of dramatic tension. "This is the deepest music of our lives. We are excited now to be letting it out to the world " says Haj (Sub Swara | Hobo Kings), the duo's wandering electronic mind, whose world-worn production gives strong counterpoint to Hannah Thiem's elegant violin work and small chamber arrangements, which shine throughout. "The sound is a union of our voices", she adds. "We use layered synthesis and sound design elements mixed with romantic instruments recorded live (violin, viola, cello, piano, French horn) to set a mood and catch our inner sense of a place." says Ms. Thiem, who co-wrote and produced the 3 tracks on Memories of Dystopia. What Nyxyss creates together is a distinct afferent sound, starkly beautiful, filled with pathos and nostalgia for a world lost, remembered and re-imagined.

The first track, Faxafloi (A Waltz, Assange and the Dark Sea), is a slow boreal waltz, named for the bay to the north of Reykjavik, Iceland. From a deep littoral drone, the single plaintive voice of a French horn appears through gusts of digital wind, joined by the spell of Ms. Thiem's violin. Everything else falls away and the story begins. "The central statements of this piece were inspired by my love of Nordic melodies. It is a dream of mine to return to Iceland and Norway and study their beautiful folk music," notes Thiem. As to the Assange reference in the title, Haj reports, "We stand with Mr. Assange on a human level for the personal risks he has taken in exposing criminal collusion on the largest scale. Iceland has shown great vision and emerged as a strong independent voice for journalists facing politically motivated censorship and repression. It is a model we hope other countries would follow."

Sunday Morning, Up All Night (released as a single 12/12/12) is a sunny mid-tempo jaunt set between the crepuscular horizons on the rest of the EP. Here again there is a strong visual quality, like the soundtrack to a movie you love but haven't seen. The feeling is somewhat euphoric--consider Scottish highlands and mornings in June. This is a song written to that in-between place when you have owned the night and a new day begins.

Remembering StariMost is the final track on Memories Of Dystopia. It is a dark meditation on the devestating impacts of war. Tension is present here from the start, dotted with distant howls, shots echoing, and a prevailing sense of warning from afar. There is a slight release in the plaintive string trio and piano's expression as the track resolves, albeit leaving a thought unfinished. Haj explains the context, "On the road moving inland from Dubrovnik to Sarajevo is the City of Mostar, where the lovely Katarina lived before the war. For 500 years, the StariMost bridge connected the banks of the Neretva river. In 1993, the bridge connecting the city to itself was destroyed, ripping the city itself apart. By the next year courtyards and parks were being used as makeshift cemeteries. Packs of children scavenged the bombed out buildings where they had lived with their families. Always, I return to an image I saw of the local money and family photographs blowing down the streets with autumn leaves, human detritus, etc. Meaningless. I wanted to write about that."

Sometimes dark, always beautiful, with Memories Of Dystopia, Nyxyss gives us something to think about. An inspired opening statement and fresh voice from this cinematic IDM crew, whetting the appetite for more to come.