FACT Rated is our new series digging into the sounds and stories of the most vital breaking artists. Next up, Mike Steyels introduces Abyss X, the Brooklyn-based electronic artist who makes music inspired by the ancient ghosts of her home island of Crete.
Name: Abyss X
From: Crete, Greece
Must-hear: Mouthed EP (Halycon Veil, 2016)
For fans of: Rabit, Kuedo, Jessy Lanza
Abyss X isn’t one to stick to a formula. The Brooklyn-based artist and dancer, who introduces herself as Evangelia, is always looking for new terrain to explore, consciously seeking out the unknown. “When I’m not comfortable, those are the places that inspire me,” she says.
Listening to Evangelia’s music, it’s clear she’s not content to be boxed in. Her first release, 2015’s Echoes EP, was an “emotionless pop” effort full of processed vocals, huge 808s and eerie synth work. In contrast, her latest record Nüshu, released on Infinite Machine in November, is a punishing collection of distorted industrial tracks which unleash her anger at the injustices she sees occuring daily in the news.
Between those releases she staked out her personal territory on a definitive EP for Rabit’s Halcyon Veil imprint last year. On Mouthed (stream above), Evangelia thought back to her homeland of Crete and set out to explore her ancestors’ mysterious history. The record reveals itself like the ghosts of a lost world, built on angelic electronic strings, hovering synths and percussion clicking like gears, echoing as if through a maze of ruined hallways.
Crete, an island off the coast of Greece, was once home to Europe’s earliest civilization, the Minoans, who predated ancient Greece. They thrived some 5,000 years ago by trading their jewelry and pottery with the Egyptians, and erected temples the size of cities. They were also the first Europeans to develop a written language. But the Minoans disappeared around 1400 BC, their traces only rediscovered a century ago. Some believe a volcanic eruption on nearby Santorini contributed to their demise; the civilisation’s rise and fall may even have been the inspiration for the Greek legend of Atlantis. “They seem very contradictory,” Evangelia says of her ancient guideposts. “Dark, but also happy.”
With so little known about who the Minoans really were, Evangelia found the space to create a sound from scratch, combining samples of gaida bagpipes from the Balkans, haunting voices of Bulgarian choirs, and her own synths and vocals. Take ‘Thru Lids’, a track that feels like it has been floating through the relics of a labyrinth for eternity, where reverb-drenched chants ripple like silk against the distant, percussive collision of stones. The result feels shrouded in the unknowable but spiritually universal.
Before she started making music three years ago, Evangelia was focused on performance art and film, often combining the two with live video feeds and her own choreography. She’s now in the middle of developing a 30-minute performance piece tailored to Mouthed. But the personal story behind the record is just one chapter of the Abyss X project – inspiration struck and Evangelia chased it, as with all her music. Writing on Ableton in short bursts, she generally uses her first takes; most of the record was already finished when she sent the tracks to Halycon Veil boss Rabit, who was excited about them from the jump. Once he gave the green light, she wrapped up a few more tracks and it all fell quickly into place. Then it was onto the next idea.
In contrast, her latest record Nüshu is less nuanced, spilling over with angst and scuffing up a cloud of dirty noise; it screeches and growls through synths and drums of her own creation. Coarse and full of emotion, it earns its own description as “riot gear”. If the two releases were played side by side, there’s not much to suggest they come from the same mind. “I create mosh pits,” Evangelia says proudly. “I’m down to get dirty with the crowd.”
Nüshu is out now on Infinite Machine. A vinyl release of Mouthed, featuring new tracks, is also on the way.
Mike Steyels is on Twitter