This post is written by Justin "J Co." Corp - engineer at Second Street LLC. Justin has worked at several recording studios in Chicago and has a Bachelor's Degree in Commercial Music from Millikin University.
I’ve become fascinated with Classical music over the past year. I admit it definitely has something to do with the fact that I'm lucky enough to work at one of the best orchestras in the world, but it also has a lot to do with finding my own tastes within orchestral music. The loudest (read: oldest) voices in the Classical music scene are convinced that anything post-Bach is just noise. They spit on any innovations of their once-sacred style of music... and yet, those 20th century composers have their spots in music history because they were able to break free from the chains that traditional Classical music had already imposed on composers. But who says "noise" is a bad thing? In fact, at the same time that Stravinsky and Bartok were writing vast, novel compositions like no one has ever heard before, there was an even more controversial genre of music brewing: glitch.
Since the Technological Revolution in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there have been countless people mesmerized by the audible corruption of electronic machinery as a contrast to more standard orchestral tones. The first may have been Italian audio pioneer Luigi Russolo, who premiered his 1913 piece “The Art of Noises” to an angry, riotous audience. Fast forward a century later, and there is still hesitation and controversy that surrounds the Glitch sound. The emergence of the Glitchcore aesthetic and an advancingly-absurd Internet in general slowly began to carve out a community for Glitch in recent years. Amongst these artists on the outer brinks of mainstream art is one exciting young producer out of Chicago, nvkieh (pron. “Nick Eye”), and his newest release nvk I.
Within the world of completely-digital music, there have been fewer and fewer artists that explicitly tell the world about themselves. The typical spiel of who they personallyare, where they're from, and how long they've been "doing this" is often omitted. Jo Blinski (a.k.a. nvkieh) is one such artist, as every bio he writes is more cryptic than the last. What is clear, however, is the sheer amount of time that he dedicates to releasing new music of the highest sonic quality. In the past year, nvkieh has had six separate projects reach streaming services, plus numerous collaborations with other artists as well.
One key to becoming a professional musician today seems to upon to be dipping your toes into every single part of the industry. As a mixer, masterer, producer, beatmaker, and all-around artist, nvkieh has collaborated with artists across the country leading up to his biggest release of the year. 2022 collaborations include Simon Bk, Khari, Ghost Kids Collective, BOG BOYS, and August, Yours Truly. While there a clear influences of IDM and Electronica in nvkieh's music, the most important influence is his desire for textural exploration.
What Does It Sound Like?
nvk I is an album about experimentation in self-expression. In other words, what better way is there to learn about yourself than through trying a bunch of different things? With a mastery of the DAWs and tools that are common in hip-hop and house music, nvkieh is apt to bring glitch music to a level that is both hyped and melodic. The opening track “talk” slams together hard-hitting distorted percussion with an absolutely destructive growling bass. This track is all that it took for me to recognize that there is a great mix/mastering engineer behind the project. Typically, this style of music focuses on the extreme low and high frequencies (think: a deep pumping in your chest, and a shiny rattling at the crown of your head). The lows on this album give incredible depth and weight, and the high-end is most definitely tight and clear... but a lot of the magic for me happens in the mysterious middle group. Whether it be the horn stabs in “bad stupid” or the digital synthesis of “until the night stops,” there is a sense of harmonic ease within the madness.
Like some kind of mythical tale, the project gradually descends into chaos during “blue wind” only to emerge into a place of bliss during “not contain you”. There are several instances in the sequencing of this album where songs drift effortlessly into the next, typically the sign of a very polished musical message. nvkieh clearly designed nvk I to be a major work, not just a collection of singles and ideas. Just as nvkieh references frequently when he explains the project, nvk I uses electronic music as a canvas for self-expression.
What Does It Feel Like?
There is a vast palette of emotions (and the lack thereof) that are expressed during this 30 minute record. Many of them are implicit because of the lack of lyrics in lieu of full-frequency-spanning instrumentation, so the title of each track bears extra weight to contextualize everything. The melancholic depression of “the blues,” the overwhelming feeling of rejection that comes from “no,” and the preoccupied head-in-the-clouds feeling of “orion” all come across as strongly emotive regardless of the absence of lyrical content.
The thing that I enjoyed most upon listening to nvk I is the sensation of emotional complexity. Even simple feelings like sadness that are easy to explain to a child contain tiny layers of emotions tucked inside of them. There are certain moments in the album that I find myself inexpliciably drawn to, because they are able to capture these deep inner folds of certain emotions fully. Moreover, I think that living in a technical world helps us further appreciate electronic music as a way to emote. Almost like GLaDOS from the Portal franchise can be seen to have a sense of humor. Even still, evolved as we have become, glitch music (like any other non-mainstream music) is still not everybody's cup of tea. But listen to the first ten minutes of this project and tell me that you feel un-moved. Can you?
I mentioned this before (in my blog about Chaepter’s “Kicking the Cat”) - indie artists have to be true pioneers right now. For a while in the late 2010's, I felt like there were a limited numbers of instrumentations, genres, and styles being presented. The ones that were being done had already been expressed and re-expressed to their fullest. The pivoting point for indie (for me, at least) has been embracing the fact that the name of the genre means absolutely nothing -- it's music, done independently. For this project, nvkieh threw all of his (and my) favorite music into a blender and made a smoothie. This innovative style of producing allows for greater individuality than ever - which is obvious when you listen to any of nvkieh’s work.
Hey, have you listened yet? Have ya?!?
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