THE PLAYGROUND is excited to premiere Nox Anima, the new EP from singer and producer Vandana, out today.
Vandana creates a hazy and lurching mood on her latest release Nox Anima, an atmosphere which is paired with considerable intimacy, reflected neatly by the fact that the only other personnel on the album is Ryan Casey, a close friend and ex-bandmate of the artist. The overall project brings to mind comparisons with artists such as fka twigs and Arca, though with clean and accessible vocal talent, a personal style is clearly being developed. Of the EP, Vandana says:
“This was quite a conflicting EP for me to get done. My personal life was in upheaval at the time and I had a ton of songs to choose from – I finally decided to do just 5 for this. Having Ryan Casey, my friend and x-band mate step in to co-produce it on the closing stages of production really helped realize it for me. He is incredibly talented and knowledgeable, and opens my eyes a little wider every day.”
Despite an ominous opening, synth chords striking low whilst organs whisper in either ear, opener ‘Vicious’ holds a seductive and brooding cloud over the listener. As Vandana sings in a breathy and sultry manner, calling for something or someone who is either not quite there or ignoring her, the track slowly builds to a gripping crescendo – leads soar through the air, whilst synths are phased to trigger a swelling effect, dipping in and out of the mix, and, when paired with the vocals, the impact is truly cathartic. Percussion is mixed very well, rolling snares and tambourines complementing the more industrial based drums which are initially exposed to the listener.
With ‘Raven’ Vandana again executes a song which builds very convincingly – the song is centered on a bass synth striking repeated notes, occasionally distorting, detuning, and filtering out and in, creating a strong sense of instability despite the track, musically, being well structured. Vocoded backup vocals only add to this effect. A dark breakdown is sandwiched between such sections, with almost Arabesque vocal melodies unsettling the listener, before dropping back into the bass synth verse. Taking inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe, the song mirrors sombre and gothic effects.
Vandana: “I’ve always wondered what Tim Burton Or Edgar Allen Poe would’ve been like as kids, I have a fondness for outcasts. Little kids don’t have broken hearts, unless an adult breaks it for them, they don’t ask you how your day was, from their point of view, you didn’t have one. This is a darkly humoured gothic fantasy track following a child going about her business, she’s clearly out of place in her black hooded clothing but completely whole and cheerful within, oblivious to outside energy.”
‘Nearly’ sees the artist explore trip-like aesthetics whilst maintaining an industrial electronic base. Delay-laden synths of metallic nature are brought in as the first half of the track builds tension and frustration, sitting on top a droning bass synth whilst Vandana soars over irregular percussion, telling tales of a troubling relationship, a seeming reduction in personal freedom. The juxtaposition of this sequence with a celestial organ towards the latter half of the track, with a decidedly more uplifting feeling, brings on emotions of closure, of acceptance regarding the end of a particularly tumultuous event. Machine like percussion stops the near 6-minute track from becoming stale.
Acid-house synths drive ‘Jaan’ forward, a grainy and distorted back-up synth being pitch-bent to meet with the chordal structure of the verses. The entry of the Moog organ in the chorus which remains until the end of the track, paired with strong vocal harmonies, sits well, preparing the track for an instrumental close-out, bubbling synths popping in for a few notes at a time. An abrupt finish leaves the listener desiring more as they are ripped from the murky waters of the track.
Vandana: “Jaan has been around for a bit, I’ve played it live for a while and over that process is when the song really came to being what it is now. The chorus section remained an instrumental Moog musing for a long time until I decided to write a vocal melody over it one morning and loved the way it transformed into a melancholic, apocalyptic journey – juxtaposed against the acidic, driving synths and the dense, swamp like quality of the drums. It’s an endurance test of love in survival mode, reconnecting with our primitive, animal side.”
And introspective close to the EP, the bass synth on ‘Dare Me Devil’ recalls almost grime-like production, though the song is of course not contained within that genre. Vandana confronts herself, her changing moods and personalities, her movements between light and dark. Vulnerability and intimacy are prolific on the track, especially in the outro, arpeggiated synths swimming around the artist’s floating vocals (showing strong falsetto), before the techno-like beat is met by sporadic snares and the track slowly breaks down.
Vandana: “This is my favourite track on the EP, it’s me at my most vulnerable, the words are fucking dark and honest. I hit the wall only for it to turn into a mirror. It’s hard to admit to yourself the self-indulgent pleasure seeker within, constantly dancing with the yin and yang polar-opposites. In my alternate reality, these are many faces of myself.”
On the whole, Nox Anima represents a cohesive effort which experiments and mixes genres to keep the listener engaged but not isolated and lost – it’s surprisingly easy to get lost in the instrumental segments of the track which slowly build, heaping emotion at the listener’s feet. One can imagine that live performances of the EP would be an enveloping and enigmatic experience to say the least.
Stream Nox Anima exclusively below:
Don’t miss the Nox Anima EP Release Show – Halcyon at Output in Williamsburg, June 10th. Stay tuned for more info.
Words by Mo Hafeez