The challenge of new music is learning to categorize it or to establish its quality based on prior musical experiences. The debut record from Vyie, Nightingale, is nothing if not exploratory, challenging the listener to place it in an easily regarded genre. There’s a lot going on here, and even on subsequent listens I feel like I’m not quite grasping some of it. The layers of percussion and electronic beats, waves of synthetic harmony, and haunting vocals coalesce into what the group calls “death pop”. The merits of this title are debatable, but it seems to fit the makeup of a group that sounds like Madonna out on a binge with The Cure.
From the onset, Vyie exhibits a knack for sensuality in their rhythms. Drummer Alec Yeager takes subtlety to a new level on the opener “Darrrk Knight” with a simple, persistent beat using sticks on the drum rim. The song itself is a strong choice for an opener that features a steady bass line beneath eerie electronica and incredibly catchy vocals from Jessi Monroe and Janey Criss. The songs builds well as Yeager’s beat opens up to carry the weight of the escalating harmonic chaos.
“Saturdays II” is more of a straight pop song, albeit far darker and atmospheric. The beat stays keyed to its basic 4/4 tenets while melody plays itself out. With this song, and most of the album, I felt the vocals were buried a little in the mix. This is a matter of preference and at least they are never overwhelming, but it was difficult to discern the lyrical content because of the wash of sound. “Sevenguards” is a nice change of pace that utilizes a far more pronounced progression on the keys. There is a welcome murkiness beneath the main melody that perpetuates the dark atmosphere. This was one of the stand out tracks on the record, and really captured the chemistry of this group.
The second half of Nightingale begins with the synth-heavy “Brave Child”. The deliberate, well accented drum beat keeps this song moving even as it glitters like some timeless glacier beneath the northern lights. This is a song that grows on you slowly, delivering a trance-like state of mind with its frigidity. The longest track on the record is “Johnny”, coming in at just under six minutes. While I wasn’t too crazy about this track on subsequent listens, it does grab your attention well with an infectious melody and soothing vocals.
The album closes with a real bravado on “Too Far Away”. The seductive rhythm and lush vocals sweep you up amidst a variety of instrumental expression. Honestly this song could have been ten minutes long and I would have loved every minute of it. That may be one odd critique I had of this group’s first release: it could have been longer. At thirty minutes over six songs this is a rather tight collection, but I would love to hear an uninhibited journey into the gloomy worlds they might create with a bit more ambiance and progressiveness. The rhythms though a bit overproduced, were incredibly fun to experience. However another preferential suggestion would be to allow a more raw sound to come through on the drums. Though not quite mind-blowing, Nightingale is an interesting first foray into the public ear for Vyie, and should appeal to attentive, imaginative listeners.
MP3: Vyie “Darrrk Knight”