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Nyx Nótt
Aux Pieds De La Nuit Johny Lamb , February 25th, 2020 09:18

Aidan Moffat gets woozily sinister on his first album as Nyx Nótt

Au Pieds de la Nuit, the new album by former Arab Strap vocalist, this time under the pseudonym Nyx Nótt (named after two night goddesses, Greek and Norse respectively) shows an artist drifting steadily into newer and more esoteric places. Most will be familiar with Moffat’s particular vocal delivery and the weary realism of his writing, which have always seemed perfect bed fellows (his contribution to the second Reindeer Section album is a great example of this). A combination of sleepless hangovers and a resigned, collapsed masculinity.

Here the sleeplessness and something of the mood of his back catalogue remain, but rendered primarily through sample-driven collage. This is night music. Make no mistake about that. As I loop the record round in my headphones through the night, sleep deprived by seven-week old twins, I find the liminal world of late night strangeness sensitively and appropriately sounded by Moffat’s newest musical guise.

It’s a sort of genre blur, revealing moments of jazz, soundscape, electronica and soundtrack enmeshed in a range of ambient horizons that flicker in and out of focus like the glow of so many street lights rupturing the dark in distinct pools of non-time. Tracks like ‘The Prairie’ are flawless soundtracks to urban insomnia. It’s a world of light pollution, drizzling rain, and lonely cars on unknown late-night missions.

Moffat has worn many hats over the years as lyricist/songwriter, collaborator and solo artist (mostly as L. Pierre), and here we see his composition rather than his writing foregrounded and developed. He’s given himself a broad palette here of samples, SFX, keyboards and objects, and it’s often difficult to hear which is which. And though the press release speaks of a clarity of production, actually it’s a lack of clarity which is perhaps this album’s greatest strength. Things clip and are saturated, often removing a known sound from its deserving context. The effect of this is to disorientate, to warp and unnerve.

This is not to say that the work here is at all clumsy. It isn’t. Rather it plays with source and context to evoke a slow and building sense of the uncanny. The animate and inanimate exchange roles in crepuscular ghostliness, often finding that thing that people love about David Lynch. Indeed ‘Theme From’ belongs absolutely to that cinematic trope of sensual uncanniness, and its tremolo and restrained percussion revel in just that feel.

Ultimately, this is a rather gorgeous and engrossing collection, that borrows stealthily from a rich history of sound effect and soundtrack to build a tender poem to the night time. It’s all big plate reverbs and shuffling drums. Eerie strings, Noir brass and obscure white noise. I could swim in it for hours and hours (in fact, I already have). But what do I know? It’s very late, and I’m tired. I know, all too well his ‘Long Intervals of Horrible Sanity’.