Nyctalgia – Time Changed Everything

A foggy meadow. Rain falling softly on a white windowpane. Familiar faces. Sunlit attics stuffed with dust-collecting memories, heart-felt and intimate, yet long gone. The specter of death as it sweeps away life and love like a broom does specks of dust. The indelible changing of the seasons, of landscapes, of civilizations. The silent extinguishment of stories and memories by the omnipotent will of time.

The music of Nyctalgia is somewhat of a template in which any or all of these things can be seen. Calm, serene music that can invoke the rawest, most powerful emotions from the depths of your very soul is seldom seen in an era that is all too content to mire itself in glitz and glamour. The greatest aspect of this kind of music is that it has the ability to blow away all the frivolities of the present and expose the beating heart of reality and the permanence of impermanence.

With little more than their demo Time Changed Everything to their name, it’s not surprising that this little Swiss group hasn’t gotten much circulation. It’s a shame, too, as their demo is one of 2009’s hidden nice surprises. Detractors may insist that it sounds like one of those Lifescapes CDs you can buy at Target, but there is a marked flavor of humanity on this demo that can’t be found on any commercial recording.

The five songs on this demo consist of solemn piano melodies and subtle use of synthesizers to cast a profound ambience over the melody. The effect is similar to that of The Antlers’ Hospice last year on tracks like “Kettering” and “Thirteen,” on which the synthesizer wove a delicate, yet powerful layer atop the music. Self-titled opener “Nyctalgia” is a prime example, exploding in sound after a couple minutes of wavering vocals and meticulously soft piano.

The depths of sorrowful melody are plundered in “Time Changed Everything” and “Remains of a Blue Rose,” with more deliberate piano strokes that rise to the forefront of the music. Beauty in solemnity is captured  wonderfully in these tracks, inciting the listener to muse in emotionally-driven thought rather than just listen along.

Final track “Falling into Nothingness” samples field recordings at the end, with barely discernible voices of wind and children at play. A piano melody muses in the beginning, then the synth kicks in, enlarging the scope of the music. After a gradual crescendo, the synth fades away and the samples begin. Laughter, chatter, crying, and the scuffling of feet are heard, illustrating a picture of a playground filled with children. The effect is profound; by adding this subtle perspective of humanity in formation, the music stays true to its devotion to both tender emotion and the immensity of the largely indifferent force of time.

It should be interesting to see where this group goes from here, whether they will expand on their sound to attain a presence of the likes of Sigur Rós or stay seated firmly in ambience like Jonsi & Alex or Hammock. Time will pass, the future will come, but will Nyctalgia be a part of it or just an ephemeral dream?

Score: B-

by Mason “I love free stuff” McGough

We here at Avery Island truly appreciate the generosity of artists that insist on offering their songs for free. Nyctalgia’s demo Time Changed Everything is available for free download here:


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