Abyss X’s tracks mirror quarrels and infatuation in a dystopian time and link the poetry of the subconscious with Greek mythology.
Born and raised in Crete, Abyss X has become one of the most thrilling musicians in the experimental music scene, well-known for her emotionally charged live performances. Following releases on Danse Noire and Halcyon Veil, her new album INNUENDO presents a tranquilized sound concept that turns her multi-faceted four-octave voice and her enigmatic, sometimes minimalist, sometimes brazen vocals into hauntology.
On Twitter, you posted concert footage in which you reference Martha Graham, who is one of the most important icons of American modern dance. What does she mean to you?
Yes, I feel that Graham has always described her intentions by creating a dance piece, a sharp way of sculpting a conceptual idea into a more human form that would speak directly to the heart and the mind. Her movement vocabulary was groundbreaking, even though she played with form and precision, it was very liberating, playful and brave. I presented a version of »Cave of the Heart« at one of my shows in Berlin, the piece is a one-act dance piece based on the myth of Medea. As it is a frenzy-filled piece, I dived right into it, because I like to present this kind of emotionally charged and captivating work on stage. I used to dance and perform professionally and I miss the process, the journey of taming the body and letting it speak instead of the voice. Now, I still follow what goes on in dance and theatre, even more than what’s going on in music.
»I want to dance with clarity« is a line from your single »Love Altercation«. The video, which you directed and edited yourself, reveals a world far from any daylight; but it is also a utopian place.
The entire line goes: »I wanna dance with clarity the deep matters of the heart«. When you are stuck in the depths of a well, you need to push through the water and find ways to hold onto and climb up the gooey walls. It’s the same feeling as climbing a slippery pole – hence, the pole-dance reference in the video – and only when you find a grip, you can reach the top. Then, you can invert or go into different types of acrobatic moves, all very hard bodywork. The »tunnel« scene with the dancers was all improvisation. I tried to use bold body language and facial expressions to create the feeling of catharsis and to somehow depict that idea that you can handle an unpleasant situation with a sense of humor. The pole was a symbolic object: The hands with their snake-like movement trying to reach me, while I try to hold onto the pole, the same way I try to override the summoning voices emerging from the dark abyss of the mind. I happened to be in Greece when I shot the video. It was the very night before the total lockdown of the country. The whole editing process was a mindfuck, a very lonely and introvert process. My mind was playing games and I was trying to overcome my grief over the newly presented situation.
Can you remember what ignited your fascination for pole dancing?
I was always fascinated by pole dancing, not so much by the acrobatic aspect, but more by the flow and the excellent coordination skills it requires. I got into it a year and a half ago, even though I was reluctant in the beginning, as I already had many injuries from previous years of dancing. It really helped me realign my body, and because I quickly picked up the moves, I decided to choreograph a little sequence for the video.
One of the dominant references in your album INNUENDO is trip hop. A music that gently prolongs the present moment, while it is also suspected of being a practice that is in the business of white washing black culture. At the moment, it is not yet en vogue to adopt this genre, but how did your creative process get you there?
Trip hop is one of the main genres I listened to as a kid, as a teenager and later, when I dived deeply into it. These sounds are now engraved in my sound vocabulary. Each album is an experimentation with a different genre, and, yes, the sound is very present in INNUENDO, but it is intertwined with other references, especially Arabic melodies and rhythms that are integrated in Greek culture.
You also have a great admiration for the musician Tricky, who was called »the greatest poet of England’s political unconscious« by Simon Reynolds.
Tricky is a pivotal figure, so underrated, a true master of percussive and vocal entanglement, with lyrics of deep meaning. I’m also obsessed with Martina Topley-Bird’s voice. She was always the subtle force behind the sound, and her voice framed Tricky’s tracks beautifully.
Compared to your earlier releases, the album seems more figurative and you are using a vocal range of four octaves for the first time. It almost seems like you employ an operatic style with the gradual build-up of suspense. I couldn’t find any interviews in which you talk about your musical education. I am therefore particularly curious in this regard.
I don’t really have a musical education. At some point, I started learning the guitar, but dance practice took over, so I left it. Occasionally, I take vocal lessons, which unlocked the hidden operatic skills I never knew I had. I love to play with different vocal techniques, from opera to yodeling to belting. Until recently, I have barely ever sung on my tracks, but I always sing at my live shows, so that people who come to see me perform know what I can give on stage.
You are also the founder and curator of the Nature Loves Courage festival, which takes place in Crete, where you grew up. The line-up included names like SOPHIE, Nkisi, Julia Huxtable or Gabber Eleganza. Please share with us the festival’s origin story.
Nature Loves Courage started as a little flicker of an idea back in the summer of 2017. I’ve spent many summer holidays in Sougia since my childhood, and the beach there was the spot for free camping when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. So, I have a connection and familiarity with the area. The idea of bringing my friends from all over the world, people that I really admire as DJs, to sonically dress the visual backdrop of Sougia and the venue of Fortuna, got me very excited. And finally, in the fall of 2018, I decided to go with it. Everything happened so fast and it was a very challenging endeavor, but the people who came saw and felt the energy and the atmosphere. It was like an orgasmic immersion into a puddle of freedom, a sonic prism.