“The plan was to make twenty 90-second tracks designed as TV themes,” says Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffat, of the initial thought behind his new instrumental album as Nyx Nótt “But it wasn't a satisfying listen, it was too gimmicky and silly.”
So instead, Moffat decided to stretch the idea out, plunge deeper, and expand the music into full tracks, “making some of them quite long and dramatic, with the odd swift turn here and there.” In fleshing these tracks out into more fully realised songs he began sourcing samples from professional TV and film music libraries. “The focus then turned to making a proper album out of these modern library sounds,” he says. “I decided to stick with the Themes From title and named the tracks after the sorts of shows they made me think of when I listened back.”
The result is a record that explores genre themes such as: ‘Thriller, ‘Porno’, ‘Caper’ and‘Swashbuckler’, and acts as an audio equivalent of channel hopping through a unique TV station programmed by Moffat. “I still wasn't sure about all this until I did the album cover, which brought it all together,” he says, of the artwork that places an old smashed TV unit front and centre with a woman perched on top. “It has echoes of old TV compilations but is pretty cheeky and slightly sexy in that old 70s compilation style. I wanted this one to look a bit more fun than the last one, as well as hopefully sound a bit more fun too.”
Aside from being a fun experience, it is also a stirring and immersive listen, one that allows the listener to imagine their own accompanying visual scenarios to each musical theme. The opening ‘Docudrama’ marries a gently creeping beat with strings that glide from tense to sweeping, while ‘Porno’ is all seedy smoky jazz that feels plucked right out of Travis Bickle’s late night trips to porn cinemas in Taxi Driver.
Touches of jazz pop up in other places too, on ‘Hardboiled’ this merges with subtle pulses and gargles of electronics that build to a rousing crescendo of horns and bleeps, and on ‘Caper’ there’s a vivacious full jazz band skip to the lively swinging rhythms. “There's a few more jazzy elements here,” Moffat says. “Although I'm not quite sure where that came from. Although, like everyone else, I've had plenty of time to be introspective recently, so I decided the next Nyx Nótt album should be more upbeat and encourage some occasional foot-tapping.”
However, what becomes apparent, the longer you spend in the world of Themes From, is how singular and unique the tone of each composition is. “Each track has its own individual feel,” says Moffat. “The idea was to sound like a different composer and band throughout.” It’s a stylistic leap that continues Nyx Nótt’s trajectory as one that shares no direct link to Moffat’s other projects. “I approach them in completely different ways and with a different purpose in mind,” says Moffat. “I don't think Nyx has ever heard of Arab Strap, and certainly doesn't own any of their albums.” It’s also a notable shift from the debut album under this moniker, and suitably given the theme, Moffat has created a visual comparison between these two sonic worlds. “If the first Nyx Nótt album was like looking out on dark prairies before dawn, this is more like a walk through a neon Soho after a few cocktails.”