Reduced By NYX

The soundtrack to a reduced frame of mind and an expanding resource to encourage better self-careExplore the archive.

Students of early hip-hop may be aware of the small print on the back sleeve of LL Cool K’s 1985 album Radio: “Reduced by Rick Rubin”, in homage to his pioneering minimalist arrangement. It’s with Rick’s same approach to musical minimalism that this series emerges: stripping sound back to its most transcendental, restorative and atmospheric textures to block out the noise and aid focus, attunement and relaxation.

Discussions have come a long way in recent years, but there still remains a taboo around not being okay. To accompany each audio presentation, we’ll speak to the creator about their experiences with self-care and, if they’re comfortable sharing, mental health. We’ll unpack personal processes, explore the nuances of self-care across cultures and raise awareness of charities with a personal connection. We hope this will grow into an evolving resource of knowledge and experience to provide solace, inspiration, reassurance and company in difficult times.

London-based ensemble NYX are flipping the script on the role of the traditional female choir. Employing experiential and experimental practices—from organic and synthetic modulation to extended vocal techniques—they explore the voice as an instrument, carving out their own singular take on ambient, choral, drone and noise.

Collaboration has played a central role in NYX’s work from the outset. Through live performances and workshops, on home turf and abroad, they’ve joined forces with artists operating in similar sonic realms—the likes of Iona Fortune, Alicia Jane Turner, Sigur Ros, Lynn Cassiers and Gazelle Twin—the latter of whom the choir recorded their beautifully haunting “folk-horror Brexit opera”, Deep England.

Taking a collaborative approach to their Reduced mix, they piece together tracks, sound collages and field recordings which “represent their collective influences”, from ambient and experimental through to choral, chamber music, drone and ambient/electronic soundscapes, “with a lot of focus on space, texture and the use of voice as an instrument.” NYX have chosen to pair their mix with the Body & Soul Charity who, through a comprehensive, community-based and trauma informed approach, seek to address the life-threatening effects of childhood adversity in people of all ages.

Rewire Festival 2021 (6-9 May) will host the World Premiere of NYX’s newest project Mutualism: a 360 degree immersive audio-visual experience that explores our relationship with nature, symbiosis transformation and collective consciousness, in collaboration with spoken word artist MA.MOYO and visual artist Nick Cobby. NYX & Gazelle Twin’s debut album ‘Deep England‘ is available now via Bandcamp.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

Notes: Mix recorded by Josh T. Questions answered by different members of the team – Sian (Music & Creative Director), Josh & Phillippa (NYX Creative Directors & Producers) & Kelechi, Ruth, Shireen, Cici & Adelaide (NYX vocalists).

First a nice easy one: what does self-care mean to you?

SIAN: Self-care means having an honest conversation with myself whenever I remember – asking myself what feels good or true to me in each moment and then acting on this accordingly. To me it’s making decisions that directly affect my mental / emotional / physical wellbeing, but also letting go of these if I slack off a bit / being kind to myself even when I’ve fallen off the self-care wagon (again and again and again).

I feel like I’ve been searching for the ultimate cosmic self-care answer for years, finding the magic pill or therapy to help me be the perfect well functioning person, but at the end of the day it seems like it’s the simplest everyday things that help me the most: eating delicious food that makes my body feel great; thinking kind thoughts and speaking lovingly to myself and others; taking my time; laughing and smiling and making music with people; moving my body around loads; getting tonnes of sleep; chilling out with mother nature; and trying not to worry or judge too much when all of the above turns completely to shit. 

What does your daily or weekly self-care routine look like?

SHIREEN: I go for a walk every day no matter what I’m doing. And by walk I mean just a walk, not walking to, from somewhere, or for any purpose. On these walks I listen to music and try to empty myself out into it. Heavy doom or drone is great for this. I try to see the sunset if I can. I’ve just started cold water swimming which is so great, and brings out a powerful high. I can’t join that often but I really love yoga classes, they have helped ground me a lot. Music plays a big part in my self-care routine, if I can make space for just listening on a regular basis it contributes a lot to my mental wellbeing.

Can you tell us about the self-care spot at home you’ve photographed and how have made it an optimum spot?

SIAN: I live in an old converted truck in the Norfolk countryside – a vital part of feeling healthy to me is being as immersed in as natural a landscape as possible. This is my desk where I write and arrange all of NYX’s music and get all my admin done. Having a seamless flow between creating music, working on the computer and hearing birdsong and feeling wind on my face feels like a pretty essential form of self care to me. I’m trying more and more not to compartmentalise things like self care and work, integrating a more holistic approach as often as I remember by finding as much magic as possible in the more mundane parts of life. So for me, it’s less of going to a specific physical spot and more finding the beauty in all imaginable environments!

RUTH: This is a little corner I made at my mum’s. DAB radio, diffuser, some crystals collected over the years, a couple of shells and stones from the beach close to where my dad is buried. I moved back in with her last summer pre-lockdown #2… I think. If you ever need to gain perspective, develop extreme patience, learn more about what self-care is and more about yourself in general, I highly recommend moving back in with your parent(s) for a while.

I’ve never been much of a morning routine-r, but on an average night around 10.30 I say a wee prayer I learned as a child called Angel of God, I’ll smoke a cigarette in the back garden, get some water, brush my teeth and light a little tealight with an intention for the next day or for someone I love. I grab one of the little stones, whichever one I get a wee feeling from, and hold it while falling asleep. It’s very simple and it’s very nice. Comforting. I don’t take my phone to bed because my dreams are much more interesting when I don’t. In the morning I wake up to the sound of BBC6 Music and listen for a while for inspiration. Who knows what might happen next. 

Can you tell us about the outdoor location you’ve photographed where you go to find tranquility.

SHIREEN: I’ve been really lucky to move to the sea recently. Where I am is white chalk cliffs, so I absolutely love the vivid colours of the landscape – white against yellow, blues, bright green seaweed and black rocks. The light is often surreal and pearlescent on the water. I often go to a quiet place along the coast where there’s a cave and it feels like the edge of the earth. The horizon is really wide there too, and there are ships, wind turbines and clouds floating in the distance. It can be intense sometimes being blasted by the wind but there’s tranquility in the strength of the elements in that spot. If the tide’s out you can inspect all the weird little creatures and things left behind by the sea, if the tide’s in you can put your hands in the sea and feel connected to the tides.

What benefits has self-care brought you over the years?

ADELAIDE: I think over the years the term self-care has changed quite a bit for me. Growing up in the 90s-00s mental health wasn’t a thing we would talk about. On TV, self-care would be getting a manicure or getting your hair done or working out to look good. Basically “self care” was about appearance mainly and nothing to do with the inside.

Since my mom passed away a few years ago I went on my own spiritual journey and found a lot of comfort and enlightenment in meditating, doing shadow work by myself and through therapy sessions. Therapy has really helped me through the grieving process and depression. I never knew before what “mentally ill” felt like, I could see my mom being depressed, but that wasn’t even a thing that we talked about or addressed. 

I’ve truly been on a roller coaster emotionally for the past four years, I now understand that crying is a good way to release stuck emotions and a way of moving forward. I think there’s no such thing as being happy all the time. Learning how to be grateful even in difficult times for what we have and all the possible opportunities that life throws at us, as well as learning not to be too hard on ourselves is a good self care tip.

Are there any specific techniques you favour or come back to more frequently?

CICI: For me it’s all about moving the focus away from the mind and into the body. To a degree that’s what singing does and why I wouldn’t want to live without it. At the moment I don’t dance enough, with others or on my own – but a good kitchen boogie now and then again is a necessity. I’m also starting to fully embrace the old woman in me, which I can’t recommend enough; growing things in the garden, birdwatching, singing in a choir, listening to educational talk radio etc. etc. Leaving the phone in a different room at night is a must in terms of switching off from the day.

Are there any self-care techniques that are native to your community or heritage and how are they viewed in the global context of the self-care movement?

KELECHI: My heritage is West-African, specifically Igbo Nigerian. Many people in Nigeria have a strong sense of faith, rooted in either a Christian or Muslim tradition – the two major religions. Christian beliefs replace or are practiced in a syncretic way alongside traditional tribal spiritualism. Prayer and singing hymns were a big part of my upbringing, and represent a kind of self-care through turning your mind to something beautiful which transcends the self. Although I’ve found that Christianity resonates less strongly for me at my current stage of life, the principles of turning to poetry and prose that uplift me and remind me that someone else somewhere has gone through what I’m experiencing, and the principles of accepting what I can’t change and practicing radical surrender to circumstances, and of singing (or just howling and vocalising!) my inner life remain important to me.

Within my family, Church has always meant community – a community of people sharing food at weekly potlucks or supporting members of the congregation who are ill or facing adversity. So when I reflect on self-care in the context of my Nigerian heritage, I feel that it’s less about the individual reasserting their independence, and more about activities that reconnect a person to the knowledge that they are not alone and never can be truly abandoned – they are a person who has come from somewhere, who is here today because of their connection to something outside themselves, whether you want to frame that connection as God, or ancestors, or something else.

What advice would you have for anyone who is either sceptical about the benefits of self-care, or is new to it and feels intimidated by the wealth of options available.

SIAN: I find the intensity of “self-care” rhetoric smashed in my face via social media / targeted advertising etc just way too much to handle, so I’d have to say I fully empathise with any other self care cynics out there 😉

Even the phrase “self-care” triggers me these days, all I see playing out is an insta-filtered Vision Board of super hot 20-something yogi’s selling me yoni steams and 30 day meditation challenges and I just switch off / vomit in my mouth slightly. I have to go back to the unadulterated form of meaning – self care being whatever feels right for me to feel more connected to myself and the world around me. So my advice is just experiment until something feels right for you, regardless of what it is, and try not to take it too seriously. One person’s crystal aura sound bath is another person’s death metal screamathon — self care has many guises.

What was the idea behind your Reduced set?

JOSH: As with some of the previous NYX mixes, we’ve taken a bit of collaborative approach to constructing our Reduced mix. I messaged a few of the crew to submit a handful of tracks, sound collages and field recordings and added them to my folder of selections. I spent some time going through these and mapped out a loose journey I wanted the mix to go on, leaving room for some improvisation when recording. Different sections of the mix are put together in key so the transitions feel fluid. In terms of track selections, I wanted to represent our collective influences right across the ambient and experimental music spectrum so it slowly moves through field recordings, sound collage, choral and chamber music, drone and ambient/electronic soundscapes with a lot of focus on space, texture and the use of voice as an instrument. 

How would you advise listening to your set?

PHILIPPA: Any time of the day where you can carve out an uninterrupted time for you. Lie down (or jump in a bath), pop some incense on and give yourself permission to surrender to time and space. Try your hardest to honour this full moment rather than leaving and returning – if you can. Using headphones will enhance the detail of the natural sounds and keep you immersed in this experience. Keep a window open to allow airflow and a connection to outside.

What does good mental health mean to you?

KELECHI: I had to think quite hard about this question! It’s tempting to see good mental health as feeling positively or neutrally, but I think what it really comes down to is something closer to having the emotional resources to tolerate the daily discomfort and abrasions of living. Therapy, medication, a good support network, creative outlets, a good routine, regular balanced meals and caring for someone/thing other than yourself supports good mental health not because (or just because) they’re fun or feel good, but because they make it possible to cope with the challenges of life.

RUTH: It’s all about balance. I like to think of it as eating a cake (food analogy – surprise surprise). You might prefer the icing and just want to eat it – but it’s good to savour all of the cake, even the bits you might not like as much. They balance one another out.

Are there any experiences with mental health that you’d like to share to provide comforts or connections with others who are/have suffered? Dark times you’ve left behind you, or difficult moments you still struggle to overcome?

CICI: In my teenage years I always had this feeling that I had no right to feel bad, yet I was always struggling with a real sense of sadness and disconnectedness. I ended up looking up to people that were much more external in their struggles, it sort of became a badge of honour to be outwardly destructive, not ever being able to be so myself. There was a perverted wish in me to turn my particular pain into something tangible, be it creative or destructive, but I never managed either. I just felt limp. I went to therapy from quite early on, but always felt like I was wasting the therapists time. Mine weren’t ‘real’ problems, I just hadn’t figured out how to live right.

Today I know that the kind of language I used with myself is extremely destructive albeit in a less visible way. I still have the feeling sometimes that there is no justified reason for the low moods I find myself in, apart from the fact that I am human. But I can find solace in that too, that it’s part of the human condition and our beautiful brains to feel pain, anxiety, depression etc. And that our sometimes questionable mental habits come from a place of protection, from earlier version of ourselves.

It’s been important for me to acknowledge that self-care doesn’t stop when you are feeling good. It’s so easy to want to forget all about ever feeling the darkness when, and if, you’re in a calm place, but that’s when you have to do the work. Put some structures in place. Because when you are in that other place… well there’s just no level of reasoning or ‘thinking happy thoughts’ that‘s gonna do it for you.

What advice would you give to people who are suffering from poor mental health and either can’t understand why or don’t know where to turn?

KELECHI: I would start with being honest with yourself about what is currently happening to you and identify which of your basic needs are not being met. I think a lot of mental health challenges are seeded in feelings of deep, painful unworthiness. It’s important to be able to be able safely express your feelings to someone else without being judged, which is why I think finding a therapist or a support group can be so transformative. 

Based on experiences where others have helped you, what advice would you give to those who are close to someone who’s suffering but doesn’t know how best to support them.

JOSH: From my experience, when you’re dealing with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, you don’t necessarily want to engage in a conversation about this when you’re in the midst of having a bad day. When the black fog descended, my closest friends and family identified this and got in touch to let me know that they were thinking of me and that I could call or speak to them anytime. Knowing this eventually led to opening up and sharing my experience with those closest to me and ultimately starting the process of coming to terms with this illness and getting professional help.

Having a basic understanding of these issues and the stigmas attached to them before speaking with your loved ones is something I would advise. Whilst going through my own struggles, I found a way to talk to people who’d gone through the same thing, and read up on anxiety and depression to better understand what was happening to me. That knowledge and understanding has enabled me to provide support for friends and young people I’ve met through mentoring and youth work. You might be surprised by how many people you know are dealing with mental issues, it’s much more common than I first thought. Having a support network that’s always there, through thick and thin, is so so important.

Even if you don’t feel equipped to help with your friends’ mental health issues, listening is the best thing you can do. Listen, be emphatic and don’t pass any judgements.

How is mental health viewed in your own culture or immediate surroundings? Have you faced challenges getting support if/when you needed it from your community?

SIAN: When I look back at my childhood and teenage years (the 90s & 00s), mental “illness” was an incredibly taboo topic of conversation – everyone avoided and looked away from. Growing up in New Zealand, we had incredibly high rates of teen suicide, particularly in young men. Nobody talked about it, especially not in the mainstream. I feel like my culture is slowly moving back into a space where we can hold each other more fearlessly. Mental “health” is progressively feeling like a place we can all start to work towards as a community – because this is a collective issue. When I went through a very dark and suicidal period, I could see that everyone around me was trying so hard to support me and offer me love and kindness. During these low points I found it incredibly difficult to connect into that love and support from the outside world – the pain being so deep that I couldn’t do anything but push it away. But ultimately that support from my friends and family and therapists was my lifeline, holding the threads of me together when I myself just could not find the strength to keep going.

I think one of the main challenges for supporting people through a tough time is that often there is no positivity being fed back at you – that person’s self-loathing means they often don’t have the energy to show gratitude or be a “good friend” back to you. We are still so quick to shovel advice onto people before we have sat and truly deeply listened to them, or just sat in silence with them so they know that no matter where they’re at, someone is there by their side. It takes an incredible amount of unconditional love, strength and community support to be able to hold someone through a tough period, I think that’s why so many people still get left behind.

Do you think being part of the music industries has had any implications for your mental health? If so, what have you done to cope with it?

ADELAIDE: The main impact I had on my mental health from being in the industry (as a solo artist) was my age as a woman in music. Feeling “old” or less included in the mainstream when you pass the age of 25. So for me, it’s all about perception and comparison. I always try to come back to the “now”: not comparing myself to my young self or being stuck in the past, or worrying about how long it will take me to learn a new skill (spending all my time in the future).

I am trying to become more present with the things I do – giving myself some time to learn a new technical task, and not being impatient or discouraged by not being successful straight away. Not comparing myself to others – focusing on being inspired by them – nourishing my creativity and asking for help from those around me to improve my skills. I’m letting go of society’s old ideas of women feeling the need to be competitive, when in fact we are so powerful by working together, hanging out together, and not being afraid of our vulnerability.

Are there any changes you’d like to see to help look after collective and individual mental health in the music industries?

JOSH: Whilst there has been a positive shift within the music and wider creative industries within recent years, with companies putting health and general wellbeing policies in place, I think there’s still a real lack of support for those who are freelance and self-employed in the industry. The events of the past year have further highlighted that. I’d like to see more networks and infrastructure in place to support these individuals who are an essential part of the music/creative industry workforce and can often slip through the cracks when it comes to financial support and mental wellbeing.

Are there any initiatives or sources of knowledge doing important work in mental health that have benefited you, that others should check out?

Key Changes, Help Musicians UK, Wavepaths, You Make It, eott.

JOSH: I personally find the process/practice of deep listening something that really helps keep me balanced. Listening to music in a relaxed environment with no distractions, 100% focussed on the sounds washing into your ears. I’d recommend checking out Pauline Oliverios’ book called Deep Listening, she’s the OG of the movement. It’s a real game changer if you enjoy listening to or making music. We run semi-regular deep listening sessions online where we all join a zoom and listen to an album, mixtape, podcast etc and benefit from the collective experience of listening together online. Hopefully we can do some sessions IRL soon. If anyone reading fancies joining just give us a shout.

Can you tell us more about your selected charity, the work it does and why it holds a personal significance? 

PHILIPPA: We would like to highlight the incredible work of Body & Soul Charity. Body & Soul uses a comprehensive, community-based and trauma informed approach to address the life-threatening effects of childhood adversity in people of all ages. NYX works with Body & Soul’s creative programme, creating courses and music projects with their members that celebrate both the beauty and imperfections of our collective voices.

Rewire Festival 2021 (6-9 May) will host the World Premiere of NYX’s newest project Mutualism: a 360 degree immersive audio-visual experience that explores our relationship with nature, symbiosis transformation and collective consciousness, in collaboration with spoken word artist MA.MOYO and visual artist Nick Cobby. NYX & Gazelle Twin’s debut album ‘Deep England‘ is available now via Bandcamp.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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