Nataliya Yanitskaya is combining her experience in motion pictures and multimedia arts with a passion for contemporary electronic music as Niffiz. With her first album Speaking Silence, she showcases her skill at building sonic landscapes while enveloping you in her own universe of sound. As listeners journey through the tracks, she takes us through a series of dreams merging different moods and stories into a whole and consistent story. We sat down with Niffiz to talk about the album, making music, influences and much more!
OSR: You have over 10 years of experience in motion pictures and multimedia arts, but what drew you to making music?
Niffiz: Actually, I’ve been passionate about music since I was a baby. Already in the 90s, I was “drawing” something in the midi sequencer Cakewalk. Of course, I graduated from music school. When I was a teenager I was very fond of the breakcore scene and also used to write tracks in experimental style but they were probably not of that quality. Then I forgot about my hobbies and went deeper into cinematography, I went to film school, studied to be a sound engineer and then worked in that field.
Suddenly, at some point, probably related to covid and quarantine, I remembered my early dreams and plans and discovered that what seemed cool and unbelievable in my childhood is now easily achievable. First, because there was a huge leap in the production of computer music (software, vst plug-ins, libraries, etc.). Secondly, I myself have learned some things as I graduated from University in the sound field and worked as a sound designer. I also have my own studio and the required tools. So, suddenly and unbelievably, it turned out that I had the necessary resources and skills.
OSR: You have recently released your album Speaking Silence, is there a backstory or theme to the album?
Niffiz: I can’t say that there is a specific backstory or theme to the album. I love music because it is so abstract and universal and because everyone can hear something in it, but I tried to keep the album in a certain style. Generally, I tried to capture those sounds that resonate in me, something great and frightening, but also fascinating, from my childhood or from a past life. I wanted to write a story that would be interesting for me to immerse myself in and that would correspond to the musical foundations that I have in me. I think in that sense the album is experimental, personal and quite naive. Technically, I even had a semblance of a script and an idea or concept for ease of work, but I generally don’t think it matters. It’s just more comfortable for me to work like a cinematographer.
OSR: The album combines electronic music and cinematic sounds, what promoted this?
Niffiz: I don’t see much difference between electronic music and cinematic SFX, at least technically. I write music as a sound designer or film composer in the sense that tracks are “complete paintings” as they are, while electronic music is more about live sets. Aside from that, I guess the methods of an electronic musician and a sound designer are roughly identical. I honestly wasn’t interested in this subject. That is, I haven’t gone through any “electronic musician school” or even watched any “how to make a great kick” tutorials. I have heard quite a lot of electronic music, so, of course, what I get, gravitates towards certain styles. Maybe I will try to develop in the field of a certain style of electronic music in the future, but none of them is so exciting for me that it would make me completely immerse myself in it.
OSR: While each track sounds different to the others, there is a thread that connects them all. Did you find this easy or difficult to achieve?
Niffiz: The album was pretty complete in my head right away, so there was no difficulty with that. The difficult thing was that something was too experimental and obscure and therefore silly, and I had to make it more musical. The concept and the storyline were clear to me. You can just perceive the album as a single composition or as a soundtrack to a movie, and then everything immediately falls into place: there the plot develops from calm and mystical to the chase scene, epic and thoughtful climax and all that kind of stuff. It’s all according to the rules.
OSR: There are a lot of different influences resting in the soundscape from glitch to darkwave and industrial. What was your creative process for combining everything?
Niffiz: It has always seemed strange to me that usually musicians write music in one style. I mean it is of course logical and cool to find your own sound and to refine it to perfection. But as long as I remember I’ve always had a desire to find all possible nuances of all possible styles and genres of music and listen to it, preferably in one playlist. It’s okay for me when after a 70’s disco track you hear drone.
There are no such wild combinations in the album, there I’m using pretty close genres that in my opinion go well together. I wanted to make it understandable and comfortable listening. Electronic music genres work pretty well as orchestral colors in the classical sense, roughly speaking: hard techno is anger, energy while dark ambient is otherworldly, spiritual music and darkwave is dance, sexuality, etc, etc. I had a goal to find certain sounds and to express rather complicated musical idea, and it was not a goal to fit into any frameworks and canons. I can’t judge how much this is essential and interesting for other people, but at least for me it was quite a fascinating process.
OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you recommend and why?
Niffiz: I would probably recommend ‘Hunter Dance’. It turned out just the way I wanted it to. Honestly, I didn’t even expect it to turn out that way. It’s very inspiring to me and I think it fits the album cover.
Generally speaking, I was initially afraid that if you compose the album the way it is, then people would listen to the first couple of tracks, which are boring and the most dynamic stuff will be left out of the loop. I hope that sooner or later they will all be heard.
OSR: If the album has a color, what would it be and why?
Niffiz: Some kind of murky gray, with blue and purple. A magical darkness.
OSR: After listening to the album, what is the one emotion you would like people to feel?
Niffiz: It’s hard to describe that emotion, I hope it would be a feeling like an expansion of consciousness.
OSR: The album touches on a series of dreams, how difficult was it bringing them to life through music?
Niffiz: In truth, it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. If you keep in mind that the ideas themselves were quite complicated and epic, and the idea of the album is quite ambitious. I mean, before, it seemed to me like something completely unbelievable, and I didn’t even try it. It turned out that you can just take and start implementing ideas that loom vaguely on the echoes of consciousness and the album was written pretty quickly. But, of course, there is room to improve both technique and the ideas themselves, I am critical of my work.
Of course, it is worth mentioning that I absorb and am inspired by other people’s works, books, films and other forms of art. Having luminaries and beacons helps a lot. For this album, it’s probably the books by William Golding and Vernor Vinge and the films by Denis Villeneuve. I don’t think this connection is very obvious, but I guess it’s important to say that.
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?
Niffiz: I enjoyed writing my album, I felt a lot of points of growth and support. I’m continuing to work in sound design, as well as trying to get a foothold in writing custom music for specific projects. The album Speaking Silence is my personal project and I have ideas for several more albums at the moment. Telling your story is very exciting, but quite tedious and costly. I think in the next few months if all goes well, I will start writing a new album. So, as they say, stay tuned!