Premiere: YIRINDA – ‘NHAYA (TO SEE)’

Words: James Frostick
Artist image: Matt Redlich

On Friday July 3, storied label Chapter Music will be releasing Midnight Meditations, a compilation album featuring downbeat and ambient compositions contributed by a stellar collection of musicians. Today we have the privilege of premiering the record’s lead track, which comes from improvisational duo Yirinda. ‘Nhaya’ is a suitably meditative composition that blends glittering electronica with Aboriginal language and storytelling.

Those of you lucky enough to have been in attendance at the Golden Plains Festival in early March had an opportunity to see Yirinda in full flight, mere weeks before the country’s live-music scene was suspended as the pandemic arrived on our shores. Those that bore witness to the set would be able to attest to the duo’s incredible dynamic – improvisational-yet-considered arrangements, with a sound that coalesces at the intersection of cultures. Didgeridoo and double bass. Contemporary electronica and thousands of years of treasured stories shared from generation to generation. Yirinda is a collaborative partnership between Butchulla songman and artist Fred Leone and experimental contrabassist Samuel Pankhurst, who use their compositions as a vehicle to convey the language and stories of Butchulla country – which spans the Fraser Coast and region and Kgari (Fraser Island) – and to subvert the conventions of Western music. Yirinda itself is a Butchulla word that translates to ‘now’, and few other groups create music that feels so crucially current contextually and sonically.

Yirinda’s track ‘Nhaya’ (which means ‘to see’) kicks off Chapter Music’s compilation of contemplative late-night ambience Midnight Meditations. Here, Samuel swaps his signature double bass for a Korg Mono/Poly, gradually building the track’s initial form using the instrument’s arpeggiator to lay down a modulated bass foundation, upon which twinkling top notes flutter and dissipate as they’re buffeted by swelling and receding gusts of noise. Fred’s vocals (modulated slightly using a Roland Chorus Echo) sweep through the mix, subtly guiding the track like an intangible spectral influence, manifesting like a hypnotic auditory hallucination. The track’s languid pace and Fred’s lower register contributes heavily to ‘Nhaya’ trance-like appeal – extraneous stimuli drops away and all that I can focus on is the track’s understated ebbs and flows. If one was seeking a sample of what to expect from Midnight Meditations, Yirinda’s contribution sets the tone superbly. Listen here:

Midnight Meditations will arrive on Friday July 3, and also features tracks from Sarah Mary Chadwick, Chloe Allison Escott (The Native Cats), Alex Macfarlane (Hobbies Galore), Ela Stiles, Fia Fell, Punko, Guy Blackman and more. You can pre-order a digital copy here.