From the opening, frenetic bombast of “Do You Spiral Down Often?” to the downtrodden dream zones of “Sinking,” Youniss sends out a series of visceral sonic missives on his new album, White Space. Every time I’ve listened to this album, it’s stayed with me for hours after the last grinding guitar notes fade away. It’s emotionally wrought and expertly arranged for maximum impact. It’s an exceptional, memorable record and is out now on Viernulvier. Order HERE.
After finishing my first album, Youniss, I went through a creative slump of just making cheap, uninspired copies of the first record. It took the whole world to shake because of June 2020 and the black lives matter movement to really feel something again and create from that angle.
As disbelief and anger fueled my new creative output, I shifted away from detailed, perfect synth sounds to detuned and distorted guitars and drums.
I really wanted this album to feel like the most intense and insane panic attack.
Do You Spiral Down Often?
I started playing around with this weird looping, shrieking sample that goes for the majority of “Do You Spiral?” as a test. I didn’t really think this was going to pan out into anything at all originally. When I started playing guitar over it and playing around with vocal arrangements, I noticed that there was a lot of room to keep building over the top of this. Making it more intense as the noise builds and creeps up.
How Will It End?
One of the first tracks I wrote. I had just watched one of my favorite movies, The Truman Show, again. “How Will It End?” is the question the fans pose throughout the entire movie when it comes to Truman’s TV show, AKA his life. I really liked the idea of that question. I rephrased it for myself as a question posed on racism and general feelings of animosity against people of color. When it comes to the sound, I was really interested in trying to do as much as possible with my voice, making a groovy bassline by chanting and working with pitching and distortion. The track is existential, constantly posing the same question without really ever coming to answers.
Arms Bent Back
In the last few days I gave myself to finish the album, post-recording of all instrumentation, “Arms Bent Back” accidentally formed while piecing together some leftover materials.
I keep a notepad where I’ve been writing down words, sentences, and other brain leftovers down for the last few years. The sentence Arms Bent Back was one of them that came after rewatching twin peaks for the third time.
I wanted to make something loud, aggressive, and mostly short. Something that really felt like the most intense, short-lived experience you could have.
The Fool Who Lost His Way
The fool who lost his way came from an alternative version of “Habitat” originally. I really liked the way it sounded, but I didn’t want to have it embedded in the track itself. Separating “Habitat” and “The Fool Who Lost His Way” made it quite an interesting call and response in the whole album itself. The perfect mid-way point along the journey.
“Habitat” is the one song on the record that had the most variations as a song. It was the first entry point into writing this record, and lived many different lives. It originally started as a song in lockdown about missing “home,” which I didn’t really know what I meant by it at that point. It was a very blurry period, which everyone can relate to, I guess. The place it evolved to was later not knowing if you belong, which is the central theme of White Space as a whole.
After the realization of the central theme comes disbelief and sadness. “Negative Space” is the first vocal-less moment of the record. It symbolizes a sort of second breakdown, the moment where you’re just in too much shock to actually speak and need a minute to get back into words.
On “SO SLOW,” I regain my voice; I know that acceptance is hard, and it’s the first time I vocalize I miss a part of myself. Losing yourself is a weird and hard-to-place feeling, but “SO SLOW” is the most “song” track on the record and, as such, really pinpoints the narrative.
A blip in the entire process, “OVERTHINKIN” serves as an afterthought. Where “SO SLOW” is me vocalizing these feelings, “OVERTHINKIN” is my brain going into a rush and flurry of thoughts and emotions.
Walad is about the indecipherable. Most of the synths are made out of fragments of my voice, no longer able to really trace what they once said Walad seeks, like the title says in Arabic for “the inner boy.” This song really is me trying to recapture the part of me that the outside world doesn’t seem to always want to accept, especially in the context of this album. The Iraqi sounds from my mother’s side of the family run deep throughout this song.
I’m going to keep this one short. It’s about finding power in the depths. You keep sinking, but eventually, you’ll crawl out again. And hopefully, when the inevitable next storm comes and tries to sweep you away, you’ll be more prepared.