Since they apparently appeared out of thin air six years ago, Nhor has been creating deep and challenging music that is simultaneously beautiful and distressing.
From his piano-driven debut album to 2013’s Within the Darkness Between the Starlight, the nameless and faceless entity behind Nhor has weaved seamlessly between brooding dark ambient music and ferocious heavy metal, either with stand-alone releases for each or by simultaneously experimenting within the space between the two.
His ability to successfully wed two musical styles from opposite ends of the sonic spectrum was perfectly showcased on Within the Darkness Between the Starlight, a record that rose and fell like a wave as he utilised all of the tools in his belt to create a musical journey through grief and solitude.
Negative emotions play an important role for Nhor, and each record, no matter what the intensity, acts as a cathartic release for both the listener and the creator, something that the latter is quick to admit is a main motivator behind his work.
“I’ve come to define myself by sorrow,” he explains to me. “I don’t know who I’d be without it.”
After a two-year absence, November saw the release of his latest offering, Momenta Quintae Essentiae, a return to the beautifully sparse and utterly otherworldly piano-centred style that characterised his first two records.
Despite the lack of intensity – musically speaking – Momenta Quintae Essentiae is arguably Nhor’s most emotional release, one that is rich in delicate, reverb-laden piano lines layered with ghostly chanting and eerie acoustic guitar.
Nature, alongside sadness and solitude, also plays an important role in making Nhor’s music as evocative as it is, and the stillness of the English countryside, the place that he calls home, can clearly be felt in every note, as can the appreciation that he feels for a life away from the rush of urban expanses.
“I have no interest in cities, even when inside of a park or a green space. It feels stunted,” he says.
“I’m not sure that I could live in any place in which I couldn’t see the horizon or the night sky, or gather signs for the coming change in weather.”If it weren’t for the countryside and the sincere connection to the natural world that it offers, the use of Nhor as a musical outlet arguably would not have come to be.
One evening, as he stood beneath the stars on a cold, cloudless night, he was drawn to the cabin at the foot of his garden by a rustling on the edge of the forest that surrounds his home.
After inspecting the noise and entering the cabin, he found his father’s old piano, and on it lay a pair of binoculars and a lantern.
Then, with his fingers stiff from the cold, he began to slowly play the piano, and it was there that he discovered the foundations of what would later become Nhor.
“I stumbled across two chords that ached with sadness, and I played them over and over, listening to how the room began to fill with their song,” he explains.
“I could feel the atmosphere within the cabin changing, beginning to flow out of the door and into the starry skies above.
“I recall clearly how the two chords sang out like the stars, their pale notes hanging in the air and painting the room with their light as if the stars themselves were softly appearing within the darkness around me.”
This appreciation for the natural world has not only punctuated the sounds on each Nhor release but has also found its way into the imagery and art that surrounds the music.
His close relationship with Sin Eater has resulted in the Midlands-based illustrator’s works featuring prominently on each Nhor release, and the duo’s deep appreciation of the nature that surrounds them has helped to give another meaning to the music through beautifully drawn illustrations that grace every album cover.
“I stumbled across two chords that ached with sadness, and I played them over and over.”
With each record, Nhor has increased the scope of his artistic outlook, and his back catalogue is now characterised by everything from pieces of literary work to, in the case of the deluxe edition of Momenta Quintae Essentiae, handmade incense sticks with their own specially constructed scent.
Each piece of art is created in an attempt to compliment the music, resulting in all of the listener’s senses being fully immersed in the experience.
This is a conscious decision by Nhor, who sees the music that he creates as being an expression of his life as a whole, with all of his art helping to paint a picture and tell a story.
“Nhor is really just a movement of my life, and everything is connected through myself,” he says.
“There are some things that I can’t express through words, and this is where music takes over, but even music has its limitations and there are points where literature covers these gaps.
“I have tried venturing out now, creating my own incense – ‘a fire of wild flowers’ – and I’ve also experimented with photography and moving imagery.
“I don’t wish to ever limit myself to one outlet for my expression of existence.”
Despite this clear and concise thinking behind the direction in which he is travelling and the role that his art plays, Nhor believes that it is still important to have a sense of mystery so that the listener is able to bring their own beliefs and meaning to what is being offered to them.
“Everything that I do has a clear concept behind it, but I don’t like to tie all of the loose ends,” he explains.
“By that, I mean that I like to leave things somewhat ambiguous so that others may use their own imagination to fill the gaps as they see fit.
“For instance, the track Hedera from my new album translates to ‘Ivy’, and each track has a short sentence explaining the moment or space in which it was found – ‘the ivy steps leave me here once more’.
“The ivy steps could be physical steps covered in ivy, yet I mean them in terms of how my eyes follow ivy like a great staircase that leads always above the stars, where time is lost.”
That ambiguity is also punctuated by Nhor’s decision to publish all music and correspondence under that simple, four-letter moniker, leaving his true name and appearance as a complete mystery.
This is not uncommon for musicians journeying down a similar artistic path to Nhor, and he believes that this allows the emphasis to translate to the listener, as what is directly laid out in front of them is all that they have to connect with the art that is being presented.
“I don’t like to tie all of the loose ends”
“I wish people to connect with their own thoughts and feelings, to encourage them to experience nature for themselves,” he says.
“Musically, and within the passages that I write, I try to avoid cluttering my work, as I like to include only that which is needed.
“My image and my name are not important here, so let them fall to the wayside.”
As Momenta Quintae Essentiae showcases, Nhor’s insistence on concentrating solely on the art that he creates has allowed him to produce pieces that have gained plaudits from all spheres of the musical community.
In his own words, the latest release is “the purest Nhor album to date”, and it is easy to see why it has been received so positively by his ever-increasing fan base.
With each record, his ability to challenge the listener in increasingly powerful ways is a joy to behold, as his concentrated and minimalist approach to songwriting has only helped him to achieve his continued goal of connecting with the listener on a deep and emotional level.
As ever, the future direction of Nhor is something that only he knows; but what is certain is that there is still much of the story yet to be told.
Featured image by Nhor.