‘Unique’ is an overused word – it gets thrown around like confetti at a wedding. Unfortunately for thesaurus enthusiasts, it really is the best descriptor of Nilüfer Yanya’s sound. Her sonic branding is so strikingly her own that she has all but established her own genre, and in the span of just two LPs.
This isn’t to say that Yanya miraculously sprouted from influence-barren ground. Rather, her influences, both self-cited and drawn by listeners and critics, are myriad, spanning genres, eras and terrain. As children, we come to the crushing realisation that mixing all the different bright colours of playdough creates a disappointing grey-brown blob, but Yanya has magically inverted this process. Upon blending her rainbow of influences, the musical playdough produced is a glittering new-hue.
Malleability is a quality often credited to Yanya. Her 2019 debut album, Miss Universe, though unified by her distinctive singing (and speaking) voice, was changeable and erratic. Miss Universe was an unshrinking concept album, and this erraticism played onto its concept (whilst also showcasing Yanya’s range). This new record is different. Malleability is still evident in Yanya’s agile vocals, but PAINLESS is direct: a face-to-face confrontation as opposed to Miss Universe’s tension-taught underbelly. The stylistic capitalisation of ‘PAINLESS’ is apt, forceful and uninhibited.
“I’m not as scared to admit my feelings”, Yanya states. “[PAINLESS is] a record about emotion. I think it’s more open about that in a way that Miss Universe wasn’t because there’s so many cloaks and sleeves with the concept I built around it.” Where Miss Universe reached outwards into a foreboding vision of a skewed near-future, PAINLESS reaches inwards into the real now. It deals with feelings of loneliness and claustrophobia, relationship breakdowns, and introspection, holding near global relevance to a population attempting to de-hibernate after a pandemic.
PAINLESS is, more than anything, engaging. Even within sparser tracks, the delicate gold-leaf layering of sound that Yanya employs throughout means that, ten listens in, new appreciation can be gleaned from elements previously unnoticed. It has the power of not only relevance, but longevity. And what better thought is there than enduring painlessness?
PAINLES is available on limited edition vinyl here*.