THYX – Below The City

Album links

Bandcamp: n/a

Soundcloud: n/a

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/7jwiiOaHaRDQsQCGhAEo9a?si=OIc15JgSSPa9T_cA8EfgPA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_nGsYb4-1vHXJdUS5DVl-wjviN9Xva9GVU

 

Introduction: Let us continue with the Mind.in.a.box side project known as THYX.  In a Mind.in.a.box review, I’d skip the whole introduction thing and go straight for a summary, but THYX is different. As far as I can tell (I could always be missing something), the THYX discography has no overarching story of its own and it certainly isn’t connected to the Mind.in.a.box universe (at least not directly. Maybe there are some obscure connections I don’t realize). Narrative or no narrative, Poiss always delivers when it comes to great music, even on THYX albums such as this one.

 

THYX – Searching (8): First song on the album and we’re already off to a good start. Searching brings a good amount of energy to the table with its significant drive and significant focus on the basslines. Considering the fact, that Poiss is typically the master of arps, this song stands out a bit among much of the rest of the Mind.in.a.box and THYX discographies. Not saying it’s the best song (Redefined already took that spot with its 10/10), but it’s definitely different with its energetic approach to a variety of basslines.

 

Other than its focus on the bassline, Searching has several other elements to offer: a couple of simple melodies dot the track here and there. It’d nothing to write home about but it does add a slight bit of melodic flavor to an otherwise non-melodic song. There’s also some great variety near the end of the song as the song explores a new chord progression in comparison to the rest of the song (which was slightly growing repetitive at that point, so the variety is very much welcome). There’s also some grittily distorted vocals in there. Speaking of which…

 

The search that this song centers on is an introspective search for life’s meaning, an enigma that has drowned minds across humanity for endless generations. We spend so much tine digging down into the depths of our minds trying to conjure up some meaning as day after day leads us closer to our end. We search our past and expected future for any trace of an answer. We desire a safe place where we can feel complete. But such a place isn’t something one can just happen upon. I believe you must make such a place for yourself.

 

My personal introspections and worldviews aside, this song wouldn’t be that out of place thematically in Black’s cyberpunk noir journey, though I can see how Poiss decided it wouldn’t quite tell the story he wanted, which is why it likely got retooled to become a THYX song, and a very good one at that.

 

THYX – The Endless Journey (8.5): Taking a step back from the energy of Searching we have, the slightly slower- paced Endless Journey. Not that the song suffers from this decrease in tempo and intensity, it merely excels in a different flavor of Poiss’ expertise. I think I do prefer Searching as this song does’t have quite the same variety as the introductory song. There’s a bit more highlight on a slow arp and a decent guitar solo near the end, but the former isn’t exactly exceptional for Mind.in.a.box/THYX standards and the latter is quickly overpowered by the arp so it doesn’t truly get a chance to shine like it could have.

 

However, this song does have an overwhelming strength that Searching can never measure up to. What’s better than a song focusing on the search for life’s meaning? A song that actually attempts to decipher the significance of this endless journey we call life. Well, there is an end, but sometimes it’s easy (and preferable) to forget about that little complication we call death… Until then, let’s explore all the intricacies in Poiss’ emotionally driven lyrics of The Endless Journey

 

There is almost too much to go over when it comes to this song’s lyrics. That doesn’t hamper the song’s quality at all as I quite enjoy the rapid-fire variety of ideas thrown in my ears’ direction. It’s just difficult to write about all that in a review. So, let me just give a quick rundown of some of the many themes this song includes. There’s the balance of ignorance and bliss and how to receive the latter without relying on the former. There’s the struggle to upkeep the happiness and contentment that has a tendency to fade as we grow older. There’s mention of the constraints of general every day living that make it difficult to break free and follow one’s own individual goals. And then there’s a general fear of the future and the unknown and how we must overcome it. My short synopsis doesn’t do this song justice. Listen to it for yourself.

 

THYX – Network of Light (7.5): Network of Light is a fantastically interesting song. It’s a bit more cryptic in comparison to some of the other songs on the album but crypticism works quite well for the THYX style so there are no single complaints. This song masters that cryptic nature by beginning the song with an almost threateningly deep voice demanding you to survive. Yeah, I was planning on surviving and I think I’m still going to go through with that plan, but I could do without this particular flavor of reinforcement. Ah, who am I kidding, I love the creepier edgy side of music. Bring the darkness on!

 

And that’s the odd thing about this song. Despite having the world “Light” in the title, this song, at least tonally, is awfully dark. This is especially noticeable in the beginning with the threat of not dying and the distant smooth bass soon overwhelmed by the slightly harsher (and much more prominent) bassline that accompanies the threatening vocals I have been repeatedly mentioning. And while the rest of the song (excluding reprises of those specific vocals that I’ve been repeatedly mentioning) doesn’t really contribute much to the darkness, it doesn’t really do much to provide much light to the song either. The chorus does have some calmer pads, but these sections are only light in comparison to that vibe the song starts with.

 

Am I complaining that a song that falsely advertises itself as light? Oh no, not at all, I quite enjoy this song despite its darkness. In fact, I could argue that I enjoy the song because of its darkness. I’m not the most happy-go-lucky guy after all. A bit of edge is quite pleasing in my opinion. That’s what this song has for the musical portion of this review. The lyrical portion, however, is a bit more cryptic. It sounds as if this song is being sung by a personified network of light, an AI that’s attempting to reach out to an unknown person. If this were canon to the Mind.in.a.box story, I’d say it was Black due to mentions of erased memories, but even if there is no narrative connection (and I’m pretty sure there isn’t), this song is simply enjoyable to take in for its instrumentation alone.

 

THYX – The Street (7.25): Continuing on with the personification then, we have The Street. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We need to take a moment to appreciate the nonlyrical elements of this song too. This song has its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to its more instrumental sections. The weakness? Well it doesn’t really have as prominent of a mood as some of the other songs, especially the introductory energy of Searching and the surprisingly ominous mood of Network of Light. Tonally, it’s more on par with The Endless Journey which only got its high rating due to its lyrical content. Ok, perhaps it’s a bit better than that. After all, this song does have a few sections that allow it to stand above an instrumental version of The Endless Journey (not that that exists, just trying to take lyrics out of the equation for a brief minute).

 

First off, let’s take a look at two of the continuous elements that are prominent throughout the entirety of this song’s stay. First off, there’s the echoing pair of drums that are introduced at the very beginning of the song. This percussive duo gives the song a slightly cinematic flavor, allowing for the rest of the song to feel a bit more powerful than it would without. Secondly, there’s the bassline that plays funky pairs of notes underlying the rest of the track, giving the song a slight groove to compliment the cinematics of the drumbeat.

 

One other part of the song, I’d like to highlight is only there for a small section of the song leading into the second verse. It’s the piano. Really, the main reason the piano stands out is because you only get the occasional Poiss song with the piano so it comes in as a treat that differs a bit from the songs that are almost completely technological. This melody just does a great job of climbing up and down in pitch that makes it stand out even more prominently among even the other piano tracks.

 

As for the lyrics on this personified street… Well, I pretty much summed up a good overview of the lyrics right there, didn’t I? But can we go even more in depth to who this street is. Well it seems to be a very supportive personified roadway, which is good, because I’d hate for the street to collapse under my weight. That’d mighty inconvenient. It’s also worth noting that there’s a huge emphasis on how the target of this song (hey let’s just assume it’s Black again, why don’t we? I don’t care if its canon or not) finds themselves in a safe place on this street. Kind of interesting how this calls back to Searching. It seems that the safe place has been found. It’s out on this conscious street.

 

THYX – Hate (8.25): Hate is a strong word. At least that’s what I was always told as a child. Of course, now that my vocabulary has grown, I’ve learned that there are even stronger words than hate such as despise, loath and abhor. But there’s something about hate, that’s so simple and pure. Well, as pure as such a negative emotion can get. Because when you boil right down to it, hatred is hatred regardless of how strong.

 

I’m getting distracted. I love pulling apart the smallest things sometimes, but my opinion of this song isn’t going to be defined by the definition of hate. Instead, I think it would be best to judge the song based on the actual musical and lyrical content. Thankfully, for Hate, I quite enjoy a lot of what this song has to offer, and I consider it to be one of the best songs on the album. And I can’t just attribute my enjoyment to just the music or just the lyrics. This is a very well-rounded song in which everything contributes to its excellence.

 

The beginning of this song serves as an important introduction to the dark mood that emanates through much of its duration. Unlike Network of Light, the darkness actually fits this song’s title (again nothing wrong with Network of Light, THYX’s surprisingly common false advertising is forgivable at least 75% of the time). Not only does this song have a stronger thematic connection to darkness, but even if you take the music out of context form the lyrics and song title, the song sounds simultaneously vibrant and ominous. The bassline is the mastermind behind this all, underlying every moment of the song from the very beginning, especially in the beginning, as it’s nearly the only rumbling sound present for the first half a minute or so (some soft drums in there too, but not the song’s main drive).

 

The song’s main drive comes in around a minute in, allowing for the bassline to spread its flavor quickly through the track, transforming itself into both an arpeggiated bassline as well as some longer notes that give the bass a more clearly defined progression. And later in the song, there’s some harsher stabs from the bass as well, rounding out the variety of the bassline to create much of the atmosphere of this track. There are some other melodic instruments in there too that contribute greatly to the vibrance I’d mentioned earlier, but most of the attention is focused on the bass.

 

Except when it’s focused on the vocals. Hate has the best vocals on the album. They’re not the best lyrically (though the message still tickles my mind out of the box). However, as for how the lyrics are sung, there’s more passion here than anywhere else on the album. During the chorus it seems as if nothing else matters except Poiss being overcome with the titular emotion of the song as it took over his mind.

 

Yeah, this song’s bleakness in its musical tone does fit with the lyrics. According to these lyrics, hate wins. It overwhelms the soul and casts out all other emotions and any purity that somehow survived up to that point. That’s only if you let it win though. Take this song as a warning.

 

Don’t let hate win.

 

THYX – Survival Instinct (8.5): I feel like, out of all the songs on this album, this song feels closest to his mind.in.a.box work. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but I have noticed that a lot of THYX’s songs have a slightly different feel from the stuff off of the mind.in.a.box albums. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it, but there’s definitely a combination of arps basslines, melodies and vocals that many of the upbeat mind.in.a.box songs roughly follow. And this is the closest I’ve heard a THYX song to fit that rough outline. Can I put it into words? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can, which really brings into question why I’m reviewing in the first place, but right now all I have to go off of is this odd feeling of familiarity despite this being the first time I’m delving into the THYX side of the discography.

 

Well, I’ll try and at least explain what this music makes me feel, maybe it will be clearer how to make the comparison between the to aliases if I take a step back and look at this song as a standalone. The introduction for this song is quite amazing. A lot of songs on this album focus on starting with a subtle rumbling bassline, but this song might just be the best at using it. It just gives the right sense of unease to contrast with the more relaxing midnight jazzy vibe the sax and piano bring to the table. And the heavy breathing that transitions into the drive capitalizes on this unease quite well. This song definitely puts its best foot forward, and while I may have complained about some songs doing this in the past, the difference is that there’s plenty of great stuff to follow.

 

First off, those jazzy vibes from the piano do return in the song quite often enough to keep the introductory mood alive. Yet, it doesn’t necessarily linger on this mood, but transforms it by using the piano in tandem with the arps that steal the show for the majority of the song. That’s probably the secret to how I can even more easily associate this song with Mind.in.a.box in comparison to other songs on the album. Outside of the storytelling, Mind.in.a.box’s greatest strength was always the arps and Poiss made absolutely certain to showcase that strength in this one. Even the melody in the chorus (which is fantastic by the way) sounds similar to his arps, which I feel is what pushes the song over the line to sounding like a full on Mind.in.a.box song.

 

The vocals in the verses are admittedly a slight bit different from the Mind.in.a.box norm, going for a grittier vibe, not computerized in any way, just a different gritty flavor. It works because the lyrical content of Survival Instinct is edgy to match. Society is crumbling around us. Life deteriorates into entropy. All things, good or bad, eventually disappear. It all boils down to a choice: Will you stand and fight against the darkness that suffocates us or hide from it, waiting it out until mortality takes you?

 

One of these choices is easier. The other one is right.

 

THYX – Alien Love (7.25):  And now for a calmer, more simplistic track. Everything else we’ve heard so far has been incredibly dense with lyrics either thought provoking in the existential sense or thought provoking in a way that makes me scratch my head at why we’re personifying a road. This song, though strangely titled, is about much simpler ideas. Therefore, it shouldn’t take as long to tear into… Right?

 

I mean, not only are the lyrics relatively simple (half of the lines in this song are “It came to me”), the music itself is quite laid out nice and simple. The song starts out by solidifying itself as one of the calmer tracks, using only a piano (and maybe a slight bit of ambience) for the first minute. Eventually, the song does begin to incorporate a few basslines into the song, as well as an acoustic guitar (which I didn’t here the first time I listened through, but now it’s my favorite part. Add a few drums and a few synths and the song begins to slowly intensify from its initial calming beauty to its eventual glorious majesty.

 

The vocals undergo a similar journey. They start out slow and somber, perhaps filled with sorrow. But by the end of the journey, the Poiss sings with an unrelenting passion, as he switches onto the second part of the lyrics. But perhaps I should analyze that first part of the lyrics before I move on to the second part. Sequential order is quite preferable in most cases, this being one of them.

 

Something came to him. He was all alone, blind to the world around him and then something came to him, surrounding him. What was it? An alien? That’s the song’s title, but I’m kind of partial to the idea that it’s a thought or an epiphany that came his way. Something about the way he says it reminds me of more of cognitive arrival rather than a physical arrival.

 

Perhaps the second half of the song can help decipher these thoughts. They speak of all he wanted, all he needed. And they talk of “you”: the person of interest this song is directed at. Taking a quick glance at these lyrics, I can figure out what’s going on here pretty quickly. The singer, out of a desire for emotional healing, fell in love. But because he’s held himself at a distance, the love was unrequited, an alien concept.

 

Huh, guess I did spend a decent chunk of time analyzing these lyrics after all.

 

Anyways, this is a beautiful song and all, but it just doesn’t truly capture me musically overall and the lyrics, while fun to analyze, aren’t my preference.

 

THYX – Roses (8.75): You may think that a song called Roses would be a love song. Roses are a quite romantic flower after all And Alien Love was most certainly a love song, so it would fit thematically in this area of the album. But nah, Alien Love was the odd one out. The only point where this song mentions Roses is one line in the outro that I’m having some slight difficulty deciphering. And I have no qualms about this switch from love song to existentialism. Likely because songs like this are a bit closer to my preference anyway. These themes are part of the reason THYX holds its own against Mind.in.a.box even without the narrative.

 

Plus, the music of THYX, while slightly different, is quite great too. This song goes all out for the funkiest Poiss tune I’ve ever heard. Usually the bassline is quite arp-focused though there are some exceptions. Usually those exceptions are longer distorted notes giving a sense of unease and tension. This exception is an exception to that pattern, for it instead goes for a groovy bassline that helps drive the song forward along with some syncopated drums (and I’ve established in previous reviews that I quite love me some syncopation).

 

And if that funky groove wasn’t enough to please my intrigued ear drums, there’s some great electric guitar for the last third of the song. Really brings the song to another new level as the funky bassline also switches up to a more dynamic level as the guitar moves from lengthy soaring notes to a quick melodic solo before the song fades out. I really love this combination and feel it wraps up the song nicely.

 

But not only is this song musically exceptional, there’s also some great lyrics here. Perhaps not as great as The Endless Journey, but it’s close enough in quality that the superior music is able to push this song over the edge to become the best on the album. Instead of going over every single aspect and question of life (man, the Endless Journey was dense), Roses focuses on a singular topic: the impossibility of perfection.

 

There is an overwhelming pressure and desire for perfection in modern society. Flaws are the enemy and just one mistake can ruin everything. And while a detrimental mistake could very well have a drastic effect on one’s life, most of the time, we worry about matters that can be a bit more trivial. Perfection is impossible, and yet, despite our worry of living an imperfect life, we’re still here, still standing, still living. Even when all plans seem to fail, that doesn’t mean its’s over. Get up, shake off the dust and rubble from the collapsing ideals and take on a new day.

 

If you base your happiness on perfection, then contentment will elude you forever.

 

THYX – Below the City (6.5): For our titular track, we start out with an acoustic guitar and a bassline. Typical relaxing intro for this album, though I do feel that the guitar does make this one stand out above the rest as it’s not just a bassline softly building up before the drive starts. The guitar plays its own melody providing a unique flavor to the song as the only other time an acoustic guitar is used is within Alien Love, and even then, that one was covered up by the piano with a singular melody. This guitar has a much more dynamic feel to it, not following any true pattern, but still naturally flowing with the rest of the song.  It’s especially noticeable in the beginning but it makes a few other appearances throughout the rest of the track as well.

 

That guitar is definitely the show stealer of the track. Everything else is kind of run of the mill regular for this album, maybe a bit below average (which is above average overall but still). The bassline is a bit subtler than usual, allowing for an insanely smooth feel compared to some of the harsher tracks of the album. Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable, as it does mean that the bassline blends a bit much with the higher pitched arps and any semblance of ambience the song has. The guitar still stands out thankfully, but that’s about it.

 

The lyrics of Below the City are probably the most cryptic yet. It seems to be said from the point of view of some sort of artificial intelligence that longs to have a more human experience. And that’s an interesting concept, but it doesn’t really do much with it. At least nothing that really gives me anything not talk about other than that quick summary. Unless there’s some kind of cryptic message behind obsolete ladders that would change everything that this song represents. But as it is, I have no idea what that line means, and the rest of the song is unchanged because of it.

 

Honestly, this song is just kind of bland compared to much of Poiss’ stuff. The guitar does help, but there is so little substance here that the titular track honestly is the worst lyrical song of the album.

 

THYX – Timeless (5.75): And then there’s this one. For our last track of the album, we have Timeless (not to be confused with Timelessness, a Mind.in.a.box song that shan’t be reviewed until at least 2 months from now, maybe more depending on if I change my priorities). Timeless, unlike the rest of the album, has no lyrics. Or at least I think it doesn’t. It has vocals, but I can’t make out a single word, so lyrical analysis will be absent from this particular section of the review. It’s all about the music this time.

 

And what does this song have to offer? Unfortunately, not much. There’s some decent arps introduced at the beginning, though they do get somewhat covered up by the repetitive bassline as the song progresses. The vocals do help save this song a bit as they add some much-needed variety and melodic influence, but other than that, this is a very bland ending to an otherwise great album.

 

Conclusion: Poiss definitely picked up some momentum on this sophomore album for the THYX alias (though he already has 4 other Mind.in.a.box albums under his belt, but we’re not focusing on those right now). There were several songs on this album. Half of the songs on this album received 8/10s and higher. I’m a bit surprised as I expected that the lack of narrative would cause this to be a little lesser tha the albums off the main alias, but the songs here are so intensely introspective that it doesn’t even matter that the conflict between the Sleepwalkers and the Agency is currently swept to the sidelines. I still thoroughly enjoy this album.

 

Unfortunately, the album does dip a little bit in quality towards the end, with a couple of songs that pale in comparison to everything previously, somewhat hampering my experience. It would have been a little better if the album ended at Roses, but I’m not going to let the ending ruin my enjoyment of the other 8 songs on the album.

 

Final Score: (7.5/10)

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