Spotlight On... Alliyah Enyo

Ahead of releasing Echo's Distintegration, we shine a spotlight on Edinburgh-based artist Alliyah Enyo

Feature by Tallah Brash | 03 Nov 2022
  • Alliyah Enyo

Alliyah Enyo has made one of our favourite records this month, the beautifully ethereal, haunting and emotionally-charged Echo's Disintegration. Originally recorded as a live piece in St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Edinburgh in 2021 (which is available to hear on the album's B-side), the five tracks were recorded in Glasgow's Green Door Studio. Using reel-to-reel tape loops, the spirit of a church performance is beautifully captured in this new studio recording, to staggering effect. 

Due for release via new Glasgow label Somewhere Between Tapes, Echo's Disintegration is available digitally and via cassette from Friday 4 November. It brings us great pleasure, to be able to give you a first listen to the album in the below SoundCloud player (click here if it's not displaying correctly) as we shine the spotlight on Alliyah Enyo to find out more about her and her record.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your music practice? When did you start making music and whose work inspired you to do so?
I was a late starter to making sound but have always been creative in other ways and that has eventually led me here. I was a dancer most of my life and trained for a few intense years with Northern Ballet, so had a connection to music in a very different way. I started DJing when I quit ballet and moved to art school; this fusion of art and DJing led to making sound, but the work sits somewhere between the two and I’m still figuring out how to define what it is that I do.

I sang in choirs for years at school and at a cathedral once for a teacher’s wedding – its a fragmentation of things but more than anything I think it came from a deep connection to using my voice and the practice of singing. I felt, and still do feel, a deep need to sing in order to get something out.

I listened to a lot of music as a kid and made-up routines to songs. My Dad was in a folk band and I remember the singer of the band Ulia (who has sadly now passed away) had the most incredible voice that echoed through the house. 

I mostly listened to R'n'B-style pop and classical but nothing that experimental, so I think when I finally heard electronic music and sounds from beyond the west it was such an overwhelming experience – I have been chasing that high ever since. 

The record just sounds so beautiful, how did you go about capturing the ethereal grandeur and atmosphere of a church recording in the studio?
Lots of reverb, haha! I am very interested in reverb, analogue pedals, digital processing and making impulse recordings in echoic spaces. I love natural reverb and the feeling of this in my body when I sing; this alone could keep me interested forever. All the tracks were initially produced in my room using just a TC Electronic Loop Pedal (my first bit of gear that kept me going for a long time – though my setup is still pretty minimal). I only used a Shure 57 [microphone] so found I had to layer my vocals to create a rich sound and respond to the gear I had.

I later learned how to use impulse recording and layered reverb from St Mary’s, but the finishing touch was with Green Door Studio in Glasgow. Ronan Fay mixed the album and it gave a depth and balance I couldn’t quite achieve alone. He also did creative things like overdriving vocals to sound like a guitar in HYMN *4 empty club* – he’s a guitarist so had a unique ear for this. I want to stress how much the work in its later stages was a collaborative effort. 

Through the Sonic Youths course at Green Door, I learned so much about analogue recording and felt connected to the studio, trusting them to listen and respond – I couldn’t be happier with the results. The Disintegration Loops track was made in one take in front of the Sonic Youths group as an experiment; I loved it so much that it became a part of the album. You can hear Ronan and Sam playing with the effects while I sing – I felt totally absorbed. This is also how I met the label – Lizzie Urquhart was part of our six-person group. 

The way you manage to capture so much emotion through your vocals really blew me away – tell us about what inspired the making of the record?
It’s always difficult to talk about what inspires a record – for me, it’s never a very linear process. There are a lot of emotional layers and I'm going to try my best to keep certain things personal. It’s also my first release and kind of my first attempt at making music. There were certain events that were happening in my life at the time that were quite disorientating and I think making the music was the thing that grounded me – I didn't know it was going to be a record, it was just part of my practice as an artist. Finding my way into sound has been my baseline connection to spirituality, it’s the deepest experience I have found in life, making music and especially using my voice.

The work is rooted in female-centric issues and my general queer perspective of the world, which I have found has given me deeper forms of connection with others. The premise and the framing of the record is surrounding the character of Echo. I was reading a lot of Greek mythology and folklore at the time and was very interested in the reinterpretations of this history and the auditory power of the female characters. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Echo’s voice continues infinitely so she has this kind of undying power of sound; even if her form becomes disembodied, even if she's not seen, and even if she’s sexualised, her sound is a really powerful thing. This helped me to reframe things that were going on in my life at the time.

I also believe in world-building and mythologising, embedding my emotional landscapes into these stories and relating to these characters to throw myself into a different world. Sci-fi stories and fantasy have always been at the core of my creative energy, it makes sense that there’s an emotional entanglement within this. There was also an element of spontaneity to the recordings – the vocals were often recorded quite fluidly; for example, Choral Fragmentation was recorded and made in about half an hour. I was totally in the flow and, for me, this is maybe the purest moment of emotion on the release.

I particularly love the way the record offers full closure in final track The Healer – can you tell us a bit more about this track and why it was so important for you to to switch it up, adding a beat to an otherwise quite organic sounding record?
Yes, the final track is a very special one for me because the vocal loop was one of the first things I had ever made. It also became the final track for a collaborative project, Selkie Reflections, at Hidden Door festival earlier this year. 

I've got a loop pedal that was my first bit of equipment and had recorded the loop but didn’t know what to do with it. naafi, my flatmate at the time, was working on the track when I was out. She resurrected it, that's what it feels like, she was so empathic with the way she responded with her own production, it feels like some kind of battle cry and it allows the album to culminate with this energy of hope. I believe you can surround yourself with loops of trauma and this track, even though it's a loop, ends up breaking apart and allows this new space to open up.

Beyond the album, what's next for you?
I have a few exciting projects coming up, one being a mini set of gigs in London for a few days with Lost Map Records, who I did a residency with earlier in the year, touring with Pictish Trail, who runs the label and another couple of artists. I will be DJing and playing live – I’m nervous but also really excited for this leap. I also have some other releases in the works that will hopefully be coming out over the next year or so.

Right now I’m totally focused on an exhibition due at the end of January with my residency at the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. It will combine sculpture, sound and performance, exploring ideas around underwater archaeological dig sites and mythology, can’t wait!

Echo's Disintegration is released on 4 Nov via Somewhere Between Tapes; Alliyah Enyo plays Lost Map's Christmas Humbug! at Summerhall, Edinburgh, 17 Dec