When We Succumb To Fear, Chaos Reigns: NØMADS’ 'PHØBIAC,' Part 1
Nathan Lithgow and Garth Macaleavey, also known as New York’s city’s post-punk duo NØMADS, took 2016 off from recording and touring. Now they’ve emerged with new music and a provocative release strategy.
Similar to The Raveonettes, who also explored this kind of time-release schedule with their recent 2016 Atomized album, NØMADS decided to put out one new single a month, each devoted to a particular phobia. The full twelve tracks will be compiled for an early 2018 album titled PHØBIAC.
Let’s take a look at the three tracks that have been released so far.
January saw “Traumatophobia,” which is defined as “an abnormal, pathological fear of having an injury.” According to Wikipedia, this goes further than what this description might imply, and includes exposure to blood and/or injections, meaning that people who suffer from this condition might avoid blood tests, surgery, and other medical procedures that could save their lives.
NØMADS’ song is instrumental, but no less evocative for lacking lyrics. The band is a duo, but like Death From Above 1979 (to whom they’re often compared), they make a lot of noise. “Traumatophobia” is characterized by repetitive, nervous bass riffs and drum fills. The minimalist melody replays itself over and over, akin to that feeling one has when experiencing an anxiety attack. It’s a spiral of panic that continues without any kind of release. When the panic doesn’t subside, the victim can often feel like they can’t escape from it, which increases the panic.
The end of the track provides some relief from the increasing tension with a subtle chord progression, until, like an actual panic attack, the song ends suddenly.
In February, the band released “Achluphobia,” which is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives: the fear of darkness. For most people, however, this fear dissipates with childhood. What if, however, a traumatic event caused the fear of darkness to be debilitating? We’ve all seen a scary movie that made us hesitant to walk down a dark hallway, but imagine that fear being with you at all times and making a normal life almost impossible. That is achluphobia.
As if to highlight the universality of this particular phobia, NØMADS decided to include lyrics in this track.
I have found a darkness
The sky above me
Cloaked in the blackest night
Shine a light on fear
Of shroud and blackness
For all we might not know is there
And a terror in me mounted
Found in a mystery
In my darkest hour
Shine a light on fear
Of shadowed masses
I have fear inside me
See through in these shadows
I need to see the light
To fear the night
Darkness follows you
“I have found a darkness” is telling. It’s not so much that darkness as encroached upon the protagonist, but that the person has found the darkness itself. The line “for all we might not know is there” really gets to the heart of what makes darkness so terrifying. It’s fear of the unknown in a nearly literal sense. Perhaps no lyric, however, is more currently relevant than “shine a light on fear/of shadowed masses/in darkness.”
Another common fear is that of heights. If a person suffers from a clinical, phobic fear of heights, it’s known as “Acrophobia.” That brings us to NØMADS’ most recent release.
We’ve all been guilty of saying we don’t like standing on ladders because we have a fear of heights. Yet as Wikipedia notes, “Most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights, known as the fear of falling.” This is different from acrophobia, however, because it is an “extreme or irrational fear or phobia of heights, especially when one is not particularly high up.”
Standing on the clear glass floor at the top of the CN Tower made me extremely uncomfortable and I would never have the guts, even with a harness and a professional at my side, to stand on the outside of the top of the tower itself. But what if standing on a stepstool provoked a debilitating fear, one so great that you were literally paralyzed by it?
The song itself has a disconcerting feeling, sort of like vertigo. Like “Traumatophobia,” it uses minimalist melodies to get its point across, but the use of space feels similar to the disorientation of being trapped at the top of a roller coaster.
I’ll be back with the next three tracks from the album in June. In the meantime, here’s a complete list of the songs that will appear on PHØBIAC.