The first thing that strikes you about HIMOYA’s music is how unusual and unexpectedly beautiful it can sound when jazz sensibility meets synthpop. HIMOYA’s self-titled debut album opens new avenues towards a previously unheard, symbiotic fusion of jazz and pop. There’s always something surprising happening in these songs, and yet they sound immediately inviting.
The second is how amazingly warm synth soundscapes can be. The word „HIMOYA“ means protection, and that describes this sound wonderfully, in which listeners can feel safe. The band sees itself as a community in a protected space from which four musicians go on a musical quest together. „All four are equal and not afraid to bring along an idea that doesn’t work,“ says singer Julia Ehninger.
The pieces of the quartet are determined by the crystal-clear voice of Ehninger, who has developed into one of the most versatile and vocally flexible jazz singers in this country in recent years. And about the synthesizers played by pianist Jonathan Hofmeister: “the pieces always start with sound research”. Starting with the sound design, everything else then develops: enraptured catchy melodies, rhythms and structures, and finally the lyrics, which tell stories of closeness, love and loss and are not afraid of the big questions in life. The sound spectrum that unfolds here is enormous, but despite all the versatility, a clear handwriting is always recognizable: from the soft pads in the song Have You Ever? to the filigree loops in Thin Air to the melancholic miniatures in Void.
Nicolai Amrehn and Jeroen Truyen on bass and drums do more than just lay the foundations for everything, they also create the connection between pop and jazz. It is only on the second or third listen that you realize how rhythmically imaginative it is what the rhythm section is doing here – a stumble here, a short improvisation there. HIMOYA’s pop design thrives on the numerous musical details that contain the hidden part of the beauty of this music.
It probably works so well because Nicolai Amrehn, Jeroen Truyen, Jonathan Hofmeister and Julia Ehninger have been playing together in different constellations for years. They can already be heard on Ehninger’s solo album Hidden Place (2019, BERTHOLD records), and the four have also played countless concerts as the Julia Ehninger Quartet. HIMOYA, one of the most interesting mixed forms of jazz and pop for a long time, has developed organically from these more classical jazz formats.
This band is one of the most experimental ventures when it comes to exploring the boundaries of jazz beyond improv music. The synth excursions on Craig Taborn’s Golden Valley Is Now album were certainly an inspiration, and of course HIMMOYA wouldn’t be possible without nearly half a century of synth pop. You can’t really think of many more references for this music, and that’s always a good sign. One for the fact that well-trodden paths are left here. HIMOYA play complex and at the same time extremely catchy pop music that calmly dissolves the boundaries to jazz. As if they weren’t there at all.