It is an undeniable fact that the electronic music scene in Lebanon is pretty huge, just scroll through your event invites on Facebook on any given night and you’ll get the picture. Yet, despite this, the subculture revolves mostly around DJing, and not the production of original electronic music.

Perhaps that is what makes ETYEN's newly released EP, Happy New Year, all the more enchanting, sending listeners on a gratifying journey through an ambient, ethereal, and melodic dream space. Together, the songs explore the juxtaposition between complex feelings, ranging from melancholy to boredom, gloomy dejection and elation. The rawness of spirit gives the EP an almost transcendental, sublimely uplifting quality.

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“I wanted the tracks to feel like they’re moving, and focused a lot on creating a depth to the music,” Samer Etienne Chami (ETYEN) tells, which he achieved through quality stereo imaging. For you non-audiophiles, that basically means he produced sounds that make the performer sound organic in space and location, and are therefore easy for the listener to identify with.

Interested in art and music since he was a child, Chami taught himself to play guitar at 13 while also taking piano lessons. In the years that followed, he formed a number of bands and dabbled in various genres, including rock, punk, and what he described as a mesh of indie-electronic-rock. What he discovered in this process was that he was better at “imagining the song as whole,” rather than submitting to the necessary division of musical components inherent to any band's dynamic.

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He began experimenting with different sounds on GarageBand, an audio production software tool, which provided the initial push into his current direction. “I’d make something, something that was so bad, just complete shit, but I’d be so excited about it and show it to everyone I knew. I was constantly just putting things out there, not really considering their standard,” he said.

Which is why now, if you visit ETYEN’s Soundcloud page, you’ll find only his two EPs and a remix he did of Wadih el-Safi’s “Loobnan Ot’it Sama,” the tracks he considers to be his best so far. Chami admits he'll work obsessively on a track until it reaches a point at which he feels satisfied with what he’s done, and then he’ll set it aside to rework it again at a later time.

The track, "Autumn," along with most of the EP, was written well over a year ago when Chami was living in London. He produced "Autumn," and a friend of his sent it to a record label without him knowing. They got back to him and wanted to hear more of his work in the same style. This pushed him to create Happy New Year, which he claims is the mellowest of his work. The experience left him with an EP that replicates a series of different states of consciousness: like waking up from a dream at sunrise, a warm glow pressing against your face, soft layers of serene vocals and relaxed beats tickling at your eardrums. As much as Chami may deride his early work as something akin to child's play, the music he has produced in Happy New Year draws clear parallels with many of his contemporaries like Air, Ulrich Schnauss, Jónsi & Alex (a collaboration of Sigur Ros' lead singer and his partner), Amiina, Röyksopp and Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band who he names as one of his biggest influences.

“When I listen to Sigur Ros, it’s more of an experience than anything else. It literally brings out every single human emotion you’re capable of feeling, be it just really happy or overwhelmingly sad. Discovering them was a benchmark in my life. They helped shape me as a person, as well as my music.”

As for what’s next for ETYEN, expect a full album in collaboration with Tala Mortada, set to be released this summer. And don't miss his gig at Radio Beirut on May 21. Follow him on Facebook for the latest updates, and do check out the full four-track EP on Soundcloud.

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