N Pa (the music moniker of songwriter, composer and producer Nicholas Pavoni) is a creative and talented electronic artist based in New Jersey. He began writing and recording music as N Pa Productions when he was only 17 years old, and in 2007 he self-released his first albums Reality | a dream and Reality | a dream: The B-Side (neither of which are now available). Over the next couple of years, he collaborated with numerous vocalists and producers from different genres of music for the recording of his debut album Sight & Sound, as well as producing tracks for several artists. He was later signed to a couple of different London-based independent labels from 2010 to 2014, but in the years since has worked as a solo independent artist.
In September 2013, he independently released his second studio album The Ghost Within: The Tale of Turmoil, as well as a separate EP Unorthodox. Another collaborative effort involving at least 20 other songwriters, musicians, vocalists and producers, The Ghost Within: The Tale of Turmoil is an ambitious concept work built around the main character and protagonist Turmoil, who N Pa states represents “the fight and uncertainty that is in all of us when we’re trying to move on when something tragic happens such as the loss of a loved one.” The story explores the realms of the reality and lucid dreams/nightmares that Turmoil experiences. The antagonists are The Ghost Within (and his minions), and Turmoil’s lost love Melinda (whose name is never mentioned in any of the album tracks).
A summary written by Josh Wright further explains the album’s concept: “Devastated by the love of his life leaving him, Turmoil finds himself drowning in a cesspool of depression and wanting out of his emotional roller coaster ride. The ghost within haunts his thoughts as he feels his grip on sanity slipping away. The listener gets taken on his journey through madness and back again. Join Turmoil in his process musically and evolve as he does, and as the music progresses, so will he.“
N Pa conceived of the overall concept theme, then composed the instrumentals for each track, knowing in advance what part of the story he wanted to tell. He then gave his musical compositions, along with their desired themes, to various songwriters so that they could write the lyrics for each particular track. His goal was to ensure that no two songs would sound the same, and that together, they would tell a fluid story. The songs draw from a wide spectrum of electronic music elements, including EDM, trance, orchestral, dubstep, breakbeat and glitch. The album was a passion project for him, however, he was never able to fully promote it. After reading some of my reviews of other artists, he reached out to me about reviewing the album, even though it was released eight years ago.
The album opens with “Prologue (The Beginning)“, a darkly beautiful and mysterious track introducing us to Turmoil, and setting a perfect tone for the story about to unfold. N Pa wrote the lyrics, which are narrated by Michael Leonard: “Her betrayal turned love to poison. His heart, now tainted with the thought of madness. It burns, like a brush fire in the field of lust. His sanity escapes with every breath. His mind, the only safe haven for him to hide. This, is the tale of turmoil.” The song quickly segues into “Turmoil“, an ominous track which sees Turmoil slowly losing his sanity: “Turmoil, she creeps into your veins. Another world overtaking all the sane.” The lyrics for this track were written and sung by Xenoc, aka Aaron Zafran, a DJ, musician and electronic music producer. I really like the orchestral touches N Pa uses on this track, especially the dramatic strings that give the track a bold cinematic feel.
Continuing with the theme of Turmoil’s mental anguish, “Memories” delves more deeply into his PTSD resulting from his obsession over the loss of Melinda; “I’ll never be the same, cause now I’m lost in you. My memories still haunting me. Running after you. You saw the best in me when I couldn’t see. But now you’re gone, I’m all alone.” Musically, the song is a seven-minute-long EDM track with haunting dubstep undertones. The lyrics were written by Dvir André Tzanua and Meital Patash-Cohen, members of Israeli electro-dance pop act Knob, with Patash-Cohen singing vocals.
“Blistered” sees Turmoil coming to terms with reality, and realizing he must metaphorically walk through fire to get to a better place of rebirth and healing: “It’s all around you, Engulfing, it’s everywhere. It feels like choking, but still you can find me there. I know an answer to clear up this smoky air. Just walk right through it. The fastest way to get you there.” The song delivers more pulsating EDM goodness, with lyrics written by Christopher Volz, lead singer of nu-metal band Flaw, and sung by Volz and Anthony Grisko.
One of my favorite tracks is “Sea of Darkness“, a darkly beautiful and musically complex feast for the senses. I love the mix of psychedelic and spacy industrial synths and hypnotic thumping EDM beat, punctuated here and there by bass drops, trap breakdowns, enchanting keyboards and loads of gnarly distortion. The lyrics, which speak of sinking further into despair – “This sea of darkness Is taking me down, down, down. The depths of the sea are my only escape. Darkness my only light” – were written by N Pa and sung by Richard Bush of the Philadelphia rock band Peace Creeps, whose vocals remind me in spots of Calvin Harris. Additional vocals were sung by Bobby Jasso, and electric guitar was played by multi-instrumentalist and music producer Taylor Barefoot.
Escaping from darkness and moving into the light is addressed on the brief “Interlude (The Battle)“, a haunting orchestral track with gorgeous electric violin played by David Wong. The lyrics were written by N Pa and narrated by Michael Leonard: “The once was is now no more. His fate sealed in this entrapment. He must now seek out the light. Encased in the darkness, the battle for the mind has commenced, and each side is eager to win. But Who will turn out the victor?” The next track “On the Inside” opens with a sample from The Mars Volta song “Ilyena”, featuring heavily distorted and otherworldly vocals, then settles into an exuberant EDM groove with thumping dance beats and spacy synths. The extensive lyrics were written and sung by Frank Pino, Jr. of Massachusetts rock band Waltham, who has a beautiful, emphatic vocal style. The song seems to be a tug of war between Turmoil and The Ghost Within, who gives him an ultimatum to either save himself or be forever lost: “Follow me no compromise, or you’ll be left alone. Come with me to save your mind, or fall forever.” It’s a great track.
Next up is “Release Me“, a beautiful seven-minute long EDM track in which Turmoil pleads with both The Ghost Within and Melinda to free him from his emotional hell: “Release me from all I’m feeling. Release me, and start the healing.” The lyrics were written and sung by Pete Murray of L.A. rock band Lo-Pro (who to my ears sounds a bit like Jared Leto) and Luke Jackson, with guitars and cello played by Jeremy Berghorst. The synths and beats on this track are fantastic, and I really love the guys’ passionate vocals.
Finishing the saga is the dramatic and hopeful “Not Today“, with lyrics written by Michael Leonard and Joshua Spradlin, and sung by FloatstoneHeart, Esper Fiction, and Kate Wild. The lyrics for this track are quite extensive too, and speak to Turmoil’s wanting his life to be better, but still feeling intense self-doubt and uncertainty as to whether he’ll be successful: “All I can show is I am buried under all this debt, but I have not given up just yet. Still all I know is, if you give me just one more shot I will surely fuck it up.” Nevertheless he feels resolved to make it, ending things on an optimistic note: “Oh, time, can’t lay me down to bed cause I’ve got too long left to run. I won’t be floating there with the fishes til I’m done.” Musically, the song reminds me in places of songs by Everything But the Girl and Thirty Seconds to Mars, obviously a very good thing!
Making a concept album can be a tricky undertaking, but with The Ghost Within: The Tale of Turmoil, N Pa has succeeded quite nicely. This expertly-crafted album is a fascinating and engrossing listen, sounding as fresh and current today as it was in 2013. N Pa released a remixed version of the album in 2015 entitled The Ghost Within: Remixed (Part 1), then went on a brief hiatus. In December 2020 he released a single “Nothing In Your Eyes” (feat. Marcie Joy, GloomIsOkay, & Android Invasion), and is working on his next EP Euphoric Absence set to to released in later this year. I look forward to hearing it!