The music of K Á R Y Y N first appeared on my radar two years ago when she’d just released a new track, ‘Yajna’, in what she was already calling her Quanta series.
That track, a fragile, sparse piece that tapped into a pulsing, shifting minimal techno-inflected sound world, showcased two things for me – a mastery of the diffuse potential of using electronics in a way that nodded to the framework and stricture of contemporary pop while deploying a edge that could keep po-faced art fanatics happy; but, perhaps more importantly, ‘Yajna’ showcased a compelling, mesmerising voice that you couldn’t help but be moved by. I wrote a glowing Introducing… piece for Electronic Sound and looked forward to hearing more music in the Quanta series. That she decided to sign to Mute and compile the whole series into one album for them was frankly just a bonus for me.
K Á R Y Y N was born in Alabama, spent her childhood summers with relatives in Syria and wound up living in Los Angeles. Not for nothing was one instalment of the Quanta series called ‘Aleppo’, written in the wake of the death of two relatives in a city that has become synonymous with the humanitarian and cultural devastation of the Syrian civil war. The track blended glitches, stop-start rhythms and carefully-crafted detail alongside K Á R Y Y N’s heavily processed voice, resulting in a deceptive four minute slice of artisan sound design.
The Quanta series draws tracks together recorded after K Á R Y Y N had left LA and didn’t settle anywhere for long, beginning with 2011’s ‘Today I Read Your Life Story 11:11’. The fact that the pieces were written over a seven year period means that listening to the entire series as a single album is like watching the gestation of K Á R Y Y N’s creative sensibilities in slow motion. A pivotal point came in 2016 with the music she composed for Samantha Shay’s Of Light, her score attracting the patronage of Marina Abramovic and Björk.
Taken as a whole, this can, at times, be a troubling , difficult listen. The first pieces she wrote, placed at the end of the album, are heartwrenchingly raw, with no attempt to mask or shield you from the reclusive, mournful state in which K Á R Y Y N wrote them. In contrast, there are moments of towering beauty, moments of sensitivity, moments of contemplation and, in the frantic rhythms and lush synth pads of ‘Ever’, a yearning, romantic, delicate spirit. On the strength of that track, K Á R Y Y N could easily pivot into the sort of pure, intelligent pop proffered by the likes of Lucy Mason, but I get the sense that this restless soul would never concede to being so easily pigeonholed, and may she be justifiably celebrated for that.
The Quanta Series by K Á R Y Y N is released by Mute on March 29 2019.
(c) Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence