No synths, no drums—no problem. This Berlin composer uses only her voice to conjure epic, harmony-rich songs.
Contemporary technology's potential to disrupt binaries—real and artificial, male and female, past and present—is being explored by a number of classically trained musicians. Holly Herndon combined an AI entity called Spawn with choral singing to produce orchestral productions that blurred the distinction between synthesised and organic sound. Also rooted in the Berlin avant-garde scene, Colin Self uses his voice as an interface to explore queer relationships. Informed by collaborations with both Herndon and Self, Lyra Pramuk's debut album, Fountain, is composed entirely of samples of her own wordless singing, allowing her to take on multiple, fractured identities. Deep baritone notes glide into soaring soprano, to otherworldly, alien incarnations, refusing to crystallise into a single entity.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Pramuk spent her childhood in the church choir where her grandmother was a pianist. Deciding to pursue music professionally, she joined a conservatory and mastered singing in different ways and multiple languages. On the opening bars of "Witness," the religious influences are immediately evident: a reverberation that oscillates as if through a cavernous temple. Pramuk's ancient chant is accompanied by a humming, techno-infused ambience. It's in this border between a club setting and the divine that Fountain comes alive. Using her voice as a modular system, Pramuk suggests a ritual that's both folkloric and futuristic.
Onstage, Pramuk is a posthuman priestess. At last year's Unsound Festival in Krakow, she premiered songs from Fountain via a multi-channel system designed by the experimental producer Ben Frost. Dressed in a full-length scarlet dress, she moved between the mixer and microphone, performing graceful, hypnotic dance movements. Impossible to characterise as ambient, Fountain nonetheless provokes the trance-like state the genre can induce. At its centre stands the many Lyras: artist, storyteller, poet and cyborg.