When the original opera Of Light that L.A.-based KÁRYYN had created a score for made its premiere in Reykjavik, Iceland it’s likely that she didn’t expect for one of its audience members—Björk—to name her in a Guardian profile among the creatives she was most excited for.
The praise couldn’t have come at a better time for the artist: KÁRYYN had spent the last eight years wrestling with her identity as a creative, a struggle that culminated only a few months ago with the release of her debut album THE QUANTA SERIES. KÁRYYN drew from the score to create an outlier in her own discography, the otherworldly “MOVING MASSES,” the only recent work by the artist not on her debut.
And what a debut. A sonic wonderland of visceral emotion that traces itself back to the grief KÁRYYN faced after visiting two dying family members in Aleppo, Syria in 2011. Before the war, the artist spent long periods of time in the Forty Mountains of Idlib province at a hotel her family owned. Her close relation to the Armenian communities—and their stark differences—of Syria and the U.S. plays itself out across her music.
“My parents moved from the midwest because my father wanted to serve the Armenian community as he’s a doctor. It was really important to him that he brought his family to L.A. so that we could grow up around other Armenians,” KÁRYYN explained. “It was amazing to suddenly hear Armenian being spoken around town. I definitely didn’t relate to the other students at Armenian school. I was a total American who was a total Armenian all at once. I was a 10-year-old tree-climbing tomboy who grew up running in the fields of Indiana and in the desert of Syria. Looking back I think the kids at Armenian school wanted to be more American. Just like when I moved to L.A. I wanted to indulge in being Armenian because I didn’t have it other than in the house w/my family and in the summers.”
KÁRYYN escaped from Brooklyn to Cherry Valley for 18-months in upstate New York after her visit to Syria, looking for a way to reconcile a string of family deaths with her art—which had left her feeling isolated from those around her—and in that well of devastation she emerged with the hauntingly broken tones of “TODAY, I READ YOUR LIFE STORY 11:11.”
She then headed across the Atlantic to Berlin—where a meeting with Samantha Shay put her on track to score Of Light. It was there she also put to sound the aches and pains of her past and present in the elusive “PURGATORY.” Drawing on the childhood memory of being lost—and subsequently found—after slipping between two stones behind her family’s hotel, the song is a crescendo towards freeing oneself from the anxiety and fear that can plague your heart. The subsequent music video dives deeper into KÁRYYN’s personal life with a pair of home videos—an Indiana Christmas and a sacrificial slaughtering of a lamb in Idlib by her uncle—that drives home the juxtaposition of two different versions of the same culture and identity that live within her.
When KÁRYYN finally moved to L.A. in 2015, she recorded the first two singles of her album. The first, “ALEPPO,” pits the obviously painful recollections the singer has with remembering her family’s home—offered up in her stratospheric croon—against harsh electronica that bleeds into the lyricism—”WRITE, LOAD, SAVE. WRITE LOAD, RELEASE.”—as she attempts to let it go. While “BINARY” finds KÁRYYN amongst a sea of electronic swells—grasping at some sense of permanency in love—beyond numbers, beyond time. And it’s that sense of transcendence that KÁRYYN’s music exists in—even listening to the album track by track—unknown to the life she’s lived—there’s a very tangible weight to her music that asserts itself intimately into your heart and soul.
“My debut record on Mute is inspired by my upbringing, my past, but especially the memories of my life. I think about this question a lot on the record ‘Whats the difference between the happening truth and the remembering truth?’ Quantum Physics and Buddhism are the lens by which I see and understand the life I’ve experienced. I use these ideas in my work. My record is inspired by the architecture of my feelings. The Quanta Series is ultimately about becoming clear to myself, shedding light on the darkness.”
KÁRYYN will be making her North American live debut this month at The Regent Theater in Los Angeles on July 24 supporting The Acid. Her album THE QUANTA SERIES is out now. Visit her website, Facebook, and Instagram to stay updated on new releases and tour announcements.