Among the huge amount of sound that our ears – voluntarily or not – intercept every second, the human voice is probably the one we all listen and pay attention to the most. This is even more true when you are listening to a song. But what happens when you can no longer distinguish what the human voice actually is?
A kind of answer comes from Fountain, the brilliant debut LP from the American, Berlin-based producer Lyra Pramuk, out this month via Icelandic label Bedroom Community. In fact, over the seven tracks of the album every sound you hear comes from a single source: her own voice. However, unlike what one might expect, her compositions almost reach the timbric richness of an orchestra through a deep process of electronic manipulation of the vocal samples. The way she transforms her voice into a cello-like melody in “Cradle” or into a percussive beat in “Gossip” are just two outstanding examples among many others.
The result is a curious hybrid sound, a post-human, non-binary and mostly wordless language made by complex textures, alternations of baritone and falsetto voices, echo effects and timbres joints. Curiously, this surprising multiplicity comes from one single voice. Through an introspective immersion she shapes infinite possibilities in the physical form of sound frequencies. In a similar way, the title itself (a translation from Czech of the artist’s surname) recalls “the ritual force of drowning, immersion, cleansing and bathing” – a main theme also for the artwork by the visual artist Donna Huanca.
Classically-trained, especially in opera, Pramuk takes her background towards a deliberately experimental path, without denying enjoyable melodies (like in the lead single “Tendril”) and more pop structures. Not by chance, she collaborated with Holly Herndon and Colin Self, and with these artists she shares an uncommon sensibility in shaping conceptual, abstract ideas into an aesthetically pleasing form. Exploring the relation between humanity and technology, Pramuk questions our condition and our understanding of the world, giving us a work of touching elegance.