Káryyn explores possibilities that exist beyond the recognizable limits of the physical world.
It makes perfect sense that K Á R Y Y N’s debut album is called The Quanta Series. First of all, the album mainly consists of previously released tracks that she put out in small batches under the Quanta name in 2017 and 2018: Quanta 1, Quanta 11, Quanta 1:11 and Quanta 11:11. The new LP represents a number of already-existing works that have been grouped together, with only three new tracks added to the mix. Second, the two terms – “quanta” and “series” – reflect key concerns of K Á R Y Y N’s music: radiating energy and the urgent need for connection.
These concerns emerge from K Á R Y Y N’s heterogeneous past. Born in Alabama to Armenian parents, she moved with her family to Indiana then Los Angeles. In addition to all of this movement within the US, K Á R Y Y N and her family often visited relatives in Syria. But these visits became impossible in the midst of the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, and two of her closest Syrian relatives died that same year.
Both the tragedy of loss and her displacement from home to home drive K Á R Y Y N to explore possibilities that exist beyond the recognizable limits of the physical world. The Quanta Series finds her exuding a species of boundless energy that both transcends and exists within terrestrial time and space. This is a sexual energy on “Binary,” where K Á R Y Y N commands, “Love me between the numbers.” Her lover could just as easily be machine as human, but she longs for its inner components either way. “Tongue is the word I want to have with you,” she sings, perhaps as a gesture to both “tongue” as language and “tongue” as organ.
The energy of The Quanta Series is also spiritual or religious: this is music for a ritual buried deep in the past and awaiting somewhere in a feverish future. “Forever,” she repeats to infinity on glitchy album-opening “Ever.” The track must conclude eventually, but its layers upon layers of voice imply that ending is only illusion. The final portion of “Yajna,” the album’s next track, is similarly interested in eternity: its final reverberating note is like an hourglass that turns itself back over when the final grain of sand is just about to fall. “Ambets Gorav,” K Á R Y Y N’s haunting rendition of a traditional Armenian song, also seems to manipulate time. While the track moves forward pleadingly, K Á R Y Y N’s voice circles back on itself to beckon those lost lives still buried within her.
The Quanta Series consists of the kinds of layered electronic textures familiar from the music of Björk, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Jenny Hval, but the album also ties directly to contemporary classical and ambient music. Nico Muhly’s Mothertongue seems especially important to the repeating “one-zero” glossolalia that appears in the middle of aforementioned “Binary.” Pauline Oliveros, who once served as a tutor to K Á R Y Y N, hovers over the LP’s cybernetic back half of baroque choral arrangements (“Un-C2-See,” “Mirror Me”), spoken musings (“Cytokenesis”) and electro-orchestral spirals (“Segment & the Line”).
But a list of sonic forebears should do nothing to reduce the unnameable, hypnotic power of The Quanta Series. The songs here ache with a kind of sadness that can retrieve lost patterns of love and places that have been destroyed. “I have the stories you wrote one time,” calls a voice from the album’s penultimate track (“Today, I Read Your Life Story 11:11”). These almost-forgotten stories, which only reveal themselves to listeners in stinging fragments, are the visceral life force of K Á R Y Y N’s electric sound.