Lyra Pramuk’s Surreal Songs of the Self


Pramuk spent a few college summers in Berlin, where she grew close with local musicians and artists and became a club kid in the city’s techno-driven nightlife, finding euphoria on the dancefloor. “I would dance by myself for, like, four hours,” she says dreamily. “A lot of my fantasies about how my music would sound came out of having these ritualistic experiences with techno.”

She moved to Berlin after graduation in 2013 and slowly began releasing sparse vocal experiments on Bandcamp. At the same time, she pursued other endeavors, working as a model in friends’ art exhibitions, collaborating with fellow sound explorers like Holly Herndon and Colin Self, and traveling to artist residencies in Tokyo and Stockholm to hone her digital audio skills.

As she began to focus more seriously on her music, Pramuk also publicly came out as trans, a process she documented closely on Instagram. That experience is inextricably tied to her music, in which she explores the contours of her voice as a transfeminine person. “I’m realizing that I have the voice that I have,” she says. “Hormones aren’t gonna change my voice, which is a scientific fact, whereas for transmasculine people hormones do lower the voice. I was dealing with that, too. For me it was a really spiritual question of, OK, who am I? So I’m gonna figure it out.” She lets out a laugh. “I have to figure it out, because I have to feel 100-percent committed to what I’m doing, period.”

Building the meditative world of Fountain became a way to reckon with her identity head-on. She used vocal tracks she had recorded in a high-end studio in Stockholm as the album’s sampling bedrock, multiplying and stretching the recordings to their limits while mixing them in with lower-quality tracks, some of which dated back years. Album opener “Witness” began as an improvisation during a live performance that a fan caught on video, which Pramuk then re-recorded, re-sampled, and reassembled into a staggering hymn of the self. Another standout track, “Gossip,” splices a single vocal sample into a jittery bump that dangles a danceable rhythm just out of reach. The whole project served as a chronicle of liberation for Pramuk, translating ecstatic highs and moments of dark uncertainty through remarkable production techniques and an assured sense of humanity.

Sitting in her bedroom, Pramuk stares off into the distance as she recalls the few times she was able to perform songs from Fountain onstage, before the pandemic halted live music around the globe. “It’s like devotion to the unknown, to the universe, to the cosmos, to the shifting tectonic plates and all species of life,” she says of the shows, where she dresses in ornate gowns and attempts to enter a trance state while improvising looped vocals between songs. “When I’m performing, in the best case, there is energy working through me so that whatever rules or binaries or boundaries or shit that I ran into that day as…

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