Review Summary: channeling
Death is universal. All of us will either see most of those we love die around us or experience it ourselves earlier than we expect, or both. Generations of humanity have fought to understand, defeat, and accept it. Within the confines of nature, death is difficult to deal with but most can get through. Murder is different. The intensely traumatic effects of unexpected death can continue on for decades, even centuries, especially when there is no closure. Perhaps the greatest historical example of unresolved death is the truly horrific Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million, including Kárryn's great grandfather, whose pregnant wife learned of his death when she found his head outside their door. Still officially unacknowledged by most countries for fear of upsetting the country which committed the atrocities (including the United States, where Kárryn was born and raised), this extreme massacre haunts the lives of its descendants.
This revisiting defines The Quanta Series
. "I'm craving her unlived life," she whispers, channeling any number of genocide victims. Darkness bleeds through every line, every song. That doesn't mean it's totally depressing, just universally at least partially sad, because when mourning is a forced tradition it cannot be ignored. Attempts at relieving this sort of profound emotion often fail, especially when translated into a form of expression to be publicly consumed. They typically at least do not create something that others will appreciate, because so much of personal trials are just that - personal. Káryyn succeeds on balancing both - this is not an album that only those who care deeply about Armenian identity can find meaningful, but it is also an album that certainly means more if you understand what runs through it.
For example, "BINARY." It's a track about opposites that necessitate each other - love and death. "Tongue is the word I have with you" pairs with "stimulate the clock and its hand," while repeated 0s and 1s translating to "<3 u" and "<3me" fit with "the heart's a seed to be buried." She even acknowledges her origins and seeming contradictions: "I, a field of opposites, from where I am and where I've been." These are fantastic, sincere lyrics that reward many listens for anyone who wants to get more out of it. Beyond words, this just sounds beautiful. Her resonant voice glimmers off of reflective, physical electronica. Growling noises that may very well be sampled from actual animal growls sound alongside waves of sand shifting back and forth, fast-paced drumlines with slow midi builds, stuttering synthesizers and keyboard strokes, all on "YAJNA" alone. It's impossible to overstate just how interesting this sound design is, and it's more than just a distraction to keep listeners hooked. This production is extremely important to the emotional arc of the journey, even sometimes directly reflecting the stories and pain being expressed, with frequent samples of groans and cries.
Structurally, it follows a clear path, but not a simple one. More than just ups and downs in mood or alternating happy and sad songs, it's a journey of hope and sorrow, twisted together. Everything here is psychologically complex, the rare depth that gives you a reason to continue on no matter how you feel. The last two songs are not exactly an exception to this, but they tonally shift and find a more solid footing, letting go of the hurt of the present to accept the past and determine for a better future. It feels almost unnatural to have a resolution when the horror is still there, but daybreak only comes once night is accepted. As she says when asked how she found herself in her music: "You have to shed light onto the darkness. You have to make the darkness conscious."