– Soup, Manchester –

Spoiler: this is, hands down, the most extraordinary vocal performance I’ve witnessed live.

Lyra Pramuk

Lyra Pramuk

Lyra Pramuk, the American producer and composer, constructs songs from just her vocals in the most remarkable way. Her debut album ‘Fountain’, released in 2020, sounds like little else released last year (or since, tbf), and when you find out it was made entirely of her own vocal samples, even the parts that sound like actual instruments, it makes the listening experience all the more astonishing. Think that’s a cello you can hear? Nope, it’s Pramuk’s voice. ‘That’s a cool synth sound’, you think. Nah, it’s Pramuks’s voice. Quite how she was going to translate this wonder into a live setting was part of the intrigue of heading to Soup tonight.

When I first heard ‘Fountain’, via a very favourable Boomkat write up, it immediately brought to mind hearing Anhoni (then Antony, from Antony & The Johnsons) for the first time, an otherworldly, wholly singular voice that has the power to transport you to another realm. It was like this voice had been spliced with the future electronics of Holly Hendron, and the result was this incredible album. I had no idea about the whole vocal-only thing until I started reading about her, and after this I told everyone I knew who might be remotely interested to get on it and be blown away. So standing in the basement of Soup, my expectations are sky-high, which brings a bit of trepidation with it – what if it just doesn’t translate to a live setting?

I needn’t have worried. After a slight microphone realignment delay, she is mesmerising from the very off. She builds each song part by part, layering vocals on vocals into her laptop, and then singing the main lines (which remain wordless, just another texture to make the song fly) with the most spectacular vocal dexterity over the top, from bass notes through to the highest highs. It’s honestly hard to describe just how impressive it is to witness someone perform in this way; I’ve never seen anything like it in my gig going life. She flows through songs from ‘Fountain’, punctuating the quite reverent atmosphere with funny asides between tracks (“If anyone asks you, I’m a shoegaze artist”), and there is a touching monologue where she speaks about people the thrill of returning to shared experiences, that “communing around live music has a seriously positive effect on society”. She’s not wrong. There is an incredible middle section where she remains mostly perched on a stool on stage to do ‘Mirror’ and ‘Cradle’, the darkest moments from ‘Fountain’, and amongst the most stunning and moving moments of the night.

It’s not at all po-faced though. She is a brilliant, energetic performer for most of the songs, dancing around the stage, inviting us to “come closer and not look so terrified”, panting heavily into the mic and clambering up speakers, looking like she’s having a whale of a time presenting these intricate wonders to us. The encore is the Midnight Peach rework of ‘Tendril’ from the just released remix album ‘Delta’, (a brilliant remix album of songs from Fountain by the likes of Hudson Mohawke, Caterina Barbieri, Ben Frost and many more cutting edge electronic producers and composers), and all of a sudden Soup is a delirious rave cave with flashing lights and dancing and big beats; it’s a joyous end to proceedings. If you come away with one thing from this piece, it should be to give ‘Fountain’ and ‘Delta’ a listen, to marvel at the craft Pramuk puts into her art, to let your mind boggle at the sheer limitlessness of the human voice. Pramuk has taken something most of us take for granted and moulded it into shapes I didn’t know could be constructed. A truly special night from a truly special talent.

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