The work of Carolyn Fok spans over four decades. Specialising in electronic experimental music, she composes and produces with synthesisers, piano, guitar and percussion. A constant inner voice has simultaneously seen her explorations chronicled in a collection of personal diaries.
Carolyn’s adventures in sound began with recording stories on a tape recorder at the age of nine in 1976. A short time later, exploring the scattering of musical instruments and effects units her father left lying around the family home in Walnut Creek, California (close to San Francisco), including a self-built drum machine, she became especially fascinated by his TEAC reel-to-reel recorder that set off a lifelong fascination with sound design.
By the age of 16, Carolyn had become inspired by pioneering industrial electronic artists like Cabaret Voltaire, as well as anarcho-punk acts such as Crass. Creating the stage name CYRNAI, she played in several San Francisco based acts including Treason, ASOM, Trial and Rhythm and Noise between 1983 and 1991. Winning a scholarship to the Academy of Art in San Francisco in 1984, she moved into a property close by that also provided a space to develop her own art (she is a skilled painter and illustrator) and music for the next two decades. In regard to her home studio set-up, she says “it was like that art canvas that I’d come back to as my tool of reflection,
my audio writing journal I could go to anytime. Between life transitions, between relationships, and because of them, the studio was the thing that I came to confide in the most. As with pen to paper, it knew everything and was always there. The studio was a conversation I could never have with the outside world.”
Carolyn’s first releases as CYRNAI, the 12″ EP ‘Charred Blossoms’(1985) and cassette only ‘Parts of The Insomnic Wheel’ (1986) were issued via Ladd/Frith, with ‘Hypno-Seizure’ and two versions of ‘To Subtle-Drive’ following in 1989/1990. The album ‘Transfiguration’ was released in 1996. With contributions from avant-garde guitarist Elliot Sharp, it also included an 80 page book of Carolyn’s paintings, illustrations and writings. The ambitious 2xCD ‘The Listener’ was issued in 2001, featuring electronic music pioneer Tim Story. Her most recent album is 2011’s ‘Magic Realism’, which includes collaborations with Grammy nominated guitarist Joaquin Lievano.
Despite having been featured in publications including Electronic Musician, Keyboard and with a long term association with Industrial music, Carolyn has remained an intensely private musician, artist and writer until now. However, she has recently embarked on an ambitious project that involves releasing her vast archive of music as a ‘memoir’ via her website Memoir Of Sound. Having spent extensive time in the studio amassing 100 albums worth of electronic and experimental music, field recordings, collaborations, band projects and more, these are now being released in one place. “Memoir of Sound is the mother of all projects,” she exudes. “It’s a lifelong project where new material is continually added, then becomes part of the chronology.”
Simultaneous to this, the specialist reissue label Dark Entries is also about to release a 6xLP box set containing all of Carolyn’s officially released music as CYRNAI between 1980-1990, as well as bonus materials. The set also includes extensive artwork plus a booklet of descriptions, photos, quotes, interviews and liner notes written by Greg Allen (author of the book Klaus Schulze, Electronic Music Legend).
“A perfect example of how to do weird, alien, abstract sounds well. It’s a paranoid world of echoing vocals that have you looking over your shoulder, with industrial synths, horror soundtrack influences and a punk-dub darkness akin to that of the masterful Adrian Sherwood. It reveals everything from a dark sense of humour to a catchy dystopian funk.” IBIZA VOICE – review of ‘Charred Blossoms’ from Dark Entries box set
Carolyn will also feature on a forthcoming 4xCD retrospective on US underground/electronic music spanning 1975-1984, a set that includes a diverse range of artists such as Suicide, Terry Riley, The Residents, NON, Patrick Cowley, Laurie Spiegel and Philip Glass. Released on Cherry Red, it will be the third compilation in their ‘Close To The Noise Floor presents…’ series.