Notes from the Underground: Karin My’s Silence Amygdala

by coldwarnightlife

Karin My was discovered by the promoters of Gothenburg’s legendary Electronic <Seasons> events, busking in the underpass leading from the city’s main shopping centre to the Central Station.

What first caught their ears were My’s clever renditions of songs by Depeche Mode, Apoptygma Berzerk, VNV Nation and other alternative artists. The autodidactic musician was clearly not your usual street performer, and they invited her to take part in some of their projects.

From there, My became an in-demand session musician and collaborator for artists like Twice a Man and Carbon Based Lifeforms. She appeared on our album, Heresy: A Tribute to Rational Youth, not once but twice. Her serene vocals and arranging skills made My the go-to accomplice for acts seeking to broaden their sound on stage or in the studio. We weren’t wrong when we called her “Sweden’s secret weapon.”

My signed with the label Ad Inexplorata, which is also the home of Twice a Man. A drip feed of outstanding singles showed her progress as a solo artist, and they have now been collected with new material for My’s debut album, Silence Amgydala.

The amygdala, as any neuropsychiatrist knows, is an important part of the brain for memory functions. It is where anxiety breeds; and, when it is not functioning properly, it sends out signals like an alarm that cannot be turned off. Until it is silenced, the amygdala keeps the subject in a constant state of alertness, which is physically and mentally draining.

On the evidence to date, My need not worry about how the songs on the album will be received. Tracks like “Winter Tree” and “The Silence” have already created waves on their initial release. The quality of the new songs is just as high, and they create an emotional resonance with their elegance and authenticity.

The honesty of My’s songwriting is the thread that runs through the entire album. There are no chart-targeting power ballads or 4/4 bangers to distract from the fragile folk influences of “Letter.” The closest comparison to the delicate complexity of this song is Madonna’s “Frozen,” with label boss D. Kaufelt standing in for William Orbit.

The title track finds My’s strings wrapped around a pulsing synth line, while her vocals float above them like pollen on the spring breeze. Soothing the spirit requires more than a surgeon’s precision; it also takes care for the heart.

“Coming Up for Air” expands on the empathy impressed into these tracks. There is a swell of humanity in the material, which finds its way into the sound design and melodic structure, but there is no disguising that the feeling of the song comes from a place of compassion.

My no longer plays Mesh covers outside of Nordstan, but with her first solo album she is still a special and unusual discovery. Like the Arctic rose, Silence Amygdala is a hardy beauty with roots in difficult ground.

We took a break from listening to ask My a few questions about the album.

You are a self-taught musician, who also creates her own instruments. Do you have a favourite?

This is probably the most difficult question anyone can ask me. I’m afraid I cannot choose!

 I’ve always loved the sound of strings, in general, and I’ve been in a special and sometimes complicated relationship with my cello for a long time. When we have a good day together, I disappear to another place and time when playing.

 I’ve also recently became the owner of a big organ from the mid- or late-1800s (the 19th century), and I’m really in love with it. Both the sound and the feeling of having it under my hands are stunning.

 Also, the Korg PS-3200 synthesiser seduces me, in every way, every time, and it has a special place in my heart. The latter is also a frequent guest on Silence Amygdala. When I compose outside of my studio, I use one of my small keyboards from the Yamaha Portasound PSS series. It’s still going strong, in all its simplicity.

What has been the hardest thing about letting other people experience these songs?

That I am giving a personal piece of myself for everyone out there who wishes to listen to it.

One night, just before the release, I dreamt that I stepped on a bus and everyone onboard just stared at me. I couldn’t understand why – until I discovered that I was completely naked. There was no empty seat for me, either, so I had to stand there when the bus drove on, trying to cover myself and, at the same time, keep my balance in front of everyone’s eyes, filled with shame and almost crying.

 Of course, I’m very happy about the fact that, finally, I will release something of my own (with some parts of it from external writers), but the dream was with no doubt speaking clearly about my fear about what I’m doing now.

What has been the writing process for this album?

 Lyrically, all of this was written over a long time. Some of the lyrics are from early memories, found in old diaries. I wrote them down as poems in Swedish and translated them later. Some are just written down in the actual moment of inspiration, and a couple are letters I wrote once upon a time.

 Musically, it was me who created the demo songs (on guitar, piano or a random synthesiser, depending on what’s within the reach for the moment).

 During this whole process, I’ve been sleeping with a notebook and a keyboard beside my bed, in case something comes up that needs to be captured immediately. There are musical passages on the album which I dreamt when I was asleep and wrote down as soon as I woke up.

 Then, with my demos as a foundation, D. Kaufeldt and I shaped the songs together. To me, he is a true magician. I know he does not like it when I call him that, but without him this whole Silence Amygdala project wouldn’t be what it is.

Will you perform the material live when circumstances allow it?

 Yes! Also add a massive delay effect on that answer. I’m so longing for it.


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