Even after taking Carnatic vocal lessons for a decade during childhood, Lakshmi Ramgopal didn’t really start to think of herself as a singer until she found herself on an isolated island off the coast of Greece. She was visiting Delos to do research for her dissertation when, with no Internet or phone service, she started singing into her laptop microphone to pass the time. “Being on this little island surrounded by the sea caused me to approach songwriting in this way that I’ve never approached it,” she says. “I’d have a lyric and a small piece of melody, and I started singing and slowly adding more droning tones. The effect had this distant beauty to it that I had never heard coming out of my own voice. I realized, okay, this is something that is potentially really exciting. It was this sense of relief that I could actually create something on my own that I might like.”
Ramgopal writes and records songs with Adele Nicholas in the darkwave project Love & Radiation, but for Migration, her debut EP as Lykanthea, she drew upon the classical South Indian music she was exposed to growing up. “Carnatic vocal styles include a lot of vocal ornamentation, which is pretty absent from Western styles of music. There’s a difference in scale and in tone and also just in how vocalists use their vocal cords,” she says. “When I started this project, I decided I really wanted to use my voice in the way that seemed best suited to my training, to write music that came to me most naturally.”
The songs on Migration, which loosely narrate the mythology of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, bounce between gorgeous, long drones and nervous electronic skitters: “Hand and Eye” wrings out a minor-key hook over quick synth arpeggios, while “Aphonia” floats atop a two-chord echo for its seven-and-a-half-minute length.
Lykanthea will play a release show for the EP at Transistor on Friday, August 1. Listen to the Reader‘s exclusive advance stream of Migration below.