For Lænz, authentically experimental creation is inseparable from evolving process.
Her debut EP, iitno, is an amalgamation of what it means to focus on process as a cross-continental, multidisciplinary ritual to compile and create sound that reflects the journey that went into it. A child of Chinese immigrants, the Brooklyn-based creator, curator, and experimental vocalist distorts notions of human anatomy, language, sound, and more, rooted in her three-month journey ‘home’ to Shanghai in 2018.
Written and produced entirely by Lænz, the orchestral yet experimental EP is made stronger by its history, built over a year of careful compilation and iteration. Her project features field recordings and research of self, conducted during her travels, and demystifies the process of excavating those understandings after returning. Her tracks, and perhaps even their purposes, are articulated through the process of ever-evolving destruction and reconstruction. Lænz’s transient production highlights that movement and how frameworks of understanding are not location or time-bound.
Her thoughtfully cacophonous yet gentle sound has often been compared to FKA Twigs and Grimes. Furthermore, through sampling her own vocals to push the orchestral and full arrangements, Lænz draws inspiration from Holly Herndon’s computer-programmed and processed vocals. The meticulous mechanisms of layering and re-layering are evident throughout the project, through which Lænz builds what feels like dark, yearning energy comprised of beams and sounds of light.
“Sorry” is the first word heard when listening to this EP, setting the tone for the experience to come. Her four-track EP opens with an ominously chopped yet familiar sample of a voice operator message, layered over increasingly complex production. Her ever-shifting vocals demand the listener to enter a meditative state beginning in the first track, the end of which breaks the trance through her carefully placed question:
Am I closer to you, now that I know where you are?
Within the context of iitno, this revelation poses several questions about movement, self-identity, and compilation, and cannot be thought about independently of the context of her creation. Lænz’s yearning for proximity to this multifaceted ‘you’ and finding where ‘you’ are highlights that for her, this word holds many meanings, including the self, the other, the nation-state, the ancestor, the lover, the sound.
Throughout the project, Lænz continues to curate such dualities. Layering distorted vocals over consistent drum patterns, building sentences that become illegible as the listener moves through them, she carefully conducts playful experiments. By doing so, she asks herself and her listeners, “What is truly required in order to construct understanding?” The climax of this juxtaposition is reached in iii, where Lænz most clearly demonstrates the destructiveness that delivered this project. From the start, this track pulls the listener in through repetitive, eerie noise, and by the time the gates of chaos are opened, the madness is too intentionally beautiful to want to step away.
iitno ends with its namesake track, carrying with it a different energy than the first three. This final track embodies the darkness that has been building throughout Lænz’s project, and provides space for the listener to determine what to do with the multidimensional energy they experienced through this project. By including no discernable lyrics unlike all of its predecessors, it serves as the unwind and space to reflect on what the listener built throughout this project. The lack of language on this track feels intentional — the layout of iitno brilliantly resembles her process of creation, allowing the process of consumption to be equally open-ended. Just as Lænz constructed this project based off of an experience she had, she gently invites the listener to also name their understanding of it in post.
Each track on iitno serves as its own movement, independent from but contributing to a whole. Through exploring the project, it becomes evident that participating in Lænz’s sonic journey does not require one-dimensional linguistic comprehension. Rather, she invites the listener to create their own movement with the sound, as she did in compiling, producing, and manifesting this EP.
Artist: Lænz @laenzzz
Photographer: Anjelica Jardiel @anjelicajardiel
Writer: Sarah Zarina Hakani @sarah.zarina