For a recent AV show, Kayla Painter guided an IMAX cinema audience through digital snowy mountains, before gracefully gliding over the ruins of awe-inspiring structures built by ancient empires. With visuals created by collaborator Jason Baker, Painter’s set – which saw her share a line-up with Fatima Al Qadiri and Pan Daijing – simulated the tranquil but quietly unnerving experience of exploring lifeless worlds. “I tend to paint bleak landscapes with my sound palette because it’s something that I find eerily comforting and beautiful at times,” Painter explains.
While Painter’s work can conjure post-apocalyptic imagery, her sound palette includes warmer tones that are decorated with acoustic guitars and intriguing field recordings. There’s her manipulated cooing – which brings to mind the vocal elements of Holly Herndon’s music – or the unconventional sampling on tracks made entirely out of sounds from underwater, which Painter recorded in the bath. Fragmented beats sometimes skitter around in her tracks too, suggesting club-orientated music has played a subtle part in the development of her sound. “I did grow up in Southampton, so I have a strong gravitational pull to anything between 130-140 bpm and garagey.”
Having started out with a passion for more conventional musicianship, Painter is eager to credit her higher education for her artistic development. At Newport University she read theorists such as Baudrillard, Derrida and Adorno, which helped open her mind as she experimented musically. “I went in as a bass player, playing in pretty standard band set-ups. I came out doing a 10 minute experimental audiovisual performance at my grad show,” she remembers of her Creative Sound and Music degree. After studying a Masters degree in Bath, Painter settled in Bristol.
“I feel in two minds about Bristol,” she admits when asked about being based in the city. “It’s gone through several phases of having a really rich underground DIY culture in the years I’ve lived here, which as an experimental musician, I have really enjoyed. There were the days of [cassette label] Zam Zam records, who’d put on shows in warehouses, dank little basements, that sort of thing. [Those days] were wonderful, enriching and freeing of all structures.” However, Painter suggests the demand for adventurous sounds isn’t always as strong as the city’s reputation might have people believe. “I still find some people, even in Bristol, can be really narrow-minded about experimental music.”
Fortunately, Painter is attracting some of the support she deserves for 2018, which will see her release new visuals alongside a string of singles and an EP. Having been selected for Gilles Peterson’s ‘Future Bubblers’ project, Painter is now receiving mentorship from Brownswood’s Mita De, a music industry vet who also manages Kindness. With a desire to absorb the knowledge she needs to navigate herself, just like those far-flung spaces captured in her visuals, Kayla Painter is making her own path towards unchartered musical territories.
Sounds like: Cinematic ambient soundscapes
Soundtrack for: Clearing your head on a solitary Sunday walk
Our favourite tune: efa
Fun fact: Painter recently scored an advert for Disney