AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson  [-]

1980-1990 is a colossal box set containing everything Cyrnai (Carolyn Fok) officially released during those years as well as previously unissued material. While Fok might be an obscure name to all but the most devoted fans of D.I.Y. cassette culture, she is a visionary artist who has been writing, illustrating, and making countless recordings since childhood. Thanks to her father, she grew up surrounded by instruments and recording gear, and she began buying more equipment and recording her music to cassette and reel-to-reel tapes. Without knowing the ins and outs of mixing and engineering, she came up with her own unorthodox recording techniques. Charred Blossoms, a 1985 12″ EP, was her first official release following several years’ worth of private cassettes, and it’s a dense, dreamy collage of flange-heavy drum machines, introverted poetry, and dubby post-punk/industrial rhythms. At times claustrophobic and heavy, there’s also something undeniably free and unencumbered about these strange tunes. It also sounds remarkably ahead of its time and easily could have come out on Not Not Fun circa 2010, alongside releases by Peaking Lights and LA Vampires. Included with the disc is a reprint of the 48-page zine that came with the original release, as well as a bonus 7″ containing instrumental covers of songs by the Cure and Gang of Four recorded by Fok during the early ’80s (when she was about 15). Parts of the Insomnic Wheel appeared in 1986 and was issued on cassette rather than an LP due to its length. Recorded after she had moved from her parents’ house to an office building in San Francisco adjacent to the art school she was attending, the music is darker, noisier, and more haunting, reflecting a more isolated time of her life. Hypno-Seizure contains Cyrnai‘s side of a 1988 split tape with composer/dulcimer player Dan Joseph, and while it maintains the sleepwalking sensation of past recordings, it features tighter rhythms and even some strangely proto-trance keyboard sounds at one point. To Subtle-Drive was originally released in 1988, but following a jump to digital technology, she released an updated version in 1990. The cover art describes its contents as “Old-soul beat tracks on cassette with time and techno-guillotine songs,” and it’s certainly much clearer and more beat-driven — even coming close to danceable — than Fok‘s prior work. Still, it maintains an otherworldly sound reflecting her travels across the globe as well as her interest in exploring the rapidly advancing technology of the era. The entire box set is a fascinating chronology of a truly unique artist, and what’s even more astounding is that it’s only the tip of the iceberg — she’s been archiving all of her recordings on her Memoir of Sound website. In addition to this box set (which is limited to 333 copies), Dark Entries has also issued all of the albums individually, so if it’s too much of a commitment to track down the entire thing, start with the brilliant Charred Blossoms and progress from there.


“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       NY composer cyrnai (with guitarist Elliott Sharp) uses Opcode’s Studio Vision to trigger techno rhythms… 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Cyrnai’s latest, Transfiguration (Titanium), fuses diverse electronic styles, and is supplemented by 80 pages of surreal prose and painting. For music that seems uncategorizable, she devises her own designation: a “musaic,” a non-linear artform “where all senses dominate. The boundaries essentially overlap, and they all have layers and mood, and they also compliment each other.” The release deserves to be called an original for that reason alone. Yet the music intrigues, meshing elements of techno, ambient, and even gothic. The San Francisco-based artist has been working under this pseudonym for over a decade. “I first invented it as a way to understand the darker side of my thoughts,” she explains. Her real name and persona, Carolyn Fok, represents “the brighter half of my self. Cyrnai is wondering about the two sides of our consciousness.” 


      Cyrnai’s instruments for the album included (among others) a Roland JD-800, TB-303, and D-20, Sequential Prophet-VS rack, Yamaha DX7, Synclavier, Ensoniq KS-32, and an SMS Frequency module. The synthetic elements were balanced with some organic ones, including live vocals, Chinese and distorted guitar, strings, and drums. Her processors included the Eventide H-3000 Ultraharmonizer, Dynacord DRP 20 Digital Reverb, Lexicon 200, Sony DPS-D7 and -R7, Roland DEP-5, dbx 500 Sub-Harmonic Synthesizer, and Aphex Dominator II. 


       Cyrnai describes Transfiguration as a work of “autobiographical fiction,” where personal scenes from her life are transformed into an artistic work that others can relate to. She finds the title appropriate as the album “starts out as songs and transforms into instrumentals,” giving the work the feeling of a journey, one well worth taking.          -Bryan Reesman 




Cyrnai Transfiguration


       Cyrnai handles most preparations and executions herself. Such sophistication and complexity does not come overnight. Cyrnai did her time among key Frisco avante throughout the Eighties’, having worked with such diverse artists as TRIAL (a stark, guitar and percussion-driven unit). She released her first and only other solo album. ‘Charred Blossoms’, in 1985. The long gap between releases was spent amassing a substantial dreamlog (started 1984) which would serve as a guideline and blueprint for what would ultimately become her spiritual multimedia manifesto. 




“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       The ambition of this release is a little overwhelming. A combination of music (played, sung, composed and arranged by the artist), together with a thick booklet of her visual art, written dream visions and stories. Cyrnai (Carolyn Fok) does have an abundance of talent, both as a musician and painter. The 100 raw dreamscapes are rich in imagery and situations, the narratives become obscured by a haze of convoluted verbiage. Cyrnai’s musical sense is first rate. Her style might be described, imprecisely, as feminine industrial. Her voice communicates both menace and promise, and her instrumental support is hard-edged, percussive techno with a lyrical center. Compositions are carefully arranged, complex and compelling. Dissonant, languid synth strings are played against powerful metallic rhythms; nightmare electronic sound collages are mixed with cathedral organ and processed vocals. 


       To some extent, Cyrnai’s music appears to be an aural counterpart of her paintings, which are haunting, open-ended passages into (or out of) fragmented landscapes composed of pastel flowers, roadways, forests, skyscrapers, inscrutable machinery and transparent human figures. Given current studio technology, it’s easy to produce vaguely psychedelic effects in music and pass them off as profundity, but it takes a superior artist, with a commitment to psychic and sonic  exploration, to use these tools creatively.                 -Bill Tilland 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Combining visual art, prose, and poetry and music, New York artist Caroline Fok, or Cyrnai, delivers Transfiguration, a book/CD exploring its namesake. At sixteen chapters, eleven paintings, and fourteen songs, this is an evolution of both Cyrnai’s work and of an album’s contents. Although the book portion of this release is beautiful, it’s not vital to understanding the music, unlike the paintings, which are integral to the text’s meaning. Electronic atmospherics weave between gradual understanding, startling visions and dense conflict. Cyrnai’s voice connects dispersed meanings, rooting the music to its source.                           -Sharon Maher 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Multi-instrumentalist Cyrnai takes a wide range of familiar electronic sounds and imbues them with new life, courtesy of her fertile imagination. The futuristic Transfiguration offers an atmospheric exploration of electronic spaces, which is simultaneously avant-garde yet accessible, obscure yet distinct. That this ambitious LP is hard to describe is a testament to its originality. It features some guest musicians, including Elliott Sharp, and is beautifully packaged with an 80-page book featuring Cyrnai’s prose and paintings. One of the best tunes is “Electric Sanctuary,” an unusual, experimental techno work that juxtaposes airy  vocals with interlocking programmed rhythms, wailing electric guitar and odd effects. It’s a continually unfolding piece, indicative of much of the album, which often shirks conventional structures in favor of changing, cyclical approach. 


       Transfiguration explores many textures and sonic ideas, moving between techno, ambient and other electronic forums and often mutating and blending them. Cyrnai toys with flanged vocals that sometimes sound both human and robotic, an effect that meshes well with the music. The album consistently presents intriguing songs: “Heart Of Ice” is a bubbling techno creation that glides along smoothly at its own pace; the soothing synthetics of “Sparks” set tranquil chords against lightly percolating noises; “In My Winter” glistens with cascading keyboard work; and “Silent Station” showcases a more gothic-techno angle. A couple of the tunes don’t quite match up to the album’s standards, but who cares? 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Titanium’s release of Cyrnai’s Transfiguration is absolutely the most impressive first release we’ve ever seen from any label. It’s a beautiful 80 page book that comes packaged with a CD that is basically the dark, emotive, minimalistic, soundtrack. Though this is Titanium’s first release, Cyrnai is by no means a new-comer. This label is world class, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.” 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Cyrnai Transfiguration / TITANIUM is certainly one of the most interesting releases to come out in a while. Titanium is the result of multi-talented Carolyn Fok. The tracks are polished little electronic gems, with excellent programming behind them. The vocals serve as an extension of the psychosis, and are processed to fit perfectly with the music, which strikes me as a more ambient influenced new  wave, although far darker. Percussion is superb, ranging from non-existent to tribal to dance floor, and blends well with the powerful bass synths present in most of the tracks. A fascinating release, it makes me want to look into her older work on Ladd-Frith. 


ONLINE reviewer

“There’s nothing that compares to this. I mean how could it? So few women are out there, Cyrnai should be an inspiration to every one of them.



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       The entire package is the artist’s interpretation of transformation, emotional and spiritual. It’s a heady work, elaborate, insightful, and full of depth. The music is equally so, a mixture of electronic styles and moods that break down boundaries and barriers, transforming (or transfiguring) into surprisingly different aural shapes and sounds. Musically, Transfiguration can be best summed up as darkwave, though it pulls in fragments of industrial, new wave, techno,  industrial dance, ethereal, as well. But while the music – created with the help of n.i.n.’s Tim Niemi, and guitarists Elliott Sharp and John Myers (of the GlennBranca Ensemble) – has a dark core, there’s a lightness to much of the sound that defies both the genre and gravity itself, and Cyrnai herself soars, talks, and sings over it all. Few albums have such a strength of concept, and the rest of the package only drives home the depth of meaning and vision.           -Jo-Ann Greene 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       Tons of work have gone into putting together this release.Cyrnai is no stranger to the experimental music scene. I have heard her tracks on various compilations (she was a regular contributor to the Ladd-Frith compilation series) but I haven’t seen a full length release until now. This one provides hours of enjoyment because it comes complete with an 80 page color booklet–not the usual, say, 10 pages of lyrics and a brief essay on the history of band X. Cyrnai has included fiction pieces, fragments of a dream log, and full color illustrations in this booklet. An interesting place to get lost for a few hours! The accompanying CD provides a variety of musical styles without sounding like much that I’ve heard before. The CD is more like a collage of styles where none takes precedence;  rather, each tack seems to compliment the one before and after it. Some tracks sound like they could easily become the next dance pop hit (“Digital Grit Box” or “LoveSexDesire”). Others show a more melodic side, aim more to soothe than to move (“Sparks”). Others show that Cyrnai has done her time in the studio and learned her way around all the electronic gizmos that some artists find alien (“Electric Sanctuary,” “StormMind”). This release definitely showcases the flexibility of one “underground” artist who has been around for quite a while. 



monthly electro industrial webzine

article by Dave “Title says all…”

Cyrnai Transfiguration 


       Released in 1996, this CD is just 1/2 of all that encompasses Transfiguration. The cd comes packaged with text that takes you on a journey of “spiritual transformation.’ The entire project is based on actual documented dreams that occurred between 1984 and 1996. The music behind Transfiguration is of the experimental type, yet it is light and somewhat danceable. On certain tracks there is a slight similarity to gothic in the vocals.  Electric Sanctuary is a compelling composition with a screeching background rhythm and 1/2 spoken vocals. For the most part, this track is on the mellow side,  yet the beat and electronics have tendency to lean towards the dancey side. The title track is an experimental instrumental with smattering of gothic overtones in the keys. Digital Grit Box is a straight edged electro piece with rhythms akin to A Split Second and percussion much like Test Dept. LoveSexDesire takes the same electro, but sends it back in time, resulting is a piece with music that is reminiscent of the mid-80’s synth-pop movement. Is This A Dream contains ambient sequences, militaristic beats, and ethereal vocals. The church organ styled synths and acoustic guitar chords in In My Winter are rather gothic in nature. Cyrnai’s vocal delivery, which is mixed to the front, is extremely strong on this particular track. Unfortunately I did not receive the booklet with this CD, so I can’t go intoexactly  what it holds, but if it is anywhere near as impressive as the music on the CD, I just might have to track one down. 




Industrial Nation -Issue 15


Cyrnai Transfiguration


       Combining visual art, prose, poetry, and music, New York artist Carolyn Fok, or  Cyrnai, delivers Transfiguration, a book/CD exploring its namestake. At sixteen chapters, eleven paintings, and fourteen songs, Transfiguration is an evolution of both Cyrnai’s work and of an album’s contents. Although the book portion of  this release is beautiful, it’s not vital to understanding the music, unlike th paintings, which are integral to the text’s meaning. However, Cyrnai’s artistic enlightenment, documented through the combined text and music, fully unifies visual and sonic components of Transfiguration. In the aural realm, Transfiguration’s electronic atmospherics weave between gradual understanding, startling visions, and dense conflict, Cyrnai’s voice connecting dispersed meaning and rooting the music to its source. 



“Transfiguration” CD/Book (Titanium) 


       How does one describe an artist who has worked with a variety of industrial and noise artists for over a decade, but has never really been recognized or noticed by anyone? Cyrnai has been working with such diverse artists as Brian Ladd of Blackhouse and Elliott Sharp of Carbon, and has been a member of four distinctly different bands, ranging from punk, gothic, noise and industrial genres since 1981. Yet, until I received this album in the mail, I wasn’t even aware she existed. Musically this solo effort, with the help of a few guests, is a collection of totally electronic pieces that range from dance tunes, sample collages, and, odd technoish pieces. The only guitars you are going to hear will be muted samples, distorted beyond recognition and clarity. Cyrnai also perfoms all of her own vocal work. The CD also comes with an eighty page companion book which documents dreams that the artist herself has experienced since 1982. Overall a very solid release by a previously unknown artist, who apparently has been sitting quietly in the background gauging for the right moment to pounce upon the musical world in all her splendid talent. 




electronic music and art magazine

version 4.1-1997

feature by Andy Waggoner

Cyrnai Transfiguration


       Cyrnai is the pseudonym for multimedia artist Carolyn Fok, who is truly representative of the quintessential Renaissance man, er, person. In the nineties. Not only is she obviously not a man, but as an artist, she is not simple an artist, either. An accomplished painter, musician and writer, Fok has a lot of work in many differnet media and in several mediums at once in many cases. In addition to her creative work, she runs an independant label, Titanium, which released Transfiguration from her alter-ego. Artist, business person, musician; Fok wears many masks. The true mark of the new renaissance. 


       Transfiguration itself is the culmination of writings, paintings and music from life experiences captured into Fok’s diaries. Her experiences transferred to her diaries give the artist Cyrnai fodder for creation. It also gave Fok an outlet and a method to deal with experiences when was growing up. When she was young, she moved every two years and went from family turmoil to guitar recitals at Christian schools. From near death experiences to traveling to Hong Kong to win awards for her oil paintings. “My first memory was of my father throwing glass down on the floor in anger and taking me away in a car. This was my first  journey into the abyss.” A lot of unsteadiness in a young person’s life to be sure. Fok found that steadiness in her art, music, and writing. Devoting time and energy into creativity was an excellent method of catharsis. Her discipline and talent has brought her recognition that was probably never intended when she sought refuge in her art, but is a necessary consequence of creating excellent work. 


       At the very core of Carolyn Fok’s work is the constant message of duality. Fok got started with her solo career in 1985 when she was just 18 years old. That was when Charred Blossoms was released under the name Cyrnai. But even before that release, Fok had already been performing with several bands in San Francisco. After Charred BLossoms received numerous critical acclaimations. Fok has been working with music since a young age and has been combining mediums into unified artwork since.  Expect nothing short of incredible from that avenue of her art. 


New Industrial Sounds

No. 5 Vol.2

Cyrnai Transfiguration


       Here we have a multimedia project: an 80 page booklet plus a full length CD. The soundscapes are slickly produced; there’s real talent and depth in Cyrnai’s electronic music. It’s seductive, intriguing (as are the dreamy narratives and paintings accompanying the CD), and familiar (of NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine and European electro). It wouldn’t be surprising to see her composing music for future cybernetic movies or for adult radio play. 


“SIDELINE” magazine 

by Stef Froidcoeur



       CYRNAI, alias Carolyn Fok is for sure a well-known artist for the strongest industrial adherents. Transfiguration has to be considered as a multi artwork! Next to the cd, it contains a booklet of at least 80(!!!) pages, including 16 written chapters and several paintings, which seem by the way quite best known in Hong Kong. One of the tracks on the cd, entitled “Is this a dream?” is according to me the best description on this masterwork! You really get the impression to be in a strange dream, a little bit surrealistic! The music develops many sided, but I would call it “the ultimate electronic experience”. CYRNAI combines electronic structures with ritual and tribal influences with a strong dark background mood. Her voice seems to have been the subject of many experiments too! Now it sounds very feminine, while on other tracks, I got the impression to hear male vocals. CYRNAI also demonstrates to be able to compose real soundtrack pieces like “Transifiguration” and “Sparks”. I personally am getting more interested in the danceable tribal pieces “Electric Sanctuary”, “Love Sex Desire” and “Is this a dream?”. Notice as well, Carolyn Fok asked several guest musicians to collaborate on her artwork. No doubt about it, Elliott Sharp is for sure the most  well-known of these guest musicians. You may remember in our last issue, we talked about the women involved in the underground electronic scene? Well, Carolyn Fok is according to me the best ambassador of this so called female scene! She is full of creativity and really talented! Contact: Titanium 633 Post Street, Suite 118, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA.


Blank Expressions, October 1986

“Charred Blossoms” 12″ LP


       Cyrnai, former member of TRIAL and A STATE OF MIND, made this record nearly a year ago, but the reverberations of looming darkness and mysteriousness that have remained in my mind since first hearing it have compelled me to write about it today.


       On the record she plays all the instruments (everything from drum machine to mandolin), and creates a post-industrial wall of sound that seems to have required a lot more than the mere four tracks on which it was recorded to create.

       Occasionally, a recognizable sound surfaces from the murky depths of sound: a flute, a piano, distant voices crying out from an endless void.


       A 48 page booklet that is included features poetry and prose with abstract images of mind control, rejection and assortment of nightmares. Words and music like this could only come from the darkest recesses of the human psyche.




Objekt, 1986 -Brian Ladd

“Charred Blossoms” 12″ LP


       The CYRNAI record is dreamy, with echo vocals floating in and out of percussive locomotion. Conjurs up

images of early Cabaret Voltaire – looking through the stained windows of time at a primal existance.  Prehistoric and eternally mysterious.



“Charred Blossoms” 12″ LP


       An extremely interesting record. Industrial format. Some East Indian music. The wheels of a skateboard crashing into a brick wall inside a tunnel, and blood. Anempty kitchen, where the tap drips all night. Screaming in panic, a rat trapped in an oven door. The smell of bread baking.


       The noise plus the notes of a wooden flute equals the music of this record. Sounds and words mixed in a grinder to pulp and strained, unclothed and bare. Two hands mixing dried beans in an aluminum can toan unbroken rhythm.


       For each drum beat scattered, are a layer of low distorted vocals, as if a knife is cutting raindrops in half. Tape loops. The sound of a doorbell. And the beautiful sirens of a fire engine at 4 in the morning. Unusual graphics. Great Cover. Intense and pulsing.


JERSEY BEAT – Bruce Lee Gallanter

“Charred Blossoms” 12″ LP


       This is a wonderful, but strange, 12″ EP. There is a certain quality that only music can evoke, which goes beyond the spoken word, to a point where various realities intersect and flow together, like recognizing the beauty of numerous drifting conversations at once. This music has a lovely, calming feeling, and occasionally has the effect of time slowing down. Most of the vocals are mumbled or altered in the distance, alien, but somehow familiar as well. Everything seems to be floating, not totally unlike those free-flowing Gong/Dead dance jams, just much more subtle. The percussion is always at the center, and frequently appears like sampled natural sounds. This provides a mesmerizing quality of soothing tribal rhythms. Flying saucers hover in a jungle of insect-like sounds, while disembodied voices slowly melt in a fluctuating mass. 


       One must listen closely to the softer sections to take in the full audial environment. By doing this, I heard my immediate surroundings more distinctly, quite Cage-like. The jouney commences with an enchanting acoustic piano intro, followed by delicate, random sounds. A perfect ending. Also incllluded with the bizarre looking record is a lengthy little booklet of info, which will take you a while to absorb. Just who is this peron anyway & how does one pronounce that name??



“To Subtle-Drive” Cassette


       Electro-minimal music from a rather  mysterious artist who also uses her own vocals to lend an eerie tone to some tracks. These are rhythmic tracks that ebb andflow with a strange mix of the organic and the machine, exploring some of the synergies between the two.  Compares to early Cluster.


REFLEX – Tapebox

“Parts Of The Insomnic Wheel”


       The band (solo artist) has a cassette and booklet on Ladd-Frith. Ambient, distorted and electronic is the rule that not only this band but the label as well. The album – Parts Of The Insomnic Wheel – is very steeped in sorrow, yet less morbid than its label mates. It seems like a sincere effort, especially because it always requires deep thought and continuous listening.  


MONDO 2000


     “Cyrnai layers vocals, harmonies and drum treatments with mixboard manipulation that generate rhythmic ethnotronic seizures.”

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