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On Random Girl, James K is building a map to herself

The New York multidisciplinary artist’s first album in six years is an intimate exploration of girlhood and identity

Jamie Krasner will not be categorised. The New York-based multidisciplinary artist, also known as James K, has spent the last decade slipping in and out of various internet and social media personas, where cyberpunk visuals combine with highly stylised captions that read like postmodern diary entries. Stretching the limits of online identity – her Instagram bio reads, “cosplay yrself” – she exists as a fluid patchwork of multiplicities; not a noun, but a constant state of being. 

Random Girl marks James K’s first album in six years. Following the release of PET in 2016, named after her “meta-fetishised girl” alter ego, the 10-track record includes several personas, which she describes as “cultural jumping points based on aesthetics from which I can then explore, find further depth in and ultimately challenge”. Written and recorded between 2014 and 2018, listening to Random Girl feels like drifting between dream states, from dazzling ambient pop to shoegaze and distorted soundscapes that propel the listener into a state of digital disarray.Random Girl is about a search for self,” she explains. “Our society more than ever is based on highly advanced algorithms which dictate our experiences which ultimately form our sense of self.”

At first glance, the name Random Girl can come off a bit cheeky, the sort of derogatory phrase that’s meant towards people or things that feel out of place – in that oh she’s so random kinda way. But it’s this exact tension that she wants to bring to our attention. “Those are the people and things are interesting because they are not expected and not comfortable, they’re the talking points which make life interesting and inspiring,” she says. “Randomness is a lack of any discernible pattern. My work has always been about this search for inspiration which for me is working against expectation.”

Subverting meaning and challenging conventional narratives is something that’s important to K and can be felt throughout the album. Vocals are manipulated, pulled apart and fractured, appearing soft at times (“Eiv Mude”) and dark and arresting in others (“Teen Cruelty”). On “pretty song” she filters her voice through a stethoscope, mixed through her throat and processed through a self-made noise box. “I’m challenging what ‘pretty’ means. Is ‘pretty’ the voice? Is it the body? Can it be pleasing and not pleasing to hear at once?” 

This process of breaking down, digesting, and reassembling meaning can also be applied to the concept of girlhood. “Girlhood is something to be challenged. We’re all born into bodies and bodies are unfortunately charged with histories,” says K. “I never identified with girlhood, it wasn’t until I started making art that I started working with concepts of cultural identities I found within myself: how culture has defined my body, and then ways which I can use these tropes or aesthetic entities to mix and match and challenge what these culturally commodified symbols that form identities ultimate mean.”

The album artwork is a collage of clippings that K has collected over the years. It functions as a visual diary, memories cobbled together to form a composite whole. “I really want to allude to this diaristic approach to the work,” she concludes. “The artwork is a visual description of what I'd say the record is, with all these very intimate pieces of myself and my history that form some kind of map to the self.”

Random Girl is out now