According to the credits, Saya Gray recorded the bulk of her new EP, QWERTY, on her floor. It’s easy enough to imagine: Gray sprawled in a tangle of machinery, plucking strings and smashing buttons, funneled into a pinpoint focus that opens back up into deep, irreverent play. On her 2022 debut LP, 19 Masters, Gray embraced the gloss of pop while letting many of its rules soften. She played inside a soft-focus field that called to mind Nilüfer Yanya’s PAINLESS or Frank Ocean’s Blonde, scattered pieces occasionally congealing into patterns and then disintegrating again. On this 17-minute follow-up, she zeroes in on disintegration. The broad strokes of verse and chorus, anticipation and pleasure and denouement, seem to bore the hell out of Gray by this point. Rather than tensing and releasing in a recognizable narrative flow, QWERTY’s delights wash over you in currents. Forms crystallize and dissolve without fanfare. QWERTY lets the bottom drop out of an already loose songwriting approach, defecting from convention in favor of a bleary, semiconscious rush.

Across QWERTY, Gray dials up the harsher edges of her bricolage. She sends agile drum and bass breakbeats skittering across dusty piano loops on “;),”  while a driving post-punk drumbeat spikes the adrenaline behind her lithe, cascading vocals on “PREYING MANTIS !” Gray’s brother Lucian steps in to play guitar solos throughout the EP, and on certain tracks, like “ok FURIKAKE,” he steps firmly into nu-metal territory, playing the kind of hot, distorted riffs that sound like they spill out of a dinged six-string held in place by a flame-pattern strap. These blunt gestures abrade the light touch of Gray’s vocals in thrilling contrasts that spur the music forward. Instead of drawing momentum from lyrical narrative or recognizable song structures, which are all but absent except in gasps, Gray runs the engine of her music on the friction between unlike elements. Those System of a Down fretboard chugs crash into a gossamer R&B line delivery and launch the whole absurdist machine toward the horizon.

Even at its brisk length, QWERTY contains enough space for you to get lost inside it. And for Gray, lost is one of the most fun places you can be. Even her voice shakes loose from its center. Rather than play narrator or act as a guiding thread through the chaos, Gray takes the opportunity of the whirlwind to try on new selves. The voices that fly through “PREYING MANTIS !” are manipulated to the point where it sounds like Gray might have invited another singer or two onto the record, but it’s all her, trying on different personas atop one of the record’s only graspable grooves. “I can make your dust turn to sparkles,” she promises in what could be a mission statement for this whole thing: scraping up refuse, making it shine.

That’s not to say it’s all fun. The psychedelic meditation “ANNIE, I SING FOR..” offsets the more whimsical freefalls with some gravity. “This song was like my bargain with grief,” Gray explained, and the weight comes through in glimpses: the spare acoustic guitar flickering over a bruised bass tone, the devastating slices of lyrical clarity. “Beg the bullet to make an exception,” Gray sings in an airy register, and then the song peels away to just the guitar, and her voice returns coarsened and corroded: “Is there another side to suicide now? I think I’m finding out.”

QWERTY skips through moments of bewildered levity and dives into opaque, numbing despair, and Gray never balks at the distance between the two. The further you get from yourself, the more that chasm between extremes narrows into a hairline crack. That seems to be the spot Gray vaults toward: the displacement of herself as singular authority, the obliteration of the ego driving the train. From a high enough vantage, all the proportions that govern the ground go out the window. With QWERTY, Gray climbs a little higher still.