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KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Let's Turn It Into Sound

    Acclaimed composer, artist, and producer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith returns to Ghostly International with Let’s Turn it Into Sound, her most ambitious, intuitive, and inviting work to date. Though ambient and modern new age circles have embraced Smith’s catalog, Let’s Turn it Into Sound favors a more baroque and robust form of avant-pop. The music bursts with vertiginous vocal harmonies and detailed sound design, forming a truly unique sonic vision.

    “Art is awe, art is mystery expressed,” writes Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. “Art is somatic, even if it is experienced cerebrally. It is felt.”

    The central mysteries of Smith’s ninth studio album, Let’s Turn it Into Sound, have to do with perception, expression, and communication: How can we communicate when spoken language is inadequate? How do we understand what it is we’re feeling? How do we translate our experience of the world into something that someone else can understand?

    For Smith, a self-described “feeler,” the answers are inspired by compound words in non-English languages, translation, sculptural fashion, dance, butoh, wushu shaolin, and other forms of sensory and somatic experience. Just like fashion uses lines, shapes, colors, textures, and silhouettes to communicate on a sensual level separate from the conscious mind, Let’s Turn it Into Sound strives to use sound to communicate what words alone cannot.

    “The album is a puzzle,” Smith says. “[It] is a symbol of receiving a compound of a ton of feelings from going out into a situation, and the song titles are instructions to breaking apart the feelings and understanding them.” The energized “Is it Me or Is it You” comes from traversing the gaps between how you see yourself and how another might see you, through a filter of their own projections. The hushed sense of revelation that brackets “There is Something” refers to the feeling of walking into a room and being subconsciously aware of the dynamic present. All the while, Smith interprets these feelings through sound.

    This auditory interpretation process, driven by earnest curiosity, led Smith to record some thoughts and questions that popped up along the journey in Somatic Hearing—a booklet which accompanies the album.

    Over three frenzied months, recording alone in her home studio, Smith allowed herself to pursue new experiments to accompany her usual toolkit of modular, analogue, and rare synthesizers (including her signature Buchla), orchestral sounds, and the voice. She created a new vocal processing technique, and gave herself permission to pursue a pacing that felt intuitive, rather one that followed typical song structures. She walked around in the windiest season with a subwoofer backpack and an umbrella, listening to the low end of the album amidst 60mph gusts. She listened to herself, and, in doing so, to an inner community which suddenly opened to her. Underlying the album is a dynamic relationship between what Smith describes as six distinct voices, each a multifaceted storyteller. By acknowledging these characters, she was acknowledging her whole being: the woven plurality of self, the complex process of noticing and resolving inner conflicts, and the joy of finding harmony in flux. “I started to feel so embodied by all of these characters. This is all the felt, unsaid stuff [my inner community] wants to communicate but it doesn’t have the English language as its form of communication, and so [this album was a form of] giving space to let it talk and not judge it and just let it play.” By not adhering to expected song structures, each song feels even more like a conversation, with each character getting to express themselves in full.


    TRACK LISTING

    1. Have You Felt Lately?
    2. Locate
    3. Let It Fall
    4. Is It Me Or Is It You?
    5. Check Your Translation
    6. Pivot Signal
    7. Unbraid: The Merge
    8. Then The Wind Came
    9. There Is Something
    10. Give To The Water

    Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Emile Mosseri

    I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon

      “His music filled me with the urge to connect with the world,” Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith says of Emile Mosseri. She first heard his work while watching the 2019 film The Last Black Man In San Francisco; just minutes in, she paused it to look up who did the score and wrote to him immediately. “I love Emile’s ability to create melodies that feel magically scenic and familiar like they are reminding you of the innocence of loving life.” Those talents saw recognition in 2020 with an Oscar nomination for Mosseri’soriginal score to the film Minari. He was already a fan of Smith’s and became increasingly intrigued by her impressionistic process as they started to talk. “The music feels so spiritual and alive and made from the earth,” Mosseri says. “I think of her as the great conductor, summoning musical poetry from her orchestra of machines.” I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon, their two-part collaborative album, introduces an uncanny fusion of their sonics. Constructed using synthesizer, piano, electronics, and voice, this soft-focus dream world is lush, evocative, and fleeting. It finds two composers tuning their respective styles inward as an ode to mutual inspiration, a celebration of the human spirit and its will to surrender to the currents of life.

      Early into their correspondence, Smith and Mosseri realized they were neighbors in Los Angeles and met up for a few hikes. Their conversations led to a musical exchange over email. The exercise became a sketch, the start of their first song together, “Log In Your Fire,” with Mosseri finding flourishes in Smith’s cathartic synth lines to intonate and harmonize alongside. Lyrically, it’s a beautiful, open-ended sentiment. “Being a log in someone’s fire, to me, means letting go, and surrendering to that feeling,” says Mosseri. From there, the pair composed a series of musical foundations, trading files from afar, nurturing the eventual expansion as the remote days of 2020 set in. Smith likens the collaborative experience to the exciting uncertainty of starting a garden, “doing what I can to facilitate growth while enjoying the process of being surprised by what will actually grow.”

      In the summer of 2021, the duo finished work on the sequel, I Could Be Your Moon, expanding their musical language as the first part reached its September release. Songs from these more recent exchanges find them even more synced, forging into percussive and harmonic experiments, leaning further into their “unused musical muscles,” as Smith and Mosseri put it. A unified vocal presence emerged. “As the friendship grew I think we both learned how to support each other more and musically that was communicated through singing together,” adds Smith.

      Now taken as a full album set, I Could Be Your Dog / I Could Be Your Moon moves fluidly from track to track, panning through textural vi- gnettes. Two roughly 17-minute halves, the set evokes the bittersweet sense of something too bright or rare to last, a short-lived glimpse into a golden hour. There is a dreamy, elemental intention to this music, which Smith and Mosseri say came naturally, as they both embraced intuitive interplay throughout their creative back-and-forth. The stylistic threads of each composer are recognizable yet become more ambiguous as the album progresses, sewn into a singular vision. “I’m so grateful that my musical ideas could dance with hers with some grace and harmony,” says Mosseri. Smith adds that this experience helped her “remember that mu- sic can be a connecting layer of friendship, especially in a time when the usual ways were out of reach.”

      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: An absolutely stunning collection of nigh-choral electronic pieces, imbued with Aurelia Smith's mastery of the synthesiser and Mosseri's expertise in the soundtrack field. A collection of unexpected, organic compositions that are from neither one world nor the other but perfectly at home in both.

      TRACK LISTING

      01. Log In Your Fire
      02. Moon In Your Eye
      03. Brush
      04. I Could Be Your Dog
      05. Glendora
      06. Blink Twice
      07. Moonweed
      08. Green To You
      09. Amber
      10. Standing In Your Light
      11. Shim Sham
      12. Golden Cow
      13. Radio Replacement

      West coast composer, artist, and producer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has chartered a pioneering career with multiple critically-acclaimed albums since 2015. Following the release of The Kid in 2017, Smith focused her energy in several directions. She founded Touchtheplants, a multidisciplinary creative environment for projects including the first volumes in her instrumental Electronic Series and pocket-sized poetry books on the practice of listening within. She’s continued to explore the endless possibilities of electronic instruments as well as the shapes, movements, and expressions found in the physical body’s relationship to sound and color. It is this life-guiding interest that forms the foundational frequencies of her most recent full-length, The Mosaic of Transformation, a bright, sensorial glide through unbound wave phenomena and the radiant power discovered within oneself.

      “I guess in one sentence, this album is my expression of love and appreciation for electricity,” says Smith. While writing and recording, she embraced a daily practice of physical movement, passing electricity through her body and into motion, in ways reflecting her audio practice, which sends currents through modular synthesizers and into the air through speakers. Not a dancer by any traditional definition, she taught herself improvisatory movement realizing flexibility, strength, and unexpectedly, a “visual language” stemming from the human body and comprised of vibrational shapes. Understood as cymatics, as Smith says, “as a reference for how frequencies can be visualized,” much like a mosaic.

      Smith describes her first encounters with this mosaic; “the inspiration came to me in a sudden bubble of joy. It was accompanied by a multitude of shapes that were moving seamlessly from one into the other...My movement practice has been a constant transformation piece by piece. I made this album in the same way. Every day I would transform what I did yesterday...into something else. This album has gone through about 12 different versions of itself.” As it has arrived, in a completed state, The Mosaic of Transformation is a holistic manifestation of embodied motions. Smith’s signature textural curiosity that fans have grown to adore pivots naturally into a proprioceptive study of melody and timbre. Airy organ and voice interweave with burbling Buchla-spawned harmonic bubbles.

      “The Steady Heart” quivers to life, peppering blasts of wooden organ between winding vocal affirmations. As with a body, moving one portion requires a balance and counterbalance; here, subtle tonal twitchy signals fire in conjunction with coiling arias to create a mesmeric core. When the beat arrives at the midway mark, a swooping and jittery waltz, a sense of stasis in motion, a flow state, is sonically achieved. As soon as it syncs, it disappears back into the swirling ebbs of electric force. Other tracks stray into more ruminative physical realms. “Carrying Gravity” is built around string-like pads that expand and contract like a solar plexus, becoming taught and then loose.

      If the record could be summarized in a single movement, it is the 10-minute closing suite, a rapturous collage called “Expanding Electricity.” Symphonic phrases establish the piece before washes of glittering electric peals and synthesized vibraphone helix into focus. Soon, Smith’s voice grounds it all with an intuitive vocal hook, harmonized and augmented by concentric spirals of harp-and-horn-like sounds. Smith’s music doesn’t capture a specific emotion as much as it captures the joys of possessing a body, and the ability to, with devotion and a steady open heart, maneuver that vessel in space by way of electricity to euphoric degrees. 


      STAFF COMMENTS

      Barry says: It's sometimes hard to listen to electronic music that has no real basis in rhythm or melody, and while the Buchla modular synth has produced some pretty 'out-there' albums, KAS is not one of those artists. She's created some mind-blowingly beautiful meditative ambient albums, but it's not one of those either. This is a wildly creative, beautifully accomplished coherent stream of gorgeousness, and shows just how diverse a modular synth album can be.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Unbraiding Boundless Energy Within Boundaries
      2. Remembering
      3. Understanding Body Messages
      4. The Steady Heart
      5. Carrying Gravity
      6. The Spine Is Quiet In The Center
      7. Overflowing
      8. Deepening The Flow Of
      9. Expanding Electricity

      Various Artists

      Breathing Instruments (Curated By Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith)

        Compilation album curated by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

        The directive for the composers featured on “Breathing Instruments” was, in effect, to accentuate the ways in which instruments sound like they are breathing. Some have recreated the literal experience of feeling or hearing the human breath. Others take a more abstract approach, where breathing is more motif than object of emulation.

        From hushed pulsations and distant vocals in Kathryn Shuman’s ‘Objects creating a womb-like environment to Julianna Barwick’s blissful ‘Newborn’ the tracks give sonic form to the experience of emerging from the womb.

        There is also a striking concurrence of woodland sounds throughout this collection from the ghostly tones of Emily A Srague’s ‘Flew’ to Cool Maritime and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s dew dripped ‘Daybreak’.

        Meanwhile the undulating seascape of Geotic’s ‘Uncaught’ conjures moments of Evening Star by Fripp/ Eno, but supplants that album’s crystalline production with the warm crackle of vinyl.

        If we learn anything from “Breathing Instruments” it is that we are inextricable from the natural world.


        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, as well as being one of the premier synthesists around today, has a deep rooted and recognisable appreciation for the forces of nature, and 'Breathing Instruments' is a predictably gorgeous and effecting study of human breathing through song. Though the concept sounds mildly strange, it manifests as a gorgeously plaintive and euphoric suite of ambient movements from a superb lineup of ambient electronic talent.

        TRACK LISTING

        1) Dim Arc – Breeze Shapes
        2) Sunmoonstar – Sleepy Dragon
        3) Emily A Sprague – Flew
        4) Fools – I Can See Your Voice Thru The Trees
        5) Cool Maritime + Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Daybreak
        6) Constant Shapes – Wind Leaf Shimmer
        7) Kathryn Shuman – Objects
        8) Jeremiah Chiu – Poems One & Fourteen
        9) Kacey Johansing – Whales Of Agate
        10) Julianna Barwick – Newborn
        11) Mary Lattimore – She Remebers Sitka
        12) Geotic – Uncaught
        13) Andy Strain – Patience
        14) Bana Haffar – Circulations
        15) Ulfur - Feathered

        In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world.

        Smith (who by no coincidence, cites naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself. The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough EARS, chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP. The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the aforementioned subject.

        Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,” which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness here, but it's elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but underreported moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up another highlight in the form of “In The World But Not Of The World” which serves its subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end pulse.

        Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself.

        This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On “To Feel Your Best” this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. 

        TRACK LISTING

        01 I Am A Thought 1:54
        02 An Intention 4:01
        03 A Kid 5:04
        04 In The World 3:00
        05 I Am Consumed 0:54,
        06 In The World But Not Of The World 3:57
        07 I Am Learning 3:16
        08 To Follow And Lead 4:48
        09 Until I Remember 4:23,
        10 Who I Am Why I Am Where I Am 5:21
        11 I Am Curious I Care 3:45
        12 I Will Make Room For You 4:59
        13 To Feel Your Best 6:20….


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