Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Let’s Turn It Into Sound review – scintillating arpeggios and celestial vocals | Music
Jthere’s often a whiff of incense surrounding the music of Los Angeles-based composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. In the past, she made a drone album for yoga and meditation, a new age album that was created on the Calm app, and she even wrote a paperback called Listening (with cards containing ” listening exercises).
But Smith is also a leading figure in modular synthesis. She studied composition and sound engineering at Berklee College of Music, falling in love with Steve Reich, and later acquired a huge Buchla synthesizer, using it to make several solo albums of buzzing electronica. She also made a synth-pop concept album about the cycle of life, recorded a duet with her mentor Suzanne Ciani and another collaboration with Hollywood composer Emile Mosseri.
Some tracks on this new album harken back to Smith’s earlier fascinations: Check Your Translation, Pivot Signal and Then The Wind Came draw inspiration from Reich’s phased minimalism, but here those scintillating arpeggios are layered with heavenly, digitally harmonized vocals. Elsewhere, minimalism collides with the rhythms of poppy electronica and afrobeat, as if sequences of a dozen sessions had been cut into fragments and assembled at random. The tracks change tempo, key and mood frequently, while discordant elements overlap.
The result is often similar to one of Charles Ives’ polytonal pieces – but, where Ives reproduced the sound of, say, a brass band marching past a church choir, Smith’s music often sounds like a dozen cell phone ringtones in a video game room. while a West African drum circle rehearses in the street outside. Sometimes this cacophony sounds sublime.
Also released this month
Takuro Okada is a 29-year-old Japanese guitarist whose album Betsu No Jikan (Newhere Music/Space Shower Music/Bandcamp) begins with an oblique version of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, but it’s Alice Coltrane’s soaring astral jazz that dominates – a whole – an enveloping riot of low-volume percussion, quavering sax solos, undulating piano and woozy string instruments. Sam Gendel, Carlos Niño and Jim O’Rourke invited. Diamanda Galas is one of the few contemporary artists whose music can truly be called gothic. His latest, Broken Gargoyles (Intravenal Sound Operations), is filled with strangled banshee moans, creaking medieval drones, dark German ritual utterances and horror movie soundscapes that are seriously quite terrifying. Montreal Quintet Esmerine explore that liminal zone between post-rock and drone-based minimalism, and their Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More (Constellation) is dominated by beautiful Spartan melodies played on strings and piano. Bruce Cawdron’s marimba is the star of Foxtails & Fireflies, while Brian Sanderson’s horns carry the haunting Fractals for Any Toality.