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Album Review

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith composes her swirling, colorful electronic songs on Buchla synthesizers, particularly the portable, user-friendly Music Easel. Her warm, vibrant music inevitably recalls the work of Buchla masters such as Suzanne Ciani and Laurie Spiegel, but it's playful and exuberant enough to land her opening gigs for Dan Deacon and Animal Collective. It's bubbly and tranquil enough to elicit comparisons to 21st century underground synthesizer artists such as Panabrite or Dolphins into the Future, but Smith's music is still a bit too hyperactive to really label ambient or new age, even though it generally doesn't include drums. She allows the oscillating electronic tones to ebb and flow like waves, and they have fluid, natural rhythms rather than quantized beat structures. Ears features a greater presence of Smith's warped vocals than on 2015's Euclid, and more often than not, they seem to speak a subconscious alien language rather than recognizable English words. The album also benefits from the added presence of woodwind arrangements, which give the music somewhat of a floral texture. While Euclid sounded bright and freewheeling enough to soundtrack a fun, cartoonish video game, Ears has a slightly darker and more mysterious tone, but not enough to make it seem menacing or off-putting. Opener "First Flight" includes rapid arpeggios that seem to flow like water rushing through a stream, constantly splashing up onto the shore. "Rare Things Grow" sounds like it could've been recorded in a rain forest, with wet, flowing sounds, thumb pianos, and fluttering woodwinds pleasantly swaying over a detached rhythm that strangely resembles Autechre's "Basscadet." Most of the album's selections clock in between three and five minutes, but finale "Existence in the Unfurling" stretches out to 11, beginning with Smith's calm, wondrous vocals and ending with an extended passage where synthesizers and woodwinds excitedly duet with each other. Focused without sounding rigid or confined, Ears is imaginative and alive.

Customer Reviews

Can't wait until April

I don't need to hear this one to rate it. True electronic/classical genius. Previous releases "Euclid" and "Tides" are sure to become classics.

Pure genius

Best album I've heard in a LONG time. Absolutely brilliant from start to finish!


Genre: Ambient

Years Active: '10s

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith composes bright, fluid soundscapes on a variety of synthesizers, most notably the Buchla Music Easel. Excited by the endless possibilities of electronic instruments, her music is filled with vivid, expressive melodies along with her warped, ethereal vocals. Smith grew up on the serene, peaceful Orcas Island in northwest Washington, and attended the Berklee College of Music in order to study composition and sound engineering. She started out as a vocalist before taking up classical...
Full Bio