Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has returned with her 6th studio album and it is a real treat for all fans of modular synthesizers. The new album is dubbed “The Kid” and in which she continues to excel, using her Buchla machines. Her truly original approach to synthesis combines voice, bright sonic environments and dynamic melodic phrasing to create tracks that follows in the footsteps of avant-garde maestros like Suzanne Ciani before her, while still keeping her works truly contemporary.
The press notes that accompany composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s latest opus bravely attempt to undermine the whole concept of ‘electronic’ music. The argument goes that, since electronics are now almost ubiquitous in the wider world of music production, the genre title has become meaningless.
The Kid. Released through Western Vinyl, the new LP is Smith’s sixth full length overall, following on from last year’s brilliant releases EARS and Sunergy—a collaborative work for Rvng Intl. with Suzanne Ciani. True to form, KAS has incorporated obscure scales and musical idioms to create something utterly unique. The story line behind the album centers around the development of a human being from birth through youth, adolescence, middle-age and onto decrepitude and death, and to suggest that, rather than being restrained by preconceptions, her version of electronica crosses over into what we might call the organic. The concept becomes the message. Human beings too are blessed, and cursed by their titles. Our names denote our gender, race, even suggesting personal traits. History bleeds through them.
Smith’s synthesizer experiments began with a couple of Bandcamp-released sketches of drones and oddities, then moved toward polyphonic bedroom minimalism (2014’s sublime Tides). Soon enough, the instrument was no longer an end but a window unto more pop-oriented structures. The Buchla Music Easel is one of numerous synths on The Kid, which happens to be the first album on which Smith deeply incorporates other musicians (the flute, trumpet, cello and bassoon of Berlin-based new music collective Stargaze is nestled throughout the work). Yet, synth-inspired psychoacoustic sketches of sound are the album’s abiding textures, and low-end is scarce.
In a recent interview she said that among the album’s primary thematic influences is the recognition of the four age-based stages of life (ashrama) in Hindu dharma. These texts are ancient and foundational, and may even be the constitutional lifeblood of what’s at work here. Yet, in its title, its musical process, its escape from rigidity, The Kid isn’t so much a re-affirmation of existing hierarchies, but about using the sturdy base to build new castles. On “I Will Make Room For You,” one of album’s digital baroques, Smith intones, “I want for you to feel your best, the best in [this] mess.” It’s easy to imagine it as a gently radical call-to-arms.
Kaitlyn has stated the following in relation to where she finds her creativity and the instruments she use:
“Creation for me always starts with a feeling of connection (to anything) that is from a subconscious place. The logical side of my brain is simultaneously there, but not as dominant, until it is needed for problem solving or theory. The sessions for Sunergy were very enjoyable; there was a lot of laughter. It all seemed to flow and a creation came out easily. Our communication was easy. We would ask constantly, “Who’s driving?“ (laughs) meaning, whose clock is driving who, since we would switch off with one another.
This is always changing. The Music Easel is a constant at the moment because I like to perform with it so much, but I like variety in my creating tools. I am a big fan of Buchla instruments in general and my relationship with their instruments is very special to me. I feel like I found my voice through these machines. My first experience with music synthesis and Buchla instruments is one that I don’t go a day without feeling gratitude for. I was fortunate to have someone lend me a Buchla 100 to explore alone in my cabin on Orcas Island for a year. I bought my first modular a few years after learning to play the Buchla100. My husband and I were both into homesteading at the time and asked friends and family to contribute to a fund to buy a cow for our wedding present. Some things shifted in our life and instead of buying a cow, we bought a Buchla Music Easel. (laughs). The Easel is what has been available to me over the past few years. I love its size, how many different sounds can come out of it, and how easy it is to perform with and play like an instrument.”