Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s work at the intersection of New Age, contemporary classical and experimental has helped her carve out a niche as an artist capable of providing music for the Calm app while also making appeal to scholars who would have populated his Berklee College of Music. past. Rubbing shoulders with “Diode Diva” Suzanne Ciani was an audibly influential process. Smith’s pieces are as inspired by Ciani’s New Age serenity as they are by the moving yet playful compositions of Terry Riley’s noted inspiration.
Smith’s new work, Let’s turn it into sound, is built on the idea that music can express our ineffable inner worlds. “‘Let’s turn it into sound’ is about taking feelings that can’t be expressed in words…and turning them into sound,” Smith explains. However, there are lyrics here. She delivers her lyrics in highly charged, processed vocals that stand out and have transformed the unrepresentative quality of her abstract music into something more explicit than the mission statement suggests.
Five of the ten tracks here have lyrics, often tame expressions of love and hope (“I love the love we share / I always care deeply about your special thoughts on everything I do”), but that’s the point. These words have been manipulated beyond recognition, and without a lyric sheet, most are nearly intelligible. Let’s turn it into sound is about using music to express ourselves without relying on clumsy words; it turns out that using clumsy words is imperative to the process. To know what is there, you have to know what is not there.
The ten songs here forego structure to create musical pieces that never sit still for too long. The transitions from shock to system are a far cry from Smith’s ambient work. However, there is always an ethereal quality to everything, maintained by a desire to push the capabilities of electronic music to their breaking points. Where his last two albums, those of 2017 the child and 2020s The mosaic of transformationwere experimental but happy with the coloring between the lines, Let’s turn it into sound is the supercharged agent provocateur of his work. What could have inspired such a leap into the unknown? Perhaps it was his response to the post-lockdown brain fog that lingers in our culture like a bad smell. Maybe it’s trying to wake us all up from our eternal digital daydreams.
Like a retro video game opening theme, “Have You Felt Lately?” starts things off with a chipper and some crazy musical spitting. Smith’s vocals here and throughout the album are layered and processed, delivered with equal measures of weight and flippancy, and always intensely exploratory. “Locate” begins with restful tones before polyphonic keys and vocals frantically move up and down the scale. “Let It Fall” adds several layers of incongruous vocals and vocals to disorient the listener, a cohesive synth running in the background is the only thing you can hang on to.
“Is it me or is it you?” is perhaps the most accessible trail here; gushing drums and cascading harmonies combine to narcotize before Smith mutes the flow with acid glitch. On “Pivotal Signal” and the 8-bit beat of “Check Your Translation,” the compositions allude to unpredictability before falling back into repetition.
Smith flexes his songwriting and production muscles throughout Let’s turn it into sound, although purely utilitarian and rarely for showboating. The choral thrust of “Unbraid: The Merge” arrives over euphoric club music, while the drum lineup on “There Is Something” would impress Aphex Twin. “Then the Wind Came” is the zenith of the collection, with its arpeggiated sequencing and transition to laid-back IDM done in style.
Let’s turn it into sound successfully builds a highly personalized and insular world that anyone interested in contemporary classic and experimental electronics can discover and enjoy. While everything here is skillfully executed and awe-inspiring, there’s a sly sense that the compositions have little to say beyond reinventing vocal traditions and the benefits of pushing boundaries. Nonetheless, Smith has created a mirror of our tumultuous modern world, a mirror in which we can see our flaws, our fickleness, and our limitless possibilities.