Exclaim!'s Top 10 Improv & Avant-Garde Albums Best of 2016

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
(Western Vinyl)
With EARS, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has produced a mesmerizing and beautiful album that pulses with life in a way few other electronic records (or any record, for that matter) managed to.
In fact, the most compelling attribute of EARS is the way it sounds like something discovered in nature, perhaps at the bottom of a teeming puddle. The impressionistic gurgles of the Buchla synthesizer, the distant timbres of voice and woodwind and the autonomy Smith gives to her electronics all contribute to a sense that EARS was not so much written as it was grown and cultivated.
Enlisting a woodwind player (Rob Frye) to lay down most of the record's melodic content was one of Smith's smartest moves. The breath present in the flutes and saxophones preserves the music's organic textures, blending harmoniously with Smith's vocals and tempering the album's other non-human elements.
EARS is the product of Smith's multifarious talents, including expert control of Buchla synthesizers, a sharp ear for dense sound design and a knack for simple but effective compositions. Most importantly, though, EARS is the product of a vibrant imagination — one that we'll hopefully hear more from soon.
Will Pearson