Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Finds the Flow on 'Let's Turn It into Sound'
Published Aug 25, 2022After premiering her new age LP on the investment capital-funded app, Calm, alongside a high-profile tour with Caribou and an announced score for a Disney World attraction, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith ventured the closest she's ever come to mainstream recognition in 2021. But her eighth solo LP, Let's Turn It into Sound, brazenly demonstrates the Orcas Islander's reluctance to abandon her avant-garde oeuvre.
Her second release on Ghostly International finds Smith leaning into the label's brand of quirky but provocative dance music. But, what comes as no surprise for anyone who's followed the 35-year-old musician's career, Smith adds an extra air of substance and function to her craft. Although she's still chiefly fashioning music on her 60-year-old Buchla modular synthesizer, Smith has managed to situate her voice front and centre across these 10 glissando numbers.
Opener, "Have You Felt Lately?" might just be her most aurally scattered composition yet, as she sets loose a short burst of synth notes that set an uncurled tone for the rest of the LP. On "Locate", Smith processes the hell out of her vocals to alter their pitch, timbre, tone, and feel, allowing her voice to sweep the song into a pulsating atmosphere. Tracks like the breathy, stretchy "Is It Me or Is It You?" and the rollicking "There Is Something" find Smith pushing her intonation to the forefront while concealing her actual words, making the opaque lyrics just another part of her churning soundscape. After the peaks and valleys of the six-minute "Is It Me or Is It You?", the album's second half settles into a downbeat groove.
The '80s midi fanfare of "Check Your Translation" and the sheeny, layered-vocals of "Give to the Water" all manage to run at the same pace and mode, with the only respite being the yearning four-on-the-floor LP standout, "Unbraid: The Merge." Described by Smith as, "a symbol of receiving a compound of a ton of feelings," Let's Turn It into Sound comes off more concerned with responding to fluid emotion rather than replicating it, as evidenced by her ability to build songs around flowing ideas rather than jamming them together.
There are nonetheless moments throughout that find Smith becoming a victim of her own ambition, as the tail end of this 40-minute listen starts to recycle ideas. However, repeat listens uncover a musician trying to arrange these musical insights into something as affecting and creatively grounded as her best ambient works. (Ghostly International)