NPR logo Viking's Choice: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, 'Existence In The Unfurling'

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Viking's Choice: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, 'Existence In The Unfurling'

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. i

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Aubrey Trinnaman/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Aubrey Trinnaman/Courtesy of the artist
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

Aubrey Trinnaman/Courtesy of the artist

When the Buchla Music Easel was introduced in 1972, it was a philosophical compromise for a modular synth company that believed in the future of music, which did not originally include a conventional keyboard. The synth pioneer Don Buchla had to keep up with Robert Moog, whose keyboard-driven instruments were being used by the likes of Keith Emerson in over-the-top arena-rock shows. But, like many of Buchla's musical inventions, the portable all-in-one Music Easel offers a more intuitive, more human approach to new sounds — which is where we find the music of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.

"Existence In The Unfurling" comes from EARS, a record on which the composer elevates the warm pulse of the Music Easel into the realm of the divine. The machine glides on solar winds, yet always feels as close as a heartbeat. Smith's processed vocals call to mind Karin Dreijer Andersson's work in The Knife and Fever Ray, while the woodwind arrangements — stretched and tucked into the folds of the whirring synth — imagine Pharoah Sanders' spiritual free jazz in the meditative realm of Steve Reich. It's absorbing music, especially in the back half of the track, when the dark mood lifts and the instruments work up to a fluttering, ecstatic dance.

EARS comes out April 1 on Western Vinyl. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith goes on a European tour in March and April, and supports Animal Collective's U.S. tour in May.

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