Kaitlyn Aurelia-Smith has become adept at building atmospheric and ambient sonic textures on synths. With each successive album, the LA-based artist has explored a new sentiment, with experiments with movement and an admiration for the power of electricity inspiring her latest album The Mosaic of Transformation.
“I was feeling very inspired by electricity and its profound affect on our lives,” says Aurelia-Smith. “It’s our nervous system, it makes plants grow and animates life. I felt a strong appreciation for it, so I wanted to respond to that through music.”
In creating the album, Aurelia-Smith explains how she wanted to physically embody the music. Different yoga-style poses – as seen on the cover – are linked to each track. The body contortions and hand-stands were chosen because of their difficulty, “I chose something that at the time felt impossible,” she explains. “every day I would put my physical being through a transformation”.
By completing these physical challenges, Aurelia-Smith was able to approach writing the album with a different perspective and she compares the process to “building a puzzle piece-by-piece”. “It’s just the way that my creativity naturally flows, it likes to start a fresh each time,” she adds.
Physical movement has been closely tied to the artists work, with Aurelia-Smith’s previous release Tides originally being written as background music for her mother’s yoga classes. However, her career may have taken a very different path had she not discovered the synth.
Aurelia-Smith says: “I went through a period after music school where I decided to give up on music and wanted to pursue farming and homesteading. I felt uninspired by the classical guitar and didn’t have access to orchestras which was what I wanted to write for.” While she was debating whether to abandon a career in music and move to working on the land, a neighbour lent her a Buchla synthesiser – a piece of equipment which can cost thousands of pounds – in the hope it would inspire her to keep working on her music.
“It changed my life,” says Aurelia-Smith. “I think the novelty of it really inspired me and it allowed me to approach music in a very different way. It required me to really listening and focus on how sound works, rather than leaning on music theory.”
It was enough for Aurelia-Smith to persist with music, and her knack for stumbling across new instruments and sounds hasn’t seem to have worn off yet. After moving to California, and returning her neighbours Buchla, she managed to get access to some rare vintage analogue synthesisers, while the 2016 collaborative album with Suzanne Ciani came about after a chance encounter at a dinner party. “I almost feel like I have a magnetic pull for synthesisers,” she jokes.
Similarly, when working on the new record, Aurelia-Smith was asked to do a residency in Calgary at a museum of rare instruments. As well as a number of synths, the museum also hosts a collection of wooden pipe organs which made their way onto the album and gives some of the songs a more organic feel.
The meditative feel of much of Aurelia-Smith’s music feels like a perfect fit for the current climate, where many of us will be spending time away from friends and family in isolation. Aurelia-Smith is taking this time, following the release of the record, to recharge. “I like to take some time out to really assess everything, filter through what I’m feeling and then get ready for the next burst of inspiration.”