Ears Wide Open: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, photo by Aubrey Trinnaman

Surrounding herself with knobs, switches, buttons, and color-coded dangling wires, waving her fingers over mysterious electronics, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith looks as if she might be remotely landing a spaceship on a distant planet. With blips, buzz and ebbing ambient sweeps, Smith’s synthesizer compositions are as otherworldly as they are earthly, anchored by feeling and story. Her new album, “Ears,” emerges April 1 on Western Vinyl — her second release with the label, following last year’s “Euclid.” Combining synths and live woodwinds, along with her gentle voice, Smith invites listeners on a “sonic motion ride through a futuristic jungle,” and suggests giving the album a straight-through listen in a dark room on a loud stereo. Perhaps a zero-gravity room might also enhance that floating-through-space sensation her music generates.

Drawing inspiration from comic book artist Moebius and fantasy filmmaker Miyazaki, particularly the film “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,” Smith says, “I wanted to play with visceral sounds that pull one between feelings of beauty and dissonance, chaos and order.” Her favorite toy is the Buchla Music Easel, a very cool looking thing that responds to caresses. She gushes, “… nothing compares to the sound of a Buchla. In my mind a Buchla synthesizer has the most human sound in it.” Probably, the sounds remind her of childhood, which she spent on Orcas Island in northwest Washington state. If that isn’t an island populated by killer whales and other magical creatures, we don’t want to know.

||| Stream: “Arthropoda”

||| Watch: Smith demonstrates Buchla Sound Painting