Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is a classically-trained American composer, performer, and producer from the Pacific Northwest. Her music is a form of auditory interpretation, powered by curiosity and her toolkit of modular, analogue, and rare synthesizers (including her signature Buchla), orchestral textures, and voice. Since her first self-releases in 2012, she has explored the endless possibilities of electronic instruments and the relationship between sound, shape, color, body movement, and expression. Spanning releases on Western Vinyl, RVNG Intl., Ghostly International, and her own multidisciplinary project, Touchtheplants, her work has drawn acclaim from all reaches of the experimental music world, including NPR, The New York Times, The Wire, and Rolling Stone. The latter named Smith’s 2017 LP The Kid their avant-garde album of the year. Her collaborations include projects with Danny Elfman, Emile Mosseri, Suzanne Ciani, and commissions for Apple, BBC Orchestra, Epcot Center, Google, and others. With Let’s Turn It Into Sound, her latest album on Ghostly, Smith moves through vibrant avant-pop and neoclassical songcraft, expressing a feeling that words alone cannot.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s formative years were spent communing with nature in Puget Sound, in the northwest region of Washington state. Smith left to attend Berklee College of Music, where she studied composition and sound engineering, initially focusing on her voice before switching to classical guitar and piano. She employed the skills she refined in college in her indie-folk project Ever Isles, but a fateful encounter with a neighbor who lent her a Buchla 100 synthesizer had a profound effect on her. She explains, “I got so distracted and enamored with the process of making sounds with it that I moved into an entirely new direction musically.”
In 2012, Smith began uploading various experiments and improvisations to Bandcamp. When recording the projects Cows will eat the weeds and Useful Trees, she set an intention to create one piece per day with her Buchla, guitar, piano, and voice on a 4-track. In 2013, she recorded Tides: Music for Meditation and Yoga, a collection of instrumentals commissioned by Smith’s mother to accompany her yoga practice. The album was given a vinyl release in 2019 via Touchtheplants, Smith’s publishing imprint for projects including her instrumental Electronic Series, various artist compilations, and pocket-sized poetry books on the practice of listening and hearing.
In 2015, Smith signed to Western Vinyl and released her first official album, Euclid, a playful and wide-eyed album that spurred from her experiments in writing music for geometric shapes while at the San Francisco Conservatory. Reviewing the album, Pitchfork likened the sound to Laurie Spiegel, High Places, and The Knife, noting, “a range that encompasses something approaching song structure and a form of ambient drift that nimbly floats up into the stratosphere.” The following year, Smith released EARS, a wonderstruck psychedelic breakthrough that expanded her palette of bubbling textures. Met with further acclaim, EARS landed on various year-end lists including Pitchfork, NPR, and Resident Advisor.
Smith continued her watershed 2016 with Sunergy, a collaborative album with longtime influence Suzanne Ciani released on RVNG Intl., and teamed up with Mark Pritchard for Absolut’s remix series, toured with Animal Collective, and soundtracked Google’s virtual tour series The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks. Throughout this time she also established herself in film and television scoring, with composer credits including Reggie Watts’ short film Brasilia: City of the Future and Miguel Arteta’s comedy Duck Butter, and music usage in Comedy Central’s Broad City and the Netflix series Disjointed.
In 2017 Kaitlyn acquired her Peluso 22 251, which she used to record all of the vocal pieces for her album The Kid
The Kid saw release in 2017 to widespread praise, earning spots in year-end lists by NME, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and many others. The sprawling set is a sonic representation of four distinct stages of the human lifespan, from birth to self-awareness to the forging of one’s individual identity to old age and death. To support the album, she performed 170 shows throughout Australia, North America, Canada, South America, and Europe, including dates with Dan Deacon, Four Tet, and Tortoise, at venues such as The Hollywood Bowl, The Barbican, MoMA NYC, and the San Francisco Symphony. Her resume as a remixer also grew with notable reworks for the likes of Max Richtor, King Gizzard, Patti Smith, Danny Elfman, The Field, Perfume Genius, and Anoushka Shankar.
In 2020, Smith signed to Ghostly International to release The Mosaic of Transformation, an expression of love and appreciation for electricity. She partnered with the Calm app to preview the album, which presents a visual language she discovered through movement, the human body’s interpretation of frequencies, akin to a mosaic. Clash Magazine wrote, “she’s at the point where the tools at her disposal now fully reflect her, as opposed to the other way around.” Shortly after the release, in the early days of the pandemic, Smith and Oscar/GRAMMY-nominated composer Emile Mosseri started working on music together over email. Trading files back and forth, they arrived at I Could Be Your Dog (Prequel), a soft-focus dream world built from synthesizer, piano, electronics, and voice. A celebration of the human spirit, the music “blurred the lines between ethereal synth work and percussive neo-psych,” per Bandcamp. The duo resumed sessions for I Could Be Your Moon (Sequel), which completed the 2-part project, released together with the prequel as a full-length LP on Ghostly in spring 2022. This collaboration saw some tasteful placements in Dior’s runway show and Louis Vuitton’s , Yayoi Kusama ad campaign.
Just months later, Smith returned with Let’s Turn It Into Sound, her most ambitious, intuitive, and inviting solo work to date. Musically, she deploys unexpected, non-linear pop structures and a new vocal processing technique to embody different characters of the self. The record’s visuals, created with longtime collaborator Sean Hellfritsch using a motion-capture suit, further interpret these signals from the subconscious and their relationship to the body. Other ventures in 2022 include working with Tyler Bates on the score for the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction at the Epcot Theme Park in Walt Disney World Florida. She also contributed to the soundtrack for the Lee Alexander Mcqueen: Mind Mythos Muse exhibition at LACMA as well as an original composition to the new Dungeons & Dragons compilation SPELLJAMS, and the score to Jordan Speer’s animated short film Sunbelly originally aired inside Toonami / Adult Swim. Currently scoring “Omni Loop” directed by Bernardo Britto (Los Espookys).