Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is a new voice in music, and by this we mean not only that she is a new artist, but that her music sounds fresh as well. As with every type of innovation, it’s a combination of old and new, the old being Euclidean geometry (approximately 300 B.C.) and a Buchla Music Easel, (produced from 1972-73), the new being a modern sensibility and curiosity-filled approach. More than anything, the tone of Euclid sets it apart, as the music produces a sense of wonder and joy. This is never more apparent than on lead single “Sundry,” but it’s apparent throughout the set.
The album is divided almost equally into two parts. The first six tracks are based on Euclidean principles, while the last twelve were composed as scores to old silent films. These latter pieces, like those on Smith’s 2014 album Tides, bear a single title (Labyrinths) and are divided into mini-movements. In these works, some under a minute, one hears the artist experimenting with different settings and patterns. She’s clearly having fun. These pieces often come across as simple sketches, but a twinkly setting, first apparent in “Labyrinth I”, evokes sleigh rides and winter joy. It’s easy to sit back and allow the tracks to tumble into each other like children down a snowy hill. While no beats are present, one can imagine effective remixes of the popcorn-esque “III”, “V’ and “VII”.
The first six tracks are more fully realized, often accompanied by Smith’s wordless vox. “Careen” includes those twinkly noises again, along with a patch of drums and flute-like tones. It’s hard to imagine such a song being inspired by mathematics, as it seems so warm and inviting; perhaps some of us simply had uninspiring math teachers. “Wide Awake” sounds like gently clomping horses, “Stunts” like a vintage Atari game. And then of course there’s “Sundry”, sounding like caffeinated sunflowers dancing beneath a smiling watercolor sun. It’s almost enough to make one go back to school, or at least to Google Euclid. What would he make of all this? Knowing human nature, he’d likely be honored to learn that his principles were still being used in new ways millennia after his death. (Richard Allen)