Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith The Mosaic of Transformation Ghostly International
Few artists can build immersive sonic worlds quite like Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. The self-described “modular synth sound sculptress and orchestral composer” crafts music that engages with the listener on a level which transcends headphones, soundwaves and synapses, guiding us to discover new intricacies with each play. A case can be made that her astonishing 2016 album Ears is synesthesia made manifest; one can actually feel the moisture emanating out of a track like Wetlands or see the alien flora and fauna rustling within Anthropoda.
Disappointingly, Smith’s new LP The Mosaic of Transformation is a far cry from the lush uncanny valley of Ears or even its 2017 follow up, The Kid. While it continues to convey her mastery of composition, Mosaic ultimately comes across as being derivative of her earlier work, to a fault.
This may be due to an elaborate conceptual process that fails to translate into the finished product. Based on Smith’s “expression of love and appreciation for electricity,” the album is an experiment in cymatics, “a reference for how frequencies can be visualised”. It meant that Smith’s writing process stemmed from a daily routine of physical movements, a visual language of vibrational exercise which she reinterpreted as music. Perhaps this is the logical next-step following her 2019 work Tides: Music for Meditation and Yoga (a project whose origins lie in wanting to provide a soundtrack to her mother’s yoga classes), but the complexity and care with which Mosaic was written amounts to very little when the mechanics of its creation are more interesting than anything it engendered.
Much like the album’s title, the music on Mosaic presents itself as an awe-inspiring interdimensional trip without doing any of the work to actually get you there. At certain points it comes close, particularly on the instrumental tracks. Carrying Gravity is a thing of ethereal beauty, while the 30-second long Overflowing cuts right to the feels with a depth that belies its runtime. But these nuanced moments of stillness are overshadowed by plodding melodies and high-minded lyrics which are less Neil deGrasse Tyson and more acid dealer at Burning Man.
There is also a heavy implementation of more traditional-sounding instruments which is at odds with the rest of the record’s sound. The strings that appear on Remembering and the evocation of a brass section on The Steady Heart are jarring, a rude awakening from the delightful synthetic stupor their respective songs lull you into. Even the grand finale of Expanding Electricity has its power thwarted by similarly incongruous elements – not to mention its more than passing resemblance to Ears’ majestic closing track Existence in the Unfurling, all but ensuring an unfavourable comparison to Smith’s earlier work.
Much like the last shrivelled tab of acid we might procure from our guy at Burning Man, The Mosaic of Transformation will get you mildly high, but it’s likely you’ll be more affected by the memories it conjures of great trips of the past.