20 Best Avant Albums of 2016

The year's best in ambient, noise, out-jazz, synth music, contemporary composition and more

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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, 'Ears'
20
12/20

12. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, 'Ears'

On this expressive suite of Technicolor bubbles, a slew of consonant harmonies, clashing rhythms and voice-modulated alien melodies combine into twinkling, burbling beauty. Using the Buchla Music Easel (with accents from the pastoral worlds of classical guitar, piano and freak-folk), Los Angeles–based Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith wrangles flute-like twinkles and sax-like honks into a bubbling stew of slurps and buzzes. Her unique vision collates the electronic gurgle of Terry Riley's A Rainbow in Curved Air, the atmospheric melodies of Sixties British folk, the deep impassioned drones found in the private press New Age revival and the pop-experimental edge of occasional collaborator Suzanne Ciani. Disorienting and gorgeous.

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