Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Emile Mosseri - I Could Be Your Dog (Prequel) (Ghostly International, 2021)
When two composers who have enormous respect for one another come together to collaborate, the results will always be something special, and that is exactly what has occurred on this stunning new album from Smith and Mosseri.
Synergies persist throughout the enriching lexicon of music, and have always been a way of drawing power from two worlds of thought and bringing them together in the most exciting of ways. Finding a balance between what each party brings to the table is key in crafting something which has a little bit of each woven into it, but at the same time the scope and scale of the music being created speaks of a larger and perhaps more mystifying presence. Its the space that begins to form when the two spheres interact at the fringes, their shared beliefs beginning to expand and converge with one another as ideas become passages, initial concepts become fleshed out organisms, and the narratives become fuelled by passion and forward thinkingness. The manner in which the two minds work off one another becomes a key aspect of the momentum, driving the music to reach heights that perhaps could only be reached if you give a little, take a little, and share an awful lot. For a number of producers, collaborating with others helps to provide new perspective not just within their own works but as a means of seeing their music set within a wider context, perhaps even seeing it within differing audial or genre related spheres. Its a wonderful thing to witness and revel within, a world that has formed off the back of two cosmological tangents combining and worming their way through the varying layers beneath us to arrive into a space somewhere beyond the clouds, and all we can do is accept the outstretched hand and step inside. The frequencies respond, talking to one another like reflective thoughts which mirror the aspirations of a shared mindset, eagerly finding ways to natter away in our ears and burrow deep into our neurones. Collaborations are interesting things, and they always throw up interesting results, but what always comes across so strong is the notion that the people behind the link up are deeply entrenched in one another's aspirations, themes and feelings. And as always, we simply sit back and enjoy what flows out of the seams.
All these feels - and more - characterise the first of hopefully many collaboration albums between Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Emile Mosseri, who's adoration for one anothers work has resulted in a brand new biome being added to both of their deeply fascinating worlds. There are some collaborations that come out of the leftfield, and there are some which seem to happen so organically, such is the similarities between sonics being displayed within certain discographies, and this is exactly the notion that occurs within both Smith's and Mosseri's works, with their music both sharing similar yet differing tonal and textural motifs. Smith has been composing music for a few years now, with her sound characterised by sombre yet flavourful melodies that chime along to the rhythms of life, the land and the invisible energies that persist within and around us. There's a delicateness to her music that allows for lead lines to hold their own as spatial elements meander all around, providing a sense of depth to proceedings that ensures repeat listens always create new feelings and angles into the equation. Mosseri said that he sees Smith as a 'conductor, summoning musical poetry from her orchestra of machines', and this eloquent statement is one which we can firmly get behind. There is a certain audial language to her work, and as you move through her records the overarching approach appears to remain in situ, but the usage of hardware certainly shifts from one emphasis to the next, and this means the conversations that occur within the tunes always have something fresh to say. From her works, there is plenty to highlight, with our favourites including her two 2012 releases, 'Useful Trees' and 'Cows Will Still Eat Weeds', which remain some of her most delicate and reflective works; the texturally and rhythmically excellent 'Euclid', which landed in 2015; the wonderfully eclectic but deeply focused 'EARS', which arrived in 2016; the expressive and melodically expressive 'The Kid', which arrived in 2017; and finally, the wondrous mirage of sounds that spews forth from 'The Mosaic of Transformation', which landed last year.
On the flip of this collab, we have the composer Emile Mosseri, who has really made waves with his excellent soundtrack work, which evokes mood and emotion even if you haven't watched the movies the tracks accompany. Mosseri has always been involved in music, forming a number of bands in his teen years before becoming inspired immensely by soundtrack music, which led to him studying Film Scoring at Berklee. The Dig, a band he formed with childhood friends, have also been a significant outlet throughout his career, with Mosseri recording a number of albums with them during the 2010s, which has now been reformed as Human Love. He has also performed on a number of records for acts such as Ron Pope, Kendra Morris, El Ten Eleven and Blue Canopy, all of which hints at his dexterity and ability to adapt to differing musical contexts. His first forays into soundtrack composing came via Terence Nance's TV series 'Random Acts of Flyness', and during this move to the west cost he became involved in soundtracking the acclaimed 2019 movie 'The Last Black Man in San Fransisco', which was Mosseri's first film soundtrack. Mosseri thematically constructed the music, working around the notion of the main character being a prince who is reclaiming his throne, with the music reflecting the struggle and the triumph. Dialogue was utilised as a tool for the music to be constructed around, with Mosseri spending a lot of time thinking about how the words would land around the notes. It was this movie that inspired Smith to get in touch with Mosseri, who said that she loved 'Emile's ability to create melodies that feel magically scenic and familiar like they are reminding you of the innocence of loving life', and that is something beautiful indeed. Other soundtracks of his to check out include 2020's Kajillionaire and Minari, with the latter seeing Mosseri nominated for an Academy Award for best score (!).
So, with all that in mind, the stage is set for the duo's first collaborative effort, 'I Could Be Your Dog (Prequel)', the first part of a two part release which arrives courtesy of Ghostly International. The respect between the two forms the basis of a wonderful merger of sonics, styles and textures, with the two sharing sketches and bouncing melodies and sequences off one another of which would form the basis of this wonderful piece of music. Having explored a little bit of what makes these two individually tick, you start to see a beautiful picture formulate within their shared audial space, with delicate rhythms, harmonies and melodies piecing themselves together within short but utterly compelling pieces of music. The atmosphere is loose and vivid, painting scenes of warm rooms, long vistas and infatuating skylines, of emotions we have for one another or the ideal of not knowing who we might meet in the next life or this one. The ways in which the vocals and the instrumentation weave and bob along is simply gorgeous, as we feel compelled to visit time and time again into this idyllic spatial environment. Musically effortlessly, conceptually intriguing, and texturally enriching, this truly is a record made through collaboration, and its a meet up that will leave you feeling so very good. So, on that note, lets dive into this incredible piece of music, and discover all the things it has lying in wait for us....
The album opens up with ‘Log In Your Fire’, and the immediate textural application of the notes and hums really does feel like sparks within a smouldering fireplace. The keys and chords swell and flicker like kindling, as the air blows from underneath to help the flames flow higher and higher, with the apex of this growth coming in the form of the vocal lines that scatter themselves across the top ends. The track reaches its ultimate climax when everything drops out to leave us with the line ‘I want to be the log in your fire/again and again and again’, and its these words that echo through us and deep into our consciousness, merging and converging with our own feelings about those who we love and adore. The track moves back into its original structure for a bit longer afterwards, before the snares and kicks come into view to really carry the experience into the next phase of being. A log on your fire, to bur forevermore - a beautiful analogy indeed. ‘Moon In Your Eye’ comes next, and this one begins within a similar sounding space to the previous one. The various layers that combine within the swells are beautiful to the ears and warm to the touch, feeling their way through the most sombre of environments - the home, the get away, the quiet, the moon kissed sky. The pool of sounds captures that gleam in the night sky that combines the stars and all that we perceive space and time to be, and in one moment we feel small, and human. The emotions that bind us in are unbelievable, its hard to quantify and place into words, but you know what we mean when you hear it. ‘Brush’ comes next, and this one begins in similar overlapping Territories. The arpeggio synth lines give the undercurrent a real kick, with a series of layering pads merging between in the spaces, much like paint blends and submerges itself on a palette, and after a more solid opening the track begins to fan out, as if water has been added and the paint is allowed to run down a piece of paper and into the world beyond, conveying a spectrum of mood, tone and feel. Wonderful stuff.
Up next comes the title track, and as always the melodic outlay is immediate, expressive and deeply profound. This time the keys and vocals work alongside one another to craft this expansive sea that drives from place to place, and this sequence continues very much onwards as the lead vocals come into view. The contrast between the two is vast, but the way they are delivered and blended makes for a wonderful listening experience indeed, as the lead vocal line in particular spends a lot of time meandering between the frequencies. Its a joy to behold, and as time passes by the progression begins to melt ever so slightly, its poise and form descending into a pool of quiet flickers and eerie cries. Wonderful stuff. ‘Glendora’ comes next, and this one begins with the key line to get things going. This element clearly knows how to bring other features into the mix, as the vocal line comes right to the surface upon this initial flurry, with bird like chatter emerging on the right hand side of the pan to great effect. The movement found in this track is utterly sublime, with the flow from one stanza to the next a sight to behold as we are greeted with a totality for the senses. Everything is appealed to, from the eyes to the ears, its all there, present and accounted for. ‘Blink Twice’ arrives soon after, and this one has a greater sense of energy to it. The arpeggios come thick and fast, almost clambering over one another to make their presence known, as we find ourselves swimming within a sea of tranquility that is characterised by textural flourishes and quietly evolving melodics, and as the vocals begin to take us further away into the deeps we can only take a step back and marvel at what this record has achieved sonically. And there’s still one more track to go, in the form of ‘Moonweed’, and this one starts things off in the most gentle of ways imaginable. The various elements found within speak and whisper to one another, their gentle caress growing in volume as time passes by, with our eyes firmly placed in the middle of the pan as varying flickers and blemishes merge and slide around on the parameters. The piano laden key lines push through as the strong melodic lead on this one, with their ever present meander keeping our eyes firmly fixed on the unravelling serenity. The rest of the melodies seem content to move in and around the pulse, their scale and presence always sliding from left to right, enveloping the listener in a glorious embrace that symbolises all that we perceive to be good. Its a fitting end to a record filled to the brim with excellence regarding progression, momentum and audial diversity, as keys vocals and drums all meet up together at the most beautiful confluence imaginable, as we leave the experience behind with so much more left to understand and seek out.
Collabs create new spaces, collabs create new identities, collabs create realms for us to dwell deep within, and all of this does much to push things forward and help us find new ways of understanding and seeing music. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Emile Mosseri have both had deeply interesting careers up to this point, with both showcasing musical dexterity, diversity and ability, with their music always emphasising melody and its emotive qualities. This link up feels so organic, helped of course by the profound respect that persists between the two, and this certainly feeds into the creation of a convincing and intriguing sound. The experience we pass through is truly wonderful, with plenty of emphasis placed on the layers, textures and spaces, as vocal lines weave along with light synths and the quietest of drumming patterns, all the while we remain captivated by the moods being conveyed. Atmospherically significant, there's a lot of love and care that exudes from every corner of each track, its feel and flow moving along to a rhythm that feels very much part Smith, part Mosseri. Collabs are very much about giving a little, and taking a little, and it feels like these two have placed the very best aspects of their work together and infused it within a new sphere, and its simply brilliant. One of our favourites from this year, for sure.
Support the troops: