Earlier this year The Field released their latest album The Follower to a somewhat muted reaction. It wasn’t that the album wasn’t good – it’s secretly brilliant – but it follows the same pattern explored on four previous albums: ambient techno, drawing on Krautrock grooves and shoegaze textures, made from the tiniest of samples – simply, the same tricks that producer Axel Willner has deployed over the past decade. It’s a contrast to the career ascendancy of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, a US composer whose mix of synth arpeggios, warped vocals, and soft woodwinds has gained increasing levels of praise to reach a critical point with this year’s EARS, an idyllic fusion of Tangerine Dream ethereality with the alien intricacy of The Knife. The two artists are at different points in their careers, but their approaches are very similar, and so Smith’s remix of ‘Reflecting Lights’ seems a logical union.
On paper it makes sense; the actual results are inspired. Over a woozy arpeggiated loop, square bass drones and swollen kick-drums lurch around vocals that recall equally Liz Fraser and Hope Sandoval, before climaxing halfway through with a disorientating flute melody that’s not quite haunting nor dreamy. As it fades out, music-box melodies intertwine with a wistful hopefulness. It’s New Age music, coloured with a sense of dark menace, and as a snapshot of intent, it’s the perfect introduction to Smith.