Electronic music has redefined the modern listening experience— its ideal of sonic perfection has caused us to expect nothing short of precision in regards to both production and absolute symmetry regarding composition. This immaculacy can remove what allows a lot of people to internalize a piece: the human element. As imperfect beings, recognizing slight flaws, whether it be timing errors, pitchy vocals, or even just minute scratches, allows us to feel comfortable with the music we’re processing. In a way, we propel ourselves into the world of each respective song we encounter. This dichotomy between electronic music’s expectations and the familiarity that persists within human-centric composition is dissolved, however, in LA based Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s latest LP The Kid.
Although an electronic record, The Kid does an excellent job showcasing Smith’s capabilities regarding stylistic diversity. Depicting four constantly evolving stages of a life cycle, beginning with the purity of birth and ceasing with the passing on thereafter, Smith transports her listeners to a different world. This world, as opposed to the heavily processed, overly sci-fi inspired images brought to life by the majority of electronic producers, represents itself as organic, earthy, and full of life. In contrast to the barren, isolated worlds surrounding the aesthetic of electronica, Smith paints a thriving, diverse ecosystem, providing a delicately immersive listening experience. The distinctly warm, open-field-esque style of production is enchanting. It lets us know that although things come into and out of existence, there is life everywhere we look; all we have to do is pay attention.
The Kid kicks off with the ethereal “I Am a Thought” in which Smith tactfully teases us with the lead, vocal-esque synth’s seeming hesitation to resolve. Combined with the analog spurts beneath sonically personifying sparks, Smith constructs the beginning of the four part-cycle, symbolizing the emergence of existence. A few tracks later, “A Kid” give us something a bit more mystical— with what sounds like magnetic puddles being controlled by the icy, barren beat that give it structure, we are taken in many different directions that are somehow all pleasant to follow. The vibe of the track reminded me of the essence of puberty— there are several disparate elements all pulling me in a different direction and making me choose which path to follow. Avoided, however, was the frustration. The bouncing synth line in “I Will Make Room for You” transported me yet again to Smith’s natural Twin-Earth world, giving me the sensation of jumping from lily pad to lily pad. The abrupt low-pass filter which envelops the atmosphere made me feel like I missed a pad, fell into the water, and was pulled back up by the vocals, allowing me to re-emerge onto the surface.
After a few listens, I noticed that bass is rather sparse on this record, which, although an oddity in our day and age of production, typifies Aurelia’s minimalist approach. Recognizing there is beauty in subtly, Smith allows the low-end to surreptitiously creep in when there is space to fill. She constructs her tracks masterfully, giving purpose to each part. Her compositional education from Berklee along with her talent as an artist dissuades her from adding parts merely to add parts. Each track is given what is needed to come to life however is also given room to breath.
I was expecting the last fourth of the album to take a darker turn given the album’s concept. To my surprise, the tonality regarding the end of the life-cycle perpetuates acceptance in place of existential angst. For example, in the closing track titled “To Feel Your Best” which, in my opinion, is the strong piece on the record, the overlying vocal of “I’m gonna wake up one day and you won’t be there” is delivered as more celebratory than mournful— more appreciative than apprehensive. From start to finish, The Kid maintains a blissfully optimistic mood despite its heavy subject material.