Last month, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith performed in New York as part of the Joshua Light Show. It dates back to the '60s heyday of psychedelic rock, utilizing an array of film projectors, color wheels, watercolors, glass crystals and more, creating organic patterns that constantly morph. It might seem an odd pairing, a 50 year-old light show and a relative newcomer like Smith, but that night of amoebic music and liquid light was exquisitely transportive. There's something about her sound that reaches forward while also hearkening back to the dawn of electronic music.
The Kid feels at once like a statement from a bygone era and a transmission from a distant star. Thanks to her trusty Buchla, Smith's lineage is clear: Suzanne Ciani, Terry Riley, Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros, to name a few. That she also cites the likes of British naturalist David Attenborough and Zen philosopher Alan Watts as inspirations, and says that one of The Kid's themes is the cycle of birth, life, realization and death, makes it seem like the LP could have been at home on turntables in the late '60s. The gentle, twinkling airs of "In The World" and "I Am Consumed" suggest the early Moog explorations of Wendy Carlos circa Switched-On Bach and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer.
But while she might nod to her ancestors, Smith also moves into strange new realms. The churning, slipping metallic rhythms of "A Kid" and the fizzing electronics of "In The World, But Not Of The World" suggest what Autechre's programming might do in a pop context. And while perhaps not as immediately gripping as its immersive predecessor, EARS, The Kid reveals a depth of craft and a pivot by Smith towards trusting her own voice as she explores song structures. The opening gurgles and chirps of the Buchla Sound Easel create a 3D jungle environment on "I Am A Thought," as if a continuation from the previous album's dense foliage. But Smith's voice soon emerges on "An Intention," and is soon treated to the point where it lands somewhere between The Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson and an alien tribunal, ungendered and unearthly.
Odd as that might sound, Smith's voice soon becomes a warm presence on the record. There are effervescent moments to be found within, the brightest in her catalog to date. "To Follow And Lead" has a rhythm like reeds clacking together and a synth as light as an African disco track's, Smith's voice floating atop it all. And album standout "Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am" shows Smith stepping away from her Buchla, conjuring a nature scene on an EMS Synthi 100 instead. Blipping birds and frog frequencies warble, an incessant arpeggio ripples like a creek, Smith shaping it all into an electronic ecosystem.
When "To Feel Your Best" draws the album to a close, it feels like a journey has been made, a destination reached. Smith's voice flutters before assuming its final shape. "I'm gonna wake up one day and you won't be there," she sings, bittersweet yet reconciled to the cycles that make up life. While it's called The Kid, the LP shows Smith has matured as an artist.
Tracklist01. I Am A Thought
02. An Intention
03. A Kid
04. In The World
05. I Am Consumed
06. In The World, But Not Of The World
07. I Am Learning
08. To Follow & Lead
09. Until I Remember
10. Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am
11. I Am Curious, I Care
12. I Will Make Room For You
13. To Feel Your Best