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Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “The Kid” Review

One of the most experimental yet heady albums of 2017
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith

Sometimes I like something and I don’t understand why. Welcome to “The Kid” by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Kaitlyn is the kitchen sink of synth creators. Now on her second album, she throws everything at each track and straddles the line between making a song in a structured format, and making the most tuneful space drain gargle for an hour. I may not be selling this well – but it strangely works!

After a synth water gargle for “I Am A Thought”, “An Intention” brings on the album proper with Smith’s voice processed through a robotic chord vocoder, so she sounds alien but also like a robot choir. The effect is present in every song, but as this track is possibly the most typical song structure on the album, it’s this that stands out as the weirdness. A pulsing kick beat hides the warped rubber organs and metallic time shifts. It’s brooding, sci fi growling and also an electronic siren of the hard drive calling you to plug-in and unwind. “A Kid” moves us quickly into more esoteric roots with chugging light industrial percussion loops, jangling retro keyboards and 2001 Space Odyssey taking LCD in a washing machine. It’s as technology triumphant as it otherworldly and that can describe much of the album. “In The World” is almost sickly sweet with its cute organ motifs and radio phasers tuning in and out of ear shot. It then explodes into a bouncy ferris wheel of musical lights and vocal ooh’s. It’s like a fair ground ride on helium. I like it!

If you couldn’t already tell, Kaitlyn’s love for psychedelic synths is front and centre to her work, which is why the short interlude pieces like “I Am Consumed” work well to give narrative and melodic focus before diving off into another chute of madness. “In a World, but Not of the World” whilst describing much of the album in a title, is actually quite melodically simple as its core. It’s like a ticking time bomb that builds more symphonic and attacking over its course before devolving into “I Am Learning” which is a collage of vocal chops and buzzing bee lines. “To Follow and To Lead” is a wonderful track of bouncy riffs and tuned percussion. The closing section starts to cleverly merge the vocals and the synths into a co-existing which plays back to the track’s title where neither side of the music are taking charge. Instead it’s like they charge off each other and for me this is one of the albums real high points.

At times, the vocal robot choir makes things quite messy and dense to listen to. The wordy “Until I Remember” lacks a bit of its punch because the words all mumble into a wave of noise. It’s true throughout the album but here the drums are really going for it and there’s a hint of an actual dance track here but it stays firmly in abstract space synths because of the production. “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” takes nature sounds and computerises them. Synth bird song is distorted beyond its frequency and a Kate Bush Aerial like meditative hum slowly becomes more and more computerised over the track. It’s strangely hypnotic and let’s the symphonic “I Am Curious, I Care” really shift the album’s sound to something more downbeat as the space organs and vocals take centre stage for Kaitlyn’s ballad. For me, this is the other big track that brings everything that works on the album together perfectly. “I Will Make Room For You” see’s lots of orchestral instruments like the oboe, clarinet and trumpet sampled and space jammed into a wonderful collage of sound before the near Cocteau Twin’s like “To Feel your Best” closes the album quietly.

Sometimes, there’s so much going on in each track of “The Kid” I think it probably muddies the audio water too much – but it’s also so unique and inspiring at the same time. There are moments of pure synth art perfection throughout the album and those moments are worth tracking down. I would dearly love to hear Kaitlyn’s voice a little less layered in places though so I could hear all the art going on.

Recommended Track : An Intention

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