Release Date: Oct 6, 2017
Record label: Western Vinyl Records
With each new album, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith folds more of her voice into the effervescent, kaleidoscopic electronic music she’s made since borrowing a neighbor’s Buchla 100 synthesizer as a recent Berklee graduate. The L.A.-based composer, who’s one of the few artists to rely on the rare modular system as her primary instrument, has released at least one LP a year since 2015, but her latest record The Kid stands apart as her most immediate and accessible yet. Though its narrative follows a human lifespan through four developmental stages, from newborn bewilderment to a calm acceptance of death, the album flows seamlessly from its initial burbles to its melancholy finish.
2016’s EARS saw modern composer cum-analogue synth obsessive Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith reach a new audience. Where once was music composed for geometric shapes while at the San Franciscan Conservatory (honest), now sat playful avant-pop that added a gently psychedelic edge to all them there smarts. The Kid should see that breakthrough continue, again by adding something to the mix rather than denying Smith’s experimental origins. This time Smith has taken her music further down a New Age path.
The press notes that accompany composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s latest opus bravely attempt to undermine the whole concept of ‘electronic’ music. The argument goes that, since electronics are now almost ubiquitous in the wider world of music production, the genre title has become meaningless. Of course, we name genres as a way of ordering our thoughts, in the same way that we name particular objects to avoid having to describe in great detail their form and function every time we want to discuss them with other humans. Electronica is never going to adequately illustrate the entire canon that is hurriedly arranged beneath it – it’s just something to write on plastic tags in Rough Trade..
Pastoral synthesizer landscapist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith broke out last year with Ears, an acclaimed set of Terry Riley-esque gurgles and flutters, using noise to evoke nature. On her sixth LP, The Kid, a concept album about the human life cycle, she paints an even lusher world using cosmic swoops, squelches and lots of her highly processed vocals. Sounds don't align with the rhythms, and Smith's voice is awash in alien echoes.
California-based composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith had a banner year in 2016. Both her vibrant, playful solo album Ears and her dream collaboration with new age legend Suzanne Ciani, released as part of RVNG Intl.'s FRKWYS series, received a great deal of acclaim, establishing her as a notable creator of lush, imaginative electronic music. The 2017 full-length The Kid builds on Ears' seamless fusion of synthetic and organic sounds, combining the fluid tones of her preferred instrument, the Buchla Music Easel, with other synthesizers, such as the rare EMS Synthi 100, in addition to orchestral arrangements performed by the Berlin-based contemporary ensemble Stargaze.
Electronic dance music has been gaining popularity since the dawn of the 21st century, but the 2010s have seen the style dominate the mainstream. Even though enormous festivals where producers slam bangers at hordes of giddy fans can now be found all over the world, some are already observing EDM.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s last album, 2016’s EARS, was a suite essentially about wonderment. The one before, Euclid (2015), took its inspiration from geometry. Dry summaries like those don’t really do justice to the swirls and whorls of the LA-based musician’s electro-acoustic work. Here, Smith tracks the life of a person from twinkle in the eye to autonomous being contemplating life’s end; the journey’s emotional arc is conceived as four sides of a double album.
With modular synths growing densely around her multitracked voice, this album from Pacific-coastal artist Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith becomes as lush, heady – and occasionally trying – as a rainforest. It’s an ambitious record in four parts, with each quarter representing a different emotional phase of a human lifespan. Her melodies share the courtly poise of English folksong and the psychedelic naivety of Animal Collective – they accurately evoke the blitheness of youth in the album’s first half, but also, less fortunately, its directionlessness.
While Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith first surfaced on many listeners' radars with last year's EARS, the West Coast composer and synthesist has been out there and at it for a fair while longer. Not that her breakthrough album could have been mistaken for the work of a novice — but nor was Smith hatched a fully formed musical persona. Having grown up on Orcas Island in northwestern Washington State, she crossed the country as a singer and classical guitarist to study composition and sound engineering at Berklee in Boston.