On her enchanting new double-album The Kid, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith delivers a sprawling coming-of-age story, each of its four sides covering a distinct stage in cognitive-emotional development: innocence and confusion, becoming self-aware, forging identity and reaching wisdom and peace in old age. The Kid is an exercise in abstract reflection, so instead of the minutiae surrounding the event milestones of youth, Smith illustrates an existential reckoning with an atmospheric quadriptych.
As Smith's Kid progresses, the compositions take on an enhanced sense of clarity and sophistication. It belongs to the same impulse to immerse listeners in the bucolic modular synth simulations of the natural world that propelled Smith's last three albums, but it also picks up where 2016's EARS left off — resuming Smith's more prominent use of vocals and acoustic accompaniment, processed and otherwise — and runs with it.
After "I Am a Thought" provides a buzzing, overwhelming panorama at the top, busy, bubbling polyrhythms propel listeners forward on "In the World." On side two, Smith delivers some of her most compelling vocal work yet on "In the World But Not of the World." The album's centre brings its most kinetic headspace, but Smith hits pause on "Who I Am and Why I Am Where I Am"; apparently recorded in one take sans overdubs on an EMS Synthi 100, it's a humble interlude full of fauna but with enough room to breathe and exist in the environment Smith's sculpted.
On the final side, synthesizers, bassoon, cello, clarinet, flute, trumpet and voice are all at their most cosmic, Smith's composition training shining through in her arrangements for the Berlin-based Stargaze Quartet. There are sublime bursts of baroque orchestration on "I Am Curious, I Care" and "I Will Make Room For You."
Emotionally tactile and blossoming with feeling, The Kid is a stunning record that demands attention, absorption and meditation, two LPs rich with wisdom. (Western Vinyl)