It's rare to find an album that has the listener almost lost for words. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's immensely creative, recent philosophical song collection in The Kid is definitely one of these incredibly special documents. As well as having a playful emphasis, there is something deep, and remarkably profound about Kaitlyn's work; detailed intricacies reveal themselves upon attentive listening. Even upon further listening now, something that strikes me as brilliant about The Kid is not just Kaitlyn's inventive idea of documenting or recording specific parts of the human life cycle, but the significance of the undocumented journey in-between. These moments reverberate in exquisite cohesion, and extreme fluidity throughout the album, yet are also somehow reflected as a mirror, as Kaitlyn soaks up and relives the experiences away from the songs.
The more we listen to the existential release, the more we can muse and think. We can try to grasp the importance of learning, and growth in life. Phenomenally, just like a person, the more we interact with it, the more it reveals about itself. Explaining more about the concept, Kaitlyn chronicles four defining cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan.
"It’s a journey from birth to death. It’s all about the day-to-day things as we get older that pull us away from our playful energy, and just trying to hold on to that through it. Inspired by the four stages of life; almost every religion speaks about it. I was drawn towards eastern philosophies, with a cyclical life cycle. It’s not necessarily what I follow, but I just found it fascinating. It's something, I’ve been interested in it my whole life." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself, existing in an unwitting cosmos or nirvana. Musically, this chapter feels primordial, and instinctive. There's an intuitive nature to Kaitlyn's wielding of the Buchla modular synth.
“I am a thought” is the beginning of the life cycle, where you’re not yet in a material form. If you’re coming from an eastern cyclical philosophy, you’re in this creative astral plane. You’re just energy at this point. “I am a thought” is about your higher self; put into creation. Putting an intention into what you’re there for, what you’re purpose is, and what you’re there to learn." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The emotional focus of side two is vital, yet momentously underreported. Side two captures the moment in early youth where we cross the threshold into self-awareness. "In The World But Not Of The World” serves this subject well with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly rumbling, noisy textures over a what feels reminiscent of a joyous and fun indian tabla, driving the low end pulse.
Side three of The Kid is about the feeling of being confident enough in personal identity to give back to the formative forces in an upbringing. This side ends with the exploratory album cut “Who I Am & Why I Am Where I Am” recorded in a single take without overdubs. Side three, seems to be gracious, humble and sincere. The sound design serves as a contrast to side four.
This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. Lyrically emphasised eloquently in "To Feel Your Best" a bittersweet notion towards both loss, and celebration of life. This side features verdant and increasingly elaborate orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Kaitlyn.
EARMILK are certainly not the only people that are enjoying Kaitlyn's latest album. Exciting remix trades from rad friends Four Tet and Joe Goddard (who she met in a nerdy modular synth group) have surfaced. The modular sounds Kaitlyn creates on her Buchla 100 modular synth sound like real wildlife, and animals which is amazing. There’s so many wires, coming out of the synth during her live set it looks like she's programming a live machine hive mind of it’s own. Kaitlyn's eclectic sound across her albums, connect complex and intricate features with lighter moments of awe, and wonder, often associated with the joy of witnessing life in the world. I wanted to know if this was something that Kaitlyn tried to emulate in her music; trying to capture that feeling as though she is in nature (even when she isn't).
"I spend a lot of time in nature, as I grew up in it and I love it. I also camp a lot, hike every day, and do a lot of trail running. Actually, I prefer that soundtrack to music actually a lot of the time. That’s mostly what I’m listening to, just meditating in nature and listening to the sounds around me. I think my subconscious is constantly focussed on nature so it just naturally comes out. When I’m not making music, I’m outdoors. I think its just embedded within me." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Upon speaking to her, it sounds like she has a sum of contemplative experience to draw upon from so much listening. Something that we would all love to be able to do. For someone that grew up on Orcas Island, perhaps this tranquility could also be reached in composing by taking a lot of field recordings outdoors? However, Kaitlyn prefers to spend her time listening to, and processing nature organically, and introspectively. In fact, Kaitlyn's music doesn't contain any samples. All sounds and instruments on the album were engineered solely by Kaitlyn from the ground up. Spacious mixes interpret visually as 3d environmental landscapes, all containing their own fascinating micro worlds.
"My hope is to always be gathering more experiences, that’s what I feel like is my main ingredient for my creativity, because I’m a very experiential learner. I just constantly want to find new experiences, try new things, and keep learning. Recently, I’ve actually got into plugging my ears, and listening to the sound of my blood flowing." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
It would be interesting to hear through someone else’s ears, and see what they take from it. For example there's a presence of classical music in The Kid, but it doesn’t “feel” classical. Moreover, I was curious what she was listening to at the time of writing the album. There's a wealth of hidden hints and musical cultures in The Kid.
"I tend not to listen to a whole lot of music when I’m making music. I have a NTS show where I share music that I’m inspired by, and I like. You can hear a lot of the things I was listening to on that. Otherwise, I just spend a lot of time listening to nature, just going outside and sitting and listening. I listen to such a variety of music, but not one musician in particular whilst I was writing." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Kaitlyn is highly prolific in her writing, and recent album The Kid follows the critically acclaimed EARS and Euclid. The Kid is a definite album of the year for EARMILK and a phenomenal body of work. Purchase and support The Kid on vinyl in the UK here or in the US from Western Vinyl here. The album in concept is completely unique. Although, given Kaitlyn's interest in eastern philosophy from a young age, I wanted to understand why, now. What was it at this point that made her feel she wanted to express this idea? Was it, “I want other people to hear this in their own way?”
"I would say that’s exactly what inspired me. You know when you get a strong intuitive impulse of “that’s what I want to share,” so it was exactly that feeling, a very strong internal feeling of this is interesting to me, and I want to share it with people. Everyone hears so differently, it’s hard to know what someone else is going to hear from something." - Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith