From its outset, there’s a wide-eyedness, a sense of genuine wonder, to this record. It’s not that Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith sounds especially naïve or innocent here – constructions as lush and inventive as these tracks are the exclusive product of particular combination of painstaking detail, technical mastery and an exceptional clarity of vision – but each idea on display is presented with a certain joy of discovery that is rarely heard in the field of experimental electronic music in 2017. Each fluttering pad exudes a beguiling humanity, each lead line skips and shimmies along its timbral tightrope with a childlike lightness. It’s difficult to capture the glee of invention with such eloquence, but on ‘The Kid’, Smith has managed to do so with real panache.
Not that this album is restricted to a single emotional dimension; the mood of the record (which is far better understood in its entirety than on a track-by-track basis) does shift and twist beneath Smith’s dense, layered harmonic foliage, but it does so with such subtlety and gentleness that it can take a little while to register.
However, it’s the emotional fluctuations that cement the record’s prevailing, exhilarating effect on the listener: the contrast between light and shade on ‘The Kid’ is hardly dramatic, but its effect is crucial. Yet at several points, I was left wishing Smith would just push that contrast slightly further; for the most part, the album’s giddy invention is engaging enough, but just occasionally it can become a little soporific, said inventions largely erring on the side of restraint rather than confrontation. Perhaps it’s the latent metalhead in me, but to these ears ‘The Kid’ slightly lacks the boldness necessary to be a truly loveable album. It’s charming, yes, and highly admirable from a cerebral perspective, but a little more abandon wouldn’t have gone amiss.