Skylight is the debut album from Kid Smpl, and that’s “simple,” not to be confused with “sample” or anything else you might be thinking of. Smpl actually started out as Kid Simple, but cut out the superfluous vowels. This is Joey Butler, a young producer from Seattle making the kind of music you might be thinking a young producer from Seattle would make.
Skylight is a dozen songs built on a foundation of soft, vague, ambient synthesizer melodies gradually warming up like a radiating space heater inside your headphones. Bursts of heavily distorted vocal samples twist rhythmically through many of the tracks. Sometimes, but not always, elements of percussion lace a sense of time into the music, often using little more than a high-hat and a snare. This is the record you listen to before bed time to calm yourself down.
The music of Skylight itself is well done, soothing and engaging, but it is not for the impatient listener. The songs are generally repetitive and don’t seem to develop so much as they settle into tones and emphasize themselves. Many tracks have an almost identical palette. Some would say they all sound the same, and that may be somewhat true. What makes this interesting, however is the way these mostly similar tracks are presented.
Every one of Smpl’s songs on Skylight has its own unique feel despite the mantra-like repetition that seems to pervade them so much, and they seem to change their intensity in ebbs and flows throughout the record. As each subsequent track becomes stronger, louder, and more bold throughout the album, the whole thing starts to feel like one long symphony broken up into movements. It’s a strange and impressive effect, but it may be lost on those who lose interest before things get interesting.
This is a record made for sitting still, and one that fits in nicely with the values of some of the great classics of ambient and minimalist music. Kid Smpl’s music here is not dramatic or spirited, it’s subdued, serene, and sometimes practically grey. Like taking a walk in the autumn rain, Skylight will either fill you with calm and placidity or make you want to skip to the end and stay dry.