“It’s about a moment, a realisation, in which I felt God, I felt like God… I remembered how powerful women are in this world, that we create life, and I felt strong”, confesses Los Angeles’ psychedelic soul musician Kadhja Bonet in an interview about recent single ‘Mother Maybe’. By incredibly playing the majority of the instrumentation on Childqueen, Bonet is playing god musically speaking on her second album. The multi-instrumentalist possesses enviable amounts of control and is a role model for aspiring artists, not just the women she rallies.
On her new release she plays the violin, drums, flute, the saxophone among other instruments, and yet like equally talented compatriot Esperanza Spalding it’s still the American’s awe-inspiring voice – which melts like silky butter from 1784 (the year she was born according to Facebook) – that is the biggest wonder to behold.
She has the kind of voice that has a high chance of being captivating even in gig soundchecks. The proof is in many moments in which she hums without lyrics including on ‘Francisco’ from her debut The Visitor and on ‘Second Wind’ and the last track simply titled ‘…’ from her new record Childqueen. The soothing beauty of her tone also works in her favour during times when her lyrics unfortunately become slightly lost and incomprehensible due to her cloudy, breezy, conjoined pronunciation. However, when they are understandable this breezy voice perfectly compliments her lyrics about limitation, feeling free and optimism, and at times takes listeners to a nostalgic paradise, an amalgamation of the surreal moments in Janelle Monae’s The Archandroid, Gene Wilder’s ‘Pure Imagination’ and Dick Valentine’s ‘Mr. Sandman.’
She starts the album with the refreshing lines: “Every morning brings a chance to renew.” The track called ‘Procession’ includes drums that sound like a military march that could along with ‘Mother Maybe’ symbolise empowerment and a call for change. Although this suggests a bold and relevant statement for modern today, many of her lyrics are fantastical about freedom. They possessing a curious romance and see Bonet take on a character’s persona. ‘Another Time Lover’, ‘Delphine’ and ‘Thoughts Around Tea’ narrate about the impermanence and limits of interpersonal relationships in an imaginative manner. While the fascinating ‘Wings’ expresses about the freedom of childhood, with Bonet being a childqueen ruling a forest of spiders and birds with observational glee.
Much of the album has a homage to elements of sophisticated and riveting 70’s past disco and soul. From the album’s sleeve, from the dramatic strings akin to The Temptations’ ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’, xylophonic bells and the soft steady bass of Donny Hathaway records. However it’s even more interesting with the inclusion of wobbly and unpredictable keyboard giving it comparisons with the future soul Hiatus Kaiyote, instrumental periods providing enthralling ear candy and the everpresent flute pulling the listeners into a fantasy world that’s timeless.
Childqueen sees Kadhja Bonet speak about freedom but also demonstrates it with her wonderful instrumental skill and effortless vocal power to take listeners to their own dreamy places. “Oh, where do you go, joy that makes us whole?”