Published Jun 05, 2018There is a grandiose yet ethereal feeling to Kadhja Bonet's work. She first emerged out of L.A. with her 2016 EP The Visitor, a startlingly beautiful collection that led her to open for the likes of Mitski. Bonet stands apart from other artists, in that she has woven a mystical backstory for herself, reveals little personal information, and limits her promotional efforts — she couldn't care less what we think.
Childqueen presents Bonet's journey as an individual who "[doesn't] like calling [herself] an artist." "I don't like calling myself a singer — or even a musician," the album's accompanying press release states. Yet Bonet has composed an enchanting hybrid of orchestral, groove-heavy tracks, held together by timelessness and the clarity of her voice.
"Another Time Lover" has a shifting beat, its textures (bubbling noises, playful bass, expressive synths) shifting around Bonet's assured vocal, while lead single "Mother Maybe" peaks towards the song's end, as Bonet lets loose rare Minnie Riperton-esque vocal prowess, as a persistent groove sets in. It is one of the album's most overtly pop/soul moments, yet minimalistic passages on Childqueen are perhaps the most enchanting. One such insistence is heard in the deep bass and curious vocal melody of "Delphine," amidst an echoing beat — molasses soul, so to speak.
Bonet eclipses mere categorizations of "retro soul" — her arrangements do sometimes recall classic records, such as What's Going On, yet there is a singularity to her artistry. The depth and breadth of her playing alone is stunning — a range of bass tones, crisp percussion, fantastic string arrangements and flute melodies create her world. "Sometimes I forget, I have shelter within," she sings in a quiet moment of "Second Wind," a testament to the strength of character and artistry that has created Childqueen.
Childqueen demands patience and a receptive ear to pick up on the care and detail Bonet has taken in crafting every moment. She is in complete control of her artistry, having honed her skills as a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Bonet remains an enigma — one we are lucky to hear. (Fat Possum)