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  • Millie Watson

Kadhja Bonet - Childqueen (2018)

‘Procession’ is a mission statement that leaves no room for doubt – this is going to be an excellent album. As everyone does, I go through different stages. When I was younger, I would listen to almost exclusively male singers, then it became electronic music, then I hit my ‘up the chix’ phase. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just one day realised everything I was listening to was either written or sung by a woman. Kadhja Bonet existed for me as an entity away from everyone else. It was a while before I could bear to part with a piece of this album and share it with people.

I know the distance can confuse your mind Give it time, Delphine, give it time

I was travelling at this time having just finished university. I first heard the track ‘Delphine’ and couldn’t believe something like this was being released. I know that sounds silly, but her voice is unparalleled - totally timeless - and the songs so perfectly and sensitively constructed that I couldn’t believe it was of my time. Surely if someone had this talent everyone would be talking about her? I saw her play live that year.

Every song brings something new to her oeuvre. She plays with form and structure, with instrumentation and pushes her voice into extreme ranges. The quality of her singing is such that her highest heights are still functional as a part of the song. I know ‘functional’ sounds a bit negative, but I mean to say there is no grand standing, just pure musicianship.

And I the humble bee that brings the pollen to Your gilded lips

Kadhja received rigorous classical training in her childhood, and plays the vast majority of instruments across this album. She opens with a tin-soldier tattoo striking up a childlike march to set the tone - "Every morning brings a chance to renew, a chance to renew." The plain flute solo midway through 'Procession' sounds hopeful but lonely. Her vocals, despite the epic opening sound like a disappointed chorus that is getting tired of hoping but still do. The lower voice dissents and hollows out the optimistic moment.

A down-turning of the corners of the mouth.

This theme continues across the album. An innocent hope for something better entangled with the reality of disappointment and loneliness from being cast adrift. This clear especially in the final track '...' which opens with her solo voice la-la-la-ing in a reverb chasm. She is joined by other voices, a meandering bass, a crystalline synth.

This is truly genre-less music. There are heavy funk influences throughout, a hint of soul, orchestral gestures and leitmotifs, and birds chirping brought to life by outrageously high quality and creative production. These are more than songs, her singing and lyrical structure are in their own league. Phrases extend and contract as the story requires, the music built around them to deliver moments of perfect resolution or to drop away completely and deliver her voice directly.

Sometimes I forget Moss grows from my lips. I am fertile. I am rich. I am moist and mineral.

Kadhja has made no secret of the emotional toll creating this album had on her, and I'm seriously grateful for her sacrifice. She describes this album as a Hero Quest, set down the path to find that innocent self we were as children. I don't relate to this narrative, for me this is the grappling with our desire to shoehorn the forgone innocence and naive clarity of childhood into an incredibly messy and - at times - disappointing reality.

We are all victims of Childqueen feelings and see it in others, but does that make it easier?

Key tracks:

Delphine: This arouses the deepest sense of grieving in me. I don’t know how else to describe it. The deep bass is a soft bed that you lie on and just keep sinking into. For want of a better word, the ‘funky’ bass feels like a sympathetic character that just helps you keep your head above water. Ghostly backing vocals. Pottering synths in the higher register, maintain space as they pan, and sit just between the base and the vocals. Everything in this tune is just enough.

Thoughts Around Tea: This album is so well curated. I wouldn’t know where to go after the weight of Delphine, but this follow up track nods its head to the heavy tune whilst bringing some momentum into the halfway point of the album.

Mother Maybe: “You're the air that leaves my lip as I make mention of you”

I also just have to say, ‘Honeycomb’ from The Visitor is a special tune that deserves a mention. So consider it mentioned (and it’s quoted above).


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