I thought that the age of orchestral symphonic pop had died along with soft focus on females on TV in the 60’s and 70’s. However one lady has brought it right back to my attention in 2016 and that woman is Kadjha Bonet.
Her 2016 album “The Visitor” blew me away with its timeless retro symphonic soul arrangements of beautiful songs. Take the opening full track “Honeycomb”. There’s strings, percussion, halos of vocal choruses, woodwind sections and something wonderfully Carpenters about the whole thing. Kadhja’s music feels like its referencing the past in many ways yet it feels so unusual to have this type of music made today it now feels fresh and new again – especially when she isn’t doing it completely at a pop level.
There’s a hint of alternative thrown in there too as the riff for “Fairweather Friend” plays with minor chords, haunting riffs and Bonet’s silky smooth voice is a revelation. On its own it would sound like an angel but her high register when combined with her backing vocals actually have a sinister edge to them. I’m not sure if its intentional, but it’s that layer that really pulls me in. The witch-like element continues into “The Visitor” as the sumptuous string arrangements give nod to Asian influences before becoming somewhat more space soul orientated.
Of course, with so many instruments, Bonet spends time showcasing different instruments in different ways as guitar and keyboards are on full jazz attack for “Grammar Honey” but in a surreal whirlpool of strings too. “Nobody Other” is the quiet moment as a simple acoustic guitar and woodwind led track lets the beauty and simplicity of the track shine through. Bonet’s voice is so on point here, it brings a smile to my face.
If I had a complaint about the album, it’s that its short. At 8 tracks, and one of those is an intro piece, it’s over in just under half an hour. It makes me want more but also makes me think how the follow-up work will continue the theme of this lush arrangement style. Quite frankly, there was nothing else quite like this being released as new material in 2016 and I hope Bonet continues to forge her own path for the future.
Recommended Track : Honeycomb