The Visitor by Kadhja Bonet is nothing short of immersive. The LA singer, writer and producer crafts a hauntingly sweet and other-worldly soundscape, of which the listener feels very much “a visitor” to. She blends grand and momentous with delicate and raw effortlessly. The music doesn’t really tie itself to emotions that are strictly defined. Instead Bonet opts for expressing feelings that exist in the liminal spaces around strictly defined emotions. Bonet chooses the voice as a medium to explore human nuance.
The opening score “Earth Birth” feels like a descension into an aquatic underworld. Light and twinkling tones set an exciting magical background. Continuing with “Honeycomb,” we get the leading showcase of the large chorus and orchestra that booms throughout the album. “Honeycomb” inspires a holy sentiment. It transports you to a church with a resonant choir- feeling reverberating and echoing off of the stain glass windows.
“Fairweather Friend” shifts to an elegant yet fierce crooning. Jazz, R&B and soul weave in and out of her rhythms. “The Visitor” features a talented slew of string musicians, cymbals, beats, vocal dispersions, and creative production elements. All of these elements combined beautifully down the line create a huge sound- intensely compelling and engaging. The “bring me love” chorus will devastate you. She has a way of using the instrumentals to make everything full scale yet remain subtle emotionally.
“Gramma Honey” is slower paced, employing a chorus of voices again for a full environment of sound. “Portrait of Tracy” works with wavering vocal play and sumptuous blending of vocal harmonies for a Fleet Foxes-like hymnal. “Nobody Other” reminds me of Burt Bacharach compositions from the 60s and 70s. Songs like “Paper Mache,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Walk On By,” or “Girl from Ipanema” come to mind- soft, with an intoxicating beat, and light tones from flutes and tambourine. A more contemporary comparison would be Gardens and Villa specifically “Orange Blossom.”
In “Francisco” her voice takes reign as the premier instrument of experimentation. She takes full advantage of the large range of affect she can express with her voice. With some slow jazz beats
“Francisco” has no lyrics, and just explores the pure emotive power of the voice. Similar to the grand finale at the end of a fireworks show, The Visitor sparkles and mesmerizes but the final song is a true tour de force. In a final accumulation of fervor, this song transcends what we consider a song to be. Without lyrics we cannot rely on it for an instruction in the traditional sense- it instructs us in a larger way, teaching music as a form of intuition.
review by Callie Hitchcock