Published Oct 21, 2016On the surface, Kadhja Bonet's The Visitor appears as a throwback to an era of gentle '60s-tinged jazz records. Over strings and buried drums, Bonet's airy and intimate vocals sound as if she's leaned in close to share a secret; her projections ephemeral, appearing quickly before receding into the abyss, as if they were never really for the room in the first place.
Bonet has described her relationship with music being one of much frustration during her early years mastering the violin and viola. Taking a break from the rigours of constant practice has allowed technical virtuosity to give way to creative excellence. Aside from a few guest musicians, The Visitor is entirely Bonet's creation, and while that's becoming par for the course in the era of MacBook music-making, it's more remarkable when near-orchestral accompaniments anchor most of the artist's songs, as they do here.
"Portrait of Tracy" is a well-executed cover of the Jaco Pastorius bass standard with the addition of Bonet's lyrics. "Fransisco" is one of the most interesting legs of The Visitor's journey, where Bonet's wordless voice crescendos and crashes like waves before pulling away again. "Nobody Other" is the stripped-back exception here, featuring a less atmospheric guitar and woodwind melody.
The Visitor's title track asks "if I don't confess, will I have regrets, will it shape my future?" With this release, Bonet has carved a space vast enough to explore unencumbered by contrition or sound-alikes, and it's a future worth getting excited by. (Fat Possum)