Kadhja Bonet's debut album The Visitor opens with an awe you'd expect from the golden age of cinema, somewhere between Cinderella and Barbarella in its half-mythical atmosphere. Its curtains draw back to the ascendant fanfare of "Earth Birth," with keys and choirs science-fictionally echoing down from deep space, as Kadhja invites us into a world not wholly our own, where past and future meet in a parallel, yet far lovelier, present. Even as this overture fades and Kadhja's voice velvetly emerges on "Honeycomb," we still feel we're drifting into a timeless, unplaceable realm of Kadhja's own making.
This very timelessness sends many a reviewer scrambling to find her nearest genre or closest musical cousins. They will blurb about classical, jazz, soul, folk, and even psychedelia, but ultimately fail to comfortably place her – this, all by Kadhja's design. For if she were "folk" – maybe poetically comparable to a Karen Dalton or a Sybille Baier – it would only be the folk of some future aeon, a thousand years hence. If her rich instrumentation of strings and wind strikes us as "classic," it's not because it harkens to any past era or vogue, but because Kadhja paints in a perennial imagery that could as much be now as then as any other time. Literary comparisons convey far more in Bonet's case. The mood of songs like "The Visitor" and "Gramma Honey," with their rehearsals of dusky and feeling-freighted tales, belong more to magical realism than any shelf or bin in the neighborhood record store. Her songs are not really "psychedelic" rather they are unwaveringly contemplative, much like the Japanese poets she evokes in "Fairweather Friends."
Measured yet confident, good-humored yet unwilling to suffer fools, Kadhja will immediately apprise underestimators that all the writing and arrangement on The Visitor – except for the Jaco Pastorius melody put to her words on "Portrait of Tracy" and an ode to Milton Nascimento's "Francisco" – is entirely of her creation. While calling in friends like Te'amir Yohannes Sweeney for drums, as well as Low Leaf, Peter Dyer, Randal Fisher, and Itai Shapira for harp, synth, flute, and bass, Bonet still plays a goodly half of the instruments herself, including guitar, violin, flute, and the backup vocals that fill up the skies of her music. And if this weren't enough to assure the independence of her musical vision, Kadhja also produced The Visitor, though with much of its mixing and engineering handled by her assistant producer Itai Shapira, one of the few souls trusted behind the curtains of her musical process.