Childqueen (Fat Possum/Inertia)
Purple swirls and strobing lights. Cinematic playback on the inside of my eyelids. Three part harmonising when I’m not even certain my mouth is open, dancing with limbs like those blow-up things outside car yards, and, look, what’s that crawling out from the crack in the ceiling?
Sorry? Oh yes, I was getting lost in Kadhja Bonet’s songs there. Now, as I was saying, I have no idea of course, none at all, absolutely not – trust me mum, I may not be a doctor, and for that I shall forever be a failure, I know, however, I’ve been to a few doctors, so that’s almost the same - but I’m told that Lysergic acid diethylamide can alter your perceptions.
Apparently, and again I stress I can only go on what some (clearly disturbed) people have written or sung about, it can cause you to see things which aren’t there, to feel as if you may be floating somewhere above or beside your body, to experience heightened feelings, to respond more intensely to stimuli, to hear voices in tones and positions which don’t feel regular, to get a little out of whack with the world and disappear into something with few walls and possibly no floor. And that’s just when listening.
Apparently, people who create music while under such things may make music that dances above the concrete, which can float away as if untethered, which shifts position and perspective back and forth, which offers sublime prettiness as easily as disturbing angles. Which it so happens brings me back to Kadhja Bonet.
Childqueen is the trippiest album I’ve heard in a good long while and yet it doesn’t make use of phased vocals, strange instruments built by Russian geniuses, drums which are patterned on Tomorrow Never Knows, Indian tropes randomly dropped into the mix or the word tangerine. Yes kids, it can be done.
Instead, Bonet - who wrote, played, sang and produced everything - works initially from that fertile field from the mid-to-late 1960s when vocal groups would create arrangements where voices slid between sweet and sour, beautiful and astral-travelling, harmonising on and off the straight line, all while accompanied by strings, flutes and rock bands. Think The Free Design and The Association, or even the Cowsills at their edges
Now, add the electronic reframing of those sounds by Stereolab two decades later, mix in a dash of wonky French pop (from Claudine Longet to Air) and you’re in the slightly off-kilter world of Childqueen.
Here songs can be called Thoughts Around Tea (proto-electronica channelled through a child’s eyes) and Joy (brought by a heavenly chorus of voices and flute), and Bonet can offer lines such as “Spied a bird with fragile wings/Cut her peaceful ballad/Nevermore the sparrow sings”, in Wings, a song about our ability to wreck so much with wanton rivalry that asks “Tell me why does the warring live so long?”
If that sounds a bit twee and summer of love for you, try on Mother Maybe, which has the brass punch and upfront bass of Earth Wind & Fire funk, or deep dive into the slightly distorted bottom end and space cadet upper reaches of Delphine, which will remind you of some parts of the recent Solange album, and induce odd waking dreams.
Which does rather bring us back to where this all started, in a land of heightened senses, sparkling reveries, and tabs. Allegedly.