Delving deeper into nature and potential of the human spirit through music. It looks like an effective antidote to the social apathy and alienation of our time. Even more if that sonic potion is concocted by the priestess of the underground - and far beyond - Monica Richards. Thus far, I may not be writing anything new about the kind of thoughts and emotions this versatile artist - half punk, half fairy - is able to transmit through the songs she writes. Add to this formula the complicit harmonies of her life and the result is "Kindred", the third milestone in her uncompromising solo adventure or, better still, a sort of radiography of her soul. So special is this record that includes such atypical sounds as bat screeches, cicadas songs, tortoise taps, frog singing, different kinds of birds, wing patterns, thunder, rain, steps... all of them recorded by Monica herself at the idillic setting where she lives. Therefore, categorizing "Kindred" - as any other work of the muse - would be pretty unuseful. As customary in previous recordings, Goth, Classical, Ethereal and Electronic are some of the touchstones in her haunting and immersive soundscapes, while this time the processed layers seem to have an enhanced role in the structures.
Distant voices and cellos twirl around the tribal backbeat and thus "Kindred" sets an ancient, esoteric atmosphere already at the album's outset. Certain spirit-lifting begins to occur then and the following "Under the Bridge" manages to keep the mystic winds blowing - almost in a literal sense. As if she were a mermaid, Monica plunges us through her chants into a somber, yet riveting, ocean of high-pitched patterns, bat screeches and mechanical cadences. "Fall" runs upbeat in contrast, featuring catchy drums and choruses, groovy bass and meandering guitars. Justin Stephens (Passion Play) is responsible for the song's strings and his mark is on the mixing too. His collaboration extends to "50 Euro Boy", a modern club-centered piece, sophisticated hybrid of electronic, piano and guitars, and the swing-laden, impromptu reinterpretation of Faith and the Muse's classic "Sparks (Redux)". Though "Kindred" has been entirely created by Richards alone, she has surrounded herself with some good friends. Thus, Steve Niles helped her playing bass on the instrumental "Gil's Theme", a song to be carried away, propelled by a ceaseless beat core that fades into somber synths near the end, and also on the sweeping "Undulatos Asperatus", equally energetic in rhythm but also expansive in its slowest parts, featuring beautiful processed chords, winds and vocals full of charm floating within it. The renowned composer and violinist Paul Mercer lends his talent on the title track and also on the moving "Let You Go", written in memoriam to Monica's cat Mina - in fact, almost every song in this repertoire has been inpired by the animals dear to her. Violas and keyboards barely get to fill the vast soundscape. Only the sung loss and love manage to melt the coldness to their step. Also Caroline Jago (bass/strings) and Lesley Malone (percussion) have contributed some brilliant tracks to the final versions. One of them is the signature, Eastern-tinged closer "The Enchanted Mirror". Wailing chants and programmed melodies, along with the ritualistic percussion, draw a suitable backdrop for the introspective verses: ".../Tenderest to those who won't own me". Drones and effects flicker over the structure and the spell is broken progressively, giving way to an eerie silence within which the chorus is echoed: ".../Hush! Listen... This is my most secret voice". Monica's Strange Boutique ex-bandmate Steve Willett has co-written with her "The Bird and the Snake", as well as playing bass, guitar and percussion on it. In addition, he also is in charge of the bass on the retro, minimalist "Speak". Both of them are pretty representative of the odd, reverie Goth which made that cult band easily recognizable in the 90s. In "Lalala song", poignant fiddles and heavenly humming swirl the electro core such as spiral. This lovely piece is devoted to another of the Monica's kindred spirits - her dog Zendra, also known as La La. "Penelope", a song composed by her self-named cat while running across the piano keys, completes Richards' more refined, personal and ambitious solo repertoire to date. Indeed each sound-stroke in "Kindred" has a strong evoking power and shows clearly how boundless the imagination of this artist can become. The album gives off a pleasant, heady and so foreign to us fragance which is worth to be discovered.
Review by Billyphobia