Malena Cadiz – Hellbent & Moonbound
Malena’s voice on “Museum Shoes,” floats like a feather on a breeze. A little quirky with a gentle tonality akin to Valerie June but not as excessive. There’s musical breadth spread throughout. Performed with a tender touch & ethereal melody. On first listen, she falls into the genre of typical 21st-century female vocalists, but that’s not accurate. There’s a potency to her lyrics, delivered with a radiant circuitry. It may have something to do with the strong arrangements or hints of what Malena’s voice really sounds like when it isn’t in that well-articulated yet somewhat carbonated flavor. What’s impressive is how she doesn’t use this approach as a means to be eccentric or strange. Just creative.
“Whatever You Need,” is serious with heavy lyrics. Ms. Cadiz makes a decisive statement with mature vocalizing & sincerity. 10-hellbent tunes for her 3rd CD Hellbent & Moonbound (Dropped October 27–Misra Records) & produced by Andrew Lappin (guitar loops/bass/tubular bells/mellotron/Farfisa/celeste/percussion/string & woodwind arrangements).
Nothing really rocks or is blues-oriented, or even folky. But Malena takes the roots of easy-listening music & tenderly etches melodic lines, expands their evocative nature & uses effects liberally to create a prosaic beauty for each song.
“The Real Thing,” is powerful & bubbles up like the carbonated reference I made earlier. This isn’t business as usual; this is a mature creative artist. Many tunes seem knotted together (poetry for lyrics) & the fertility of her imagination blossoms with each verse. Dramatic? Yeah. And so are the songs.
Not a lame or looney tune among them. Despite the Burt Bacharach-type 60s horns that grace “Getting By,” her juvenile pop vocals take a marginal style, a breathy Claudine Longet style, add essential sweetness & unleash a penetratingly delightful song.
“Hellbent & Moonbound,” glides over a Kate Bush cloud exotically. It’s easy to suggest these could be pretentious but they’re not. Nothing’s contrived. The title track has a secret ingredient vocally – the “sound” of the late Nanci Griffith’s intonation hovers throughout. Nice. It creeps in again on “Easy,” & that makes Malena a worthy alt-country singer someday.
Highlights – “Museum Shoes,” “Shatter,” “Whatever You Need,” “The Real Thing,” “My Kind of Thief,” “Getting By,” “Hellbent & Moonbound,” “Easy,” “Call It a Night,”
Musicians – Malena Cadiz (lead vocals/acoustic & electric guitar), Chris Connors (nylon guitar), Alex Goldberg (percussion), Sam Kaufman-Skloff & Matt Musty (drums/percussion), Pat Kelly & Aaron Michael Stern (bass guitars), Jenna Maranga (bgv/bgv arrangements), Jesse McGinty (clarinet/flute/alto flute/tenor sax/flugelhorn/trumpet/trombone/woodwind arrangement), Grant Milliken (vibraphone), Sean O’Brien (lap steel), Ray Suen (pedal steel/violin/viola), Bryan Senti (violin/viola/ piano/prepared piano/tenor sax/Wurlitzer/string arrangement), Austin McCutchen, Leeann Skoda, Sydney Wayser & Morgan Demeter (bgv), Grant Milliken (Wurlitzer/piano), Jesse Abraham Roberts (electric, acoustic & classical guitars), Lara Somogyi (harp), D.A. Stern (mellotron/organ/Hammond), Tyler Cash (Fender Rhodes/piano), Brian Bender (cello), Prince Diabate (kora – recorded in France), Steven Van Betten (acoustic guitar), Jorge Balbi Castellano & Alex Goldberg (percussion), Jacob Peter (electric, acoustic & fretless guitars) & Eric Shetzen (double bass).
Color image courtesy of Mikael Kennedy. CD & sound samples @ Bandcamp & https://malenacadiz.com/