Rachael Dadd’s previous album, ‘Flux’, was one of 2019’s hidden gems. When I saw her perform those songs at Manchester Gullivers, it was 31st January 2020, the date on which Britain was leaving the European Union, a cause for grief on stage and amongst the audience.  The atmosphere was uniquely protective, a celebration of people coming together combined with fear for the future. However, further down the news chain, details of a worrying, potentially devastating virus were emerging and this would have a big impact on follow-up album, ‘Kaleidoscope’.

Opening track, ‘Children of the Galaxy’ was written during lockdown with Dadd solo parenting her two children. In need of escapism, she found it in music and song writing, finding it listening to Sun Ra in the sunshine and discovering a pattern of notes that conjured images of other galaxies, civilisations and the preciousness of life. Even a glance at some of the titles on ‘Kaleidoscope’ would suggest that themes of the elements and a desire to celebrate nature ran through the album (‘Footsteps’, ‘Moon Sails’, ‘Ghost’, ‘River Spirit’, ‘White Snow’).

Musically, Dadd shares an approach with friends and sometime collaborators This Is The Kit and Rozzie Plain with wispy vocals, non-linear instrumentation and subtle tunes. Beyond her original guiding holy trinity of Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, she successfully weaves together disparate influences from composers like Steve Reich, Warp recording artists such as Boards of Canada and the Bristol contemporary jazz scene to create a gorgeous album without a weak moment. These qualities are exemplified by ‘Ghost’ with its jazz-vibe piano, unusual repeating patterns and freeform flourishes and an appropriately dreamy feel as she coaxes Sleep my babies, sleep to dream to be free”.

‘Moon Sails’ uses its lovely keyboard melodies and wind instruments to create a particularly glorious journey encountering solace from the night-time moon and music on the stereo. ‘Heads Down’ has an easy and comparatively straight-forward melody, the song inspired by hearing on the radio about someone being chased by a gang with baseball bats after offending its leader but links that type of behaviour to the government’s (“Cocky and full of bravado/ More animal instinct than’s fit for office”) while also acknowledging those faults in herself.

The music and words often channel nature from ‘River Spirit’ beginning with pedal steel and running water to the gentle, folky ‘White Snow’ with acoustic guitar and violin accompaniment as a black cat opens its eyes “like two great torches”. ‘Swift’ with its rolling piano and muted trumpet has its narrator diving and swooping… hunting and feeding… the sky is my home… drinking the rain in…breathing the wind in”.

‘Join the Dots’ could be construed as having the errant former Prime Minister in its sights but Dadd’s approach is gently chiding (“where have you been? / have you had privilege enough to take liberties”) and also has an air of self-critique alongside a spine-tinglingly gorgeous melody.

For the all the reference to various musicians, the biggest influence on ‘Kaleidoscope’ could be the time Dadd spent living in Tokyo and then on a Japanese island, the gentleness and harmony with nature she identified there imbuing her music. That kindness is an underrated quality in music and makes the album feel like being enveloped in a warm hug which also offers space to grieve, breathe and celebrate.

Rachael Dadd: Kaleidoscope – Out 14th October 2022 (Memphis Industries)


I was editor of the long-running fanzine, Plane Truth, and have subsequently written for a number of publications. While the zine was known for championing the most angular independent sounds, performing in recent years with a community samba percussion band helped to broaden my tastes so that in 2021 I am far more likely to be celebrating an eclectic mix of sounds and enthusing about Made Kuti, Anthony Joseph, Little Simz and the Soul Jazz Cuban compilations as well as Pom Poko and Richard Dawson.