Articles tagged with Bat for Lashes

Bat for Lashes @ Venue, 8/25/09

Bat for Lashes
If Wikipedia is to be believed, Natasha Khan will turn 30 in two months. Watching her performance last night at Venue, however, the Bat for Lashes singer seemed much younger. The show played out like a schoolgirl’s fantasy: the mic stands were hung with silver tinsel, small statuettes were littered around the stage and the backdrop was a star spangled curtain that depicted a wolf howling at the moon. Khan herself wore glittery makeup and pranced around barefoot, gesturing flamboyantly with her lace-clad hands. Her between-song banter was as charming as it was awkward, as she giggled about school discos, chirping “Will you ask me to dance?”

Khan’s girlish stage presence belied the maturity of her songs, which were delivered with absolute conviction and flawless musicianship. Although there were only four people on stage, they did a surprisingly good job of recreating the lush arrangements and heady atmospherics of this year’s Two Suns. “Glass” began nearly-a cappella, Khan’s ethereal vocals accompanied by only the faint drone of an electric cello. It soon exploded into clattering tribal percussion and swells of synth ambience. “Traveling Woman” was similarly haunting, its plodding piano groove evoking Stevie Nicks at her most world-weary.

Despite these moments of refined beauty, much of show emphasized Bat for Lashes’ dance influences, with several songs stripping away melody and replacing it with densely layered percussion. “Two Planets” was a minimalist tribal jam, eschewing structure in favour of pure adrenaline; with a full drum kit, a floor tom and a tambourine almost drowning out the background synthesizer.

The set rounded out with “Daniel,” its pulsing electro beats and Hounds of Love-era synthesizers finding a middle ground between the group’s disparate styles. Ending the night with the hit single may have been a predictable move, but Khan’s unshakable enthusiasm meant that no one went away disappointed.
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Two suns spinning at different speeds

Bat for Lashes‘ sophomore full-length, Two Suns, is a breakup album, but don’t go in expecting a collection of downtrodden, sad sack ballads, ala Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan) or Sea Change (Beck). Instead, songwriter Natasha Khan a high-flown metaphor to explain her heartbreak: she and her lover are planets, unable to communicate as they travel along separate orbits. It’s a grandiose and slightly absurd conceit, but Khan pulls it off because of her unwavering conviction: the opener, “Glass,” contains the lyric “The hands of the watchman / In the night sky / Points to my beloved / A knight in crystal armour.”

As if the celestial metaphor were not enough, Khan also adopts the alter-ego of a self-destructive drag queen named named Pearl (Georgie Fruit, hmm?). This character allows Khan to deal with surreality of life as a successful musician (in the wake of her 2006 album Fur & Gold). Pearl is finally excised in the album’s final track, “The Big Sleep,” an operatic death duet sung with Scott Walker.

This lofty lyricism is supported by ethereal synth washes, baroque piano, and pulsing electro beats. Along with Khan’s dramatic vocal style, the result is similar to Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush. ‘Daniel” is the best distillation of Bat for Lashes’ new style, as it swells from a gently buzzing keyboard riff to propulsive dance groove with lush vocals layering and vaguely Eastern sounding synth leads. It’s an unforgettable song, and a highlight of one of the best albums of the year so far.
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