Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bat For Lashes

In the world of media it is more difficult than ever to be original, unless you are so out in left field as to be in a parallel universe where no-one can see you. Whenever I buy something new these days I can’t help but hear influences and no matter how hard I try to ignore them, they nag away at me.

My last purchase was ‘Two Suns’ by Bat For Lashes, or Natasha Khan as her mother probably knows her (can’t quite imagine, ‘Bat, you’re tea’s ready!’). Natasha hails from Brighton (a town that looks like it is helping the police with their inquiries, as Keith Waterhouse once put it) and this is her second solo effort, released earlier this year.

I’ve listened to this album a few times now and although it is definitely growing on me, I can’t quite get away from the fact that some of it sounds very much like early Tori Amos and much of it like mid-period Kate Bush with a bit of Bj√∂rk thrown in for good measure. Of course, to be quoted in the same sentence as these artists is a compliment in itself and there is a certain comfort in a recognised style but to reach real stardom, there has to be more.

There are basically two styles on show here. The first has a very rhythmic almost tribal base of drums and oriental percussion where her fragile and often treated vocals dance around in melodic style. This style puts me in mind of Kate Bush, especially around the period between ‘The Dreaming’ up to ‘The Sensual World’ where she was experimenting with the ‘no cymbals’ philosophy of Peter Gabriel. The second style is solo piano based much in the style of Ms Amos and has a slightly melancholic and otherworldly ambience. In fact the final track features Mr Melancholic and Otherworldly himself, Scott Walker, in a weird duet.

Thankfully, the more I listen, the more her own personality is beginning to show. I like the atmosphere of the album and the way that it transcends her influences in a way that all good musicians should strive to achieve. It is all very well borrowing styles but it’s what you do with them that counts. She has added a strange exotic nuance into the mix that hints at Indian sounds and scales. In fact the arrangements are very accomplished and set up the songs beautifully. If you are into what I would call uplifting melancholy then this is for you.

Is this a new talent in the ascendancy? Only time will tell.

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