“This is a bit nerve-wracking, we haven’t played live since last June,” announces Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. The group are at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms to play a low key pre-tour warm up show, prior to the release of their second album Two Suns. Then follows a daunting trek across Europe and America before they finish at Bestival on the Isle Of Wight at the end of summer.
With a new live line up which includes ex Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley on throbbing fuzzed up bass, guitar, and keyboards, Sarah Jones on drums and Ben Christophers on all manner of electronic tricks, this is an evening for Natasha to brush off any cobwebs she has. It’s time for her to introduce an audience to her new songs, as well as a few choice cuts from the debut album Fur And Gold. The new material that the band play is similar in compositional structure to the debut album. However in parts the songs are more heavily based around keyboards, delivering a more spacey sound with complex experimental beats and atmospheric electronics. They are complimented and contrasted by some delicate piano pieces.
Just as Natasha is a little nervous, the audience seem so as well. It’s a polite and restrained Sunday evening atmosphere.“You’re all so quiet. C’mon I want ravenous animal noises,” she requests towards the end of the set, which elicits a few screams as well as a rather sinister cow moo. It breaks the calmness of the crowd a little as does new song Two Planets. A hauntingly tribal number reminiscent of Bjork, the track builds around an echoing drum beat that sounds a little like something Aphex Twin may produce in his more mellow moments. It gets heads bobbing and even a few feet dancing. New single Daniel is played early in the set, a shamanic sounding pop song with hints of Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac and Eurythmics Who’s That Girl, all airy synths and soulful ghostly vocals. And it is the vocals that impresses the most. Although there are some pre recorded backing voices, when Khan opens her mouth the sounds that come from it are both ethereal and warm at the same time. She has a range and pitch that seems natural and never strained.
After just over an hour Bat For Lashes have proven beyond doubt that Natasha Khan is a talented musician who can produce experimental exotic and slightly eccentric pop music. The world is certainly a better place for her.