Natasha Khan’s captivatingly cinematic debut album, Fur and Gold, is a soundscape of fantasy, bold imagery and the unexpected. From harpsichords to handclaps, the album’s arrangements suggest a soundtrack waiting to happen but one that could accompany dreams as well as films.
While Bjork is away, doing whatever she does when not releasing albums, her fans would do well to embrace Khan’s richly compelling work. Vocals and arrangements in Horse And I, Trophy, The Wizard, Bat’s Mouth and Sad Eyes all recall Iceland’s favoured dottir, but with techno elements replaced by dramatic acoustic arrangements. These comprise Khan’s expressive voice, handclaps, guitar, marching band drums and, most thrillingly, ethereal piano phrases. Combined they suggest fluidity, motion and changing surroundings, effectively guiding the listener through an otherworld well beyond the ordinary.
But Khan’s coup de grace is to lace this most textured of records with singalong choruses and memorable melodies. Prescilla’s chorus, handclaps and drums are addictive, while Trophy – beginning with bass, drums and opening into sinister-sounding bottom-end piano, percussion and Khan’s narrative vocals, all coated in expansive reverb – is a masterclass in mood management, yet all the while causing abandoned hip-swaying.
Opener Horse and I, with lyrical imagery ranging from banquets to giant redwoods all linked by a sensual night-time canter on Khan’s equine companion, was apparently inspired by the story of Joan of Arc. A soundscape naturalistic and noirish calls to mind shadowy woodland and nearby ocean – it’s a song that seems palpably connected to nature.
Tahiti is entirely different, a shimmering slice of aural magic that’s part seance and part out of body experience. Bat’s Mouth begins with basic piano notes but becomes a tale of a free creature whose kindly spirit is witnessed as it flaps past, above the observer’s head but beneath comets and stars.
Helping Khan along the way is Lift To Experience‘s Josh T Pearson, who snarls like Iggy Pop in the chorus of Trophy. He pops up twice more, as backing vocalist on the vibraphone-tinged Seal Jubilee and the off-kilter finale I Saw A Light, adding further variety to the album’s atmospherics.
An enchanting and decidedly spiritual record from beginning to end, Fur and Gold announces Natasha Khan’s Bat For Lashes as a talent impossible to ignore and beguiling to behold, an album that, time and again, plucks one away from the mundane and offers a bewitching alternative galaxy of delights.