Lost And Found: The Dark Side Of Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes’ latest album, 'Lost Girls', is an enrapturing journey that oscillates between the divinity and the haunting. The album is singer-songwriter Natasha Khan’s first self-released album, which was recorded entirely in California. There is a magnetism and a tide of tonality that shifts and contorts new meaning throughout each track. It expands to a vista that offers an array of reflection within the themes of identity, longing and the conclave contexts of environment.
In speaking on her process Khan explained that the backdrop of L.A. and immersing herself into different communities all played a contextual role in giving space and feeling to the intrinsic qualities of this album. “I was writing it over the course of a year and a half and in between writing songs, I was traveling to the desert and downtown L.A. and going up to the sequoias and the coast.”
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“I was painting a lot and I was teaching at a continuation school with teenagers and then teaching meditation to prisoners; I was really immersing myself in the culture of L.A. and East L.A. where I lived, where there are a lot of Mexican families and culture. It was really nice to record an album where you’re not having to record everything over the course of two weeks in a studio, I really took my time and the album seemed to have grown very organically.”
She adds: “A nuanced depth and freedom comes through because it was part of my life, part of my experience.”
There is something very special to be noted within how Bat For Lashes approaches not only this album, but her role and passion as a musician. From an innate empirical need to share and create, Natasha Khan also discusses the inherent nature of communal understanding, visibility and representation.
All these aspects compile a practice of communal healing. These pillars of truth and care that are evoked through her music are testaments to her endless vibrational attunement that brings the listener into this elevated sphere.
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In listening to this album you're drawn to the assemblage of haunting iconography that releases and subdues us to a state of radical duality, where we embrace our shadows, remember our mythologies and release our haunting.
The track 'Vampires' is dilated to a decomposition of notorious sounds we wouldn’t expect to be joined. We are met and presented with synth pops and a melodic impassioned saxophone slur that carries and remarries to the baseline of hyper echoed dream-like 80s soundscapes that eschew the listener into a transient space between haunting and longing. Vampires hide amidst the shadows which returns to this poignant dissection of our personal and collective shadow. What we reveal and what we conceal.
Natasha tells Clash: “The whole album and I guess everything I am always trying to say is about healing our collective shadow and our personal shadow, no matter what gender you are so we can work better together in creative partnership.”
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The listener is left with a turning tide of nostalgia that ripens and unfolds a sonic discourse that leaves us in line with classic references while pulling us into a world that is uniquely Khan’s. In her sonic choices, she takes things from the past like 80s synths, guitar sounds, a lot of reverb, scathing and echo and produces them in with different methods that align with her cinematic tastes and love of soundtracks.
The album’s multi-layered and visceral iconography drew parallels to the film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2016), which tells the mesmerising story of a young Iranian girl who is a skateboarding vampire. A renovation of the classic of vampire, there is a beautiful interlude between the oscillation of her hijab as garb and as vampire’s cape.
The film’s cinematography, illusion, use of shadows and the construction of myth, all draw an echo in Lost Girls. We find ourselves meditating on the word “home” and the word “shadow” a sort of enigma of what we lose and what we find in ourselves.
Khan notes that the film served as a source of reverence for the periods in her childhood where she visited Pakistan. Her album intersects a dialogue surrounding the Middle Eastern American experience in a poetic decadence that leaves the listener enraptured in the depth of her sonic queries and longings.
In addition to self-producing, she also wrote and directed two music videos (Kids in the Dark & The Hunger). Khan notes that there was a subjective force of alignment and care with the production for The Hunger, from costuming to letting the earthen desert-scapes encompass and lift the narrative.
She adds: “My vision was to only use the iPhone and I shot half of the footage I wasn’t in...we were just running around the desert with our iphones capturing anything we could and moving with the dancers”.
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The landscape as captivity. The vast void of desert beckoned to be filled. Khan’s execution carried and surmounted the narrative to a radical joining of elements that unveiled new modalities beyond the notes and beyond the words. In the music video the movement, the form, the material and the wind all played together in an intrinsic way that really held true to Khan’s artistic direction. It was not over=planned and when space is given, there is more freedom for the pieces to oscillate, take form and create magic.
There is a huge sense of coming home within this album, the parts of ourselves we lose, we lessen and beg to reclaimed. The work in combination of the process illustrates this electric alignment of action and intention. An independently produced album that speaks and resuscitates the dilution of self and defies the ramifications for self reliance. This album achieves a great deal of artistry and mystifies in the depths of haunting poetics.
It's a vision made most clear when Natasha Khan says simply: “If you don’t take time to be with yourself and your dark side, if you don’t pursue it yourself then it will hunt you... the lost aspects of ourselves and not being afraid of the dark side, in order that we can love each other.”
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'Lost Girls' is out now.
Words: Rae Niwa
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