Release Date: Sep 25, 2015
Record label: Echo
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Natasha Khan – better known as Bat For Lashes – has always been one of the more adventurous spirits in British music. Despite the inevitable Kate Bush comparisons, ever since her 2006 debut Fur For Gold she has ploughed her own distinctive furrow, combining a keen melodic sensibility with atmospheric instrumentation and inventive, rhythmic arrangements. The origins of Khan’s new Sexwitch project date back to 2013, when the Brighton-based chanteuse collaborated with Mercury Prize-nominated producer Dan Carey on a cover of Iranian pre-revolution folk song The Bride.
SEXWITCH's groove is impossible to ignore. For a collaboration between Bat For Lashes' dark queen Natasha Khan and shoegaze-psych masters Toy, these six recordings are infinitely looser than their creators' back catalogues suggest. Given that almost every track is a reworking of an age-old folk song—excavated from the likes of Iran, Morocco, and Thailand—the results are even more impressive.
There's always been a raw undercurrent to Natasha Khan's best work -- particularly her first album as Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold -- and she makes the most of it on Sexwitch, the self-titled debut album from her collaboration with producer Dan Carey and the psych-rock band TOY. Previously, Khan worked with Carey and TOY on a cover of "The Bride," a pre-revolution Iranian folk song that Carey released as a single on his Speedy Wunderground imprint, and a similar sense of liberation pulses through these reworkings of songs from Morocco, Iran, Thailand, and the United States. While the project's name might seem jokey at first, it fits the band's passionate exploration of a uniquely feminine kind of mystical sexuality.
Sexwitch is something of a radical career tangent for Natasha Khan. With collaborators Toy and producer Dan Carey, the Bat for Lashes singer subjects old, mostly Middle Eastern folk and psych tracks to esoteric new treatments. Khan says that her inspiration is “the scream of rage and rebellion from women dispossessed for millennia” and there’s certainly a powerful femininity – and sensuality – to these tracks, which stimulate the head, the feet and the emotions simultaneously.
With SEXWITCH Natasha Khan toes a fine, nigh imperceptible, line between the divine and the demonic. The six-track side project has her brandishing an unexpected brand of psych-rock mysticism with the help of Brighton-based outfit TOY. The collaboration ends up resonating like a catchall soundtrack to an occult ritual — hair-raising and euphoric in equal parts.
As Bat for Lashes, Natasha Khan creates in a form of herself that’s at home in dreams. Sometimes those dreams are nightmares, but they’re always surreal visions that manifest in the mind. With her new, mysterious band, Sexwitch, she takes two steps closer to the other side of the aisle and into the body. On the project’s self-titled debut, Khan immerses herself in a worldly, history-enamored idea of body music, one specifically meant to come out at night, the time when the supposed nefarious things come alive — both sex and witches.
Natasha Khan has always been a bit of a witch. The British singer came out glitter-streaked and face-painted on Bat for Lashes’ debut Fur and Gold, speaking of wizards and dead love while harpsichords twinkled in the background. On follow-up Two Suns, she was an earthly mystic, her new wave-meets-new age music spinning tales of star-crossed love and the planets’ alignment.
She knows it "sounds ridiculous," but when Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes) began reinterpreting old Moroccan and Iranian songs with her producer Dan Carey and the UK-based psychedelic outfit TOY, she felt like she was "channeling some sort of ancestral feelings about witches." She's not fully clear on what came over her; in interviews, she makes the process sound like an exorcism. Each song was captured in one take, and the whole album recorded in a daylong session. Her lyrics are collaged-together English translations of the songs' source material, which mostly concern seduction and infatuation.
Writing this on the morning when Viet Cong have announced they’re to change their name, the significance of and rationale behind an artist's name plays on the mind a bit. It might be for punk politics, cultured homage, high school in-joke or research group-informed stickiness, but no matter your initial intent, when you can't book gigs because of it, it's worth consideration. Of course, in a world where Anal Cunt exist all these things are relative.
As Bat for Lashes, Natasha Khan has flirted with out-of-body transcendence through tightly conceived pop songs that probe inward while emanating cosmic energy highly suitable for interpretive dancing. Sexwitch, her psychy side project with Toy's Dan Carey, is all about that cosmic energy. As the jokey band name implies, these six songs sound like Khan and Carey cutting loose, unburdened by pesky things like precision and song structure.
There are two things you need to know about Sexwitch: it's great, and it's definitely not a new Bat for Lashes album. It can be a bit awkward when a well-known musician with a recognisable style puts out a side project like this. Are we supposed to try and divorce it from their other releases? Are we meant to pretend we don't know it's them? As Bat For Lashes, Natasha Khan has released three album, each better than the last.