Natasha Khan discovered her own musical world when a black horse appeared to her in a dream two years ago and led her away into the night. The song that resulted, "Horse and I", was darkly fantastical and playfully psychosexual. It is typical of Khan's debut album under the name Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold, which includes songs recorded in storm-lashed forests and under the duvet, locations suggestive of its dreamy, fairy-tale lyrics. The music, an intimate, chamber-folk mix of strange strings and electronic warps, is similarly individual. Though Kate Bush is the name most critics have reached for, Khan is equally an inheritor of Syd Barrett's deeply personal English psychedelia.
Tonight's appearance (as part of the female trio Bat for Lashes) gives a fuller picture than her album of what she's about. She wears silver warpaint and a headdress, looking like a cross between Cleopatra and a flapper Pocahontas. Her band resemble B-movie Amazons. Khan was a visual artist before giving herself over to music, but such costumes evoke childhood dressing-up, more than anything adult.
Khan has a rangy physical presence beyond her average size, throwing herself into songs, baring her teeth and closing her eyes. But any sense that she's a feral creature is countered by a nervous politeness, a balance caught on "What's A Girl To Do?" Tom-toms pick out the tribal element that permeates her look and sound, while Khan recalls a relationship's cooling with cut-glass English elegance. She shakes a mini-tambourine like a knuckleduster, unsure if she's nice girl or wild thing.
With a less friendly crowd, the fact that Khan seems to be still feeling her way on stage might be fatal. But whenever the night threatens to slip from her, she rallies. "I Saw a Light" is begun with a lupine howl, then her open-throated, warm voice rides her own keyboard playing.
A version of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire" matches the original's still-summer-night sexual threat. Then Khan redeems a particularly long pause by whomping a tribal walking stick on the floor, announcing "Sarah". "I want to live like you," she sings of the eponymous heroine, as an electric guitar finally squalls into life behind her.
Other female characters she conjures tonight drink blood or vanish to exotic paradises. This feels for the moment like a woman creating her own wild female icons, rather than yet being one herself. But there's an innocent adventurousness to her efforts that's warmly likeable.Reuse content