"It’s okay to laugh — I’ll pay everyone later." Natasha Khan, who basically is Bat for Lashes, was glad for anything to break the silence between songs, as she switched from the front standing mike to piano. Or in between any of the songs at Knitting Factory last night. The crowd was downright reverent. At one point, she howled like a dog at the moon, in between nervous laughter, and the audience followed suit. Why is it that the performers who seem to be so obviously calling attention to themselves end up being so shy?
Dressed like an Athenian hipster, gold headband and all, Khan and her all-girl bandmates would even get noticed in Williamsburg. Of course, when she opens her mouth, that’s when you really take notice. Possessed with a voice somewhere between Chan Marshall and Bjork, she’s got the kind of pipes that demand attention. And her music, both the songwriting and instrumentation (weird accordion, autoharp, unconventional percussion), is just quirky enough to hold it, even when things veered towards Tori Amos / Lilith Fair territory — which they did just about any time she was behind the piano.
But the more inventive songs — the harpsichord and violin driven "Horse & I," or "Sarah," on which Khan played wooden box percussion — sent shivers down the spine. It was during "Horse & I" that those shivers first hit, when Khan sang a part I thought was done with a musical saw. Maybe on record it was, but the notes came out of her throat like a siren and I literally felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
From her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Fur & Gold, which is out next week in the US. If you haven’t seen mesmerizing, Donnie Darko-esque video for "What’s a Girl to Do?" it’s definitely worth checking out: