During the softest whispers of Fur and Gold—the debut recording from the UK's Bat for Lashes—Natasha Khan's delicate voice cries out like a child stranded in the woods. But her worry and fear among the trees is heightened by lyrics that read like childhood nightmares. Her voice is the only soothing factor, a vocal apparition whose presence, no matter how brief, is impossible to ignore.
Bat for Lashes is the moniker used by the 28-year-old Khan, who was born to mixed-race British parents and spent part of her childhood in Pakistan. Like many musicians, she felt the artistic tug toward music at an early age.
"I took piano lessons at school around seven or eight, but I never did well since I didn't practice. I used to get in trouble for that." She adds, "When I was about 11, I started improvising and making my own pieces. That was when I realized that you could communicate through sound as opposed to just words. I started taping all my piano pieces on my crappy ghettoblaster."
Khan's voice is a vibrant and lively instrument, the true centerpiece for the Bat for Lashes experience. Her commanding range is similar to Björk's, but with less theatrics, and her whimsical songwriting feels like a more grown-up Joanna Newsom. While Fur and Gold is clearly the stylistic vision of Khan, she is helped along the way by Josh T. Pearson, a name not too familiar to many music fans, at least not many in the States. In the UK, Pearson is a critical darling, known for fronting the tragically underrated Lift to Experience, a Denton, Texas trio whose stunning lone recording, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, made waves across the pond, despite receiving a tepid reaction here at home.
Says Khan, "When I saw Lift to Experience, I thought they were amazing, and when Josh was singing these biblical Texas lullabies, I remember thinking, 'I have to get him involved.'" Pearson lends a hand with guitar and vocals on three tracks, including the chilling "Trophy," where Khan turns her affections into a tangible prize and declares, "Heaven is a feeling I get in your arms."
The lingering haunt of Fur and Gold is visualized to perfection via the video for "What's a Girl to Do?" where Khan takes a leisurely moonlit dirt-bike ride down an eerie road that slices through what appears to be a haunted forest. There she's joined by an army of animal-masked co-riders who follow close behind, jumping and swerving in unison to the big Phil Spector-ish crescendos of the song. The masked riders act like Khan's oracles, riding with flair to the song's wondrous hook of "When you love someone/But the thrill is gone... Then I ask you now, what's a girl to do?" It's all very cute. That is, if your idea of cute is being shadowed by four creatures on Huffy bikes while on a deserted road. Think Donnie Darko, had the film shared an odd fascination with '80s BMX flick Rad.
"It took 22 hours. It was really intense, it was raining, and every time someone landed poorly on their bikes, we had to stop and re-shoot." Khan continues, "We filmed it on real film, which needed to be sent away and processed, but the first stock we sent off was damaged, so we had to go back a week later and do it all over again."