5/19/2009

Hey, Look--a Shell!

Due to my recent post, which somewhat surreptitiously worries about my own negativity, I am fulfilling a self-promise to only post about things that I like--nay, enjoy so much that I would be willing to share them in writing. Surprisingly enough, this seems what most people are doing on their blogs. Who knew?

But I'm not most people. As we know.

Most of the things I feel likely to write about in admiration and curatorial awe, are probably media oriented. I spend an awful lot of time throughout the day absorbing with the brain. Again, we are approaching the scope of many blogs out there. But nothing really unifies my tastes, other than that singular pencil point that is my consciousness. I don't like this or that music, sort of book, movie, or food. I like a lot of things.

So what you gain here (maybe?) is my own personal interpretation of these things you could certainly already know about, or otherwise find much more factual information on the topics elsewhere. You get the scrawling of that pencil point, in somewhat legible, digitally syndicated form.

Megan, my partner, has this interesting habit of dragging me to cultural events, without telling me what they really are. Now, it wouldn't be dragging me if she told me, because she always takes us to good stuff, and it wouldn't be dragging anyway because I know this, and know whatever she has in mind is going to be good, except that she refuses to tell me what it is, and says something along the lines of, "you are going to this whether you like it or not, even if I have to drag you." Hence the dragging.

But it's always awesome, and probably something I would really want to see, if I knew what it was, but she says, "oh its just some art/dance thing, I forget what it is." But she knows. I think it might give her some pleasure to to the whole drag/surprise thing.

Anyway, one of these events was going to the see the band, Bat For Lashes. This was a couple of years ago. "We're going to see this band," she said. "I don't care if you want to go or not, you're going because I want to go and you will accompany me." "What's the name of the band?" I asked. "Bats-or-something, I can't remember. Its some folklore art thing."

Actually she'd seen them written up in Paper or some indie magazine, and knew they were good. She told me this afterwards, when he memory was magically restored.

But regardless of the cute shenanigan's in our private life, Bat For Lashes is a great group.

I was a bit skeptical, when I saw the crowd, and as the band took the stage. It was at the Doug Fir, which is a pretty hipster-posh Portland club/restaurant. Lots of wood, Lucite and velvet--you may know the type of place. So the crowd was, well, accordingly. The band as well--dressed in fairly standard hipster attire for 2007/8: sequined headbands, large sack-like blouses.

But as the music started, I was fairly easily won over. I am a sucker for strong female vocalists, especially fronting their own band. So many bands have a male singer, when it is perfectly obvious the sound they are going for would be better with a female. You know what's better than falsetto vocals? A voice that's actually a couple octaves higher. Natasha Khan also owns the stage, without over powering it. A big beef I have with many indie bands is that the art of leading a band on stage seems to be lost. We are lost between shoegazers, microphone clutchers, and then the manic over-extendedness of artistes so often. But Khan's serene gaze, clear voice, and powerful hand claps perfectly match her music's aesthetic.

The aesthetic, is hard to describe, but sort of a nature-queen ballad crossed with dark antique anthem. Serendipitously, while searching for images for this post I stumbled across one posted on a music blog entitled, "beach goth". While a clever name, and a rift of another sub-culture with easy identifiers, it may work for the music of Bat For Lashes. I'm thinking of the mysterious AI-generated art boxes from William Gibson's Count Zero--dark handcrafted wood, animal remains leaved in non-precious metal, bones, feathers, and beads. The electronics of the synthesizers mix well with the archaic sounds of her harpsichord and autoharp, creating this sort of mythology-by-way-of-misunderstood future. Sort of an Indian motif perhaps with animalistic architypes found underneath the pavement, (or at least Khan herself appears so, with her Asiatic dark features and thin, stereotypical hipster-moon-goddess physique) but as far as the music goes, I am more reminded of the subtle beauty of storm-washed jetsam upon a cold beach, sun-bleached and of mysterious, yet natural origin. The silence of putting your ear to a hole dug in the sand. It's a popular thing right now, kind of thriving in the border zones around steampunk, but for the naturalists; or outside of found-art, for those who still don't like consumer packaging even after recycling. Beach goth, therefore. Maybe driftwood-gore, but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it. As resident of Oregon and a frequentee of the Pacific Coast, I can totally dig it.

The lyrics are of a similar, "oh but the feelings are all around us in the dirt already" vibe. I have only listened to the first album, Fur and Gold, and not the newer one. My favorite song, "Trophy", contains these lyrics:

The trophy that I made for us
In fur and gold
Got into the wrong pair of hands
In truth was sold
They bought it for oh so much less
Than it was worth
And every man that touched it
Found a heaven on earth

Now imagine you and a special someone, holding each other on the edge of a giant forest, and, feeling the mist drifting over your heads, you both simultaneously look down at the moss-covered humus, and between your filthy bare feet, you discover a perfectly-white shrew skull. The meaning of this particular occurence decidedly obvious, you carefully wrap the bone in a cloth, bringing it home with you to place inside a glass cloche, among your most prized and meaningful possessions on a scarred, mahogany dresser.

Okay, yes, a sappy bit of fantasy, way more obvious than the more sublime lyrics preceding. But you get the aesthetic I'm thinking of here? Yes? Good.

Now, this is the point where I would normally swing my blogpost around into the wind, and fire off a surprise (or sometimes not a surprise) salvo connecting my current place in the post with the objective, hinted to in the beginning, more whimsical introduction. But I'm not going to do that here. Not because I don't think Bat For Lashes is an important contribution to Arts and Culture, but because I'm simply not going to describe it. I merely suggest you listen for yourself.