In a parallel universe somewhere, Bjork and Kate Bush were lovers. Somehow they managed to combine their DNA and produce a child, whom they named Natasha Khan. The child then found its way back through to our dimension and, under the nom de plume of Bat For Lashes, she hit the charts. The rest is history.
Bat For Lashes first came to my attention back in 2009, after the birth of our third child – who shares names with the Ivor Novello-winning ‘Daniel’. It was, quite frankly, a better song than the number one hit on the day he was born, Calvin Harris’s ‘I’m Not Alone’ (I know Harris has his fans but I’ve frankly never understood the fuss). I’ve made a point of buying physical copies of the number one records that correspond to all three of our sons’ birth dates – Joshua, back in 2005, had the dubious honour of being paired with ‘Ghetto Gospel‘, a stretched-to-breaking-point vocal from the long-deceased Tupac Shakur re-edited by Marshall Mathers and paired with cuts from an old Elton John song. (That was the summer that a certain remix of ‘Axel F’ hit the top spot for weeks, and I maintain to this day that the reason Josh was two weeks late was because he didn’t want to be associated with that fucking frog for the rest of his life.)
A couple of years later, Thomas was born under an Umbrella. Ella. Ella. Eh? Eh? Eh? You get the picture. (Icture. Icture. Ict. Ict. Ict.) That song was everywhere. It really shouldn’t make me cry, but it does. I have my reasons, and they were threefold. But whatever the banality of some of the tripe that made number one, when Calvin Harris hit the top spot, I confess to feeling a little disappointed that Daniel had to be born to such a nondescript record – this despite the fact that the number one spot and the singles chart in general mean bugger all these days – and was therefore relieved when my sister-in-law suggested this as an unofficial replacement, even though it only peaked at number thirty six (which simply proves that the majority of the singles-buying public have no taste).
Now, cut to last year, when through circumstances I can’t remember – probably a sale – I wind up acquiring both Fur and Gold and its follow-up, Two Suns. Both have their merits, although it’s the latter that I prefer, feeling as it does like the album Natasha Khan wanted to make first time around. There’s less tinkly piano and more use of synths (God, she’s even developing like Kate Bush). There’s a schizophrenic theme running through, or at least an alter ego. It’s a crazy, mixed-up record. I play it, and I play it again, and then again. One song in particular, ‘Two Planets’, makes me sit up: its bold percussive texture, omitting the crucial bass line and not suffering as a result, is extraordinarily reminiscent of key tracks from Hounds of Love (a record we’ll come back to in a few weeks). And the very first time I hear this, driving home from work, I am suddenly struck by a flood of images from Doctor Who.
The album’s cover is a deep, resonant blue, and for some reason I have applied this same colour to Matt Smith’s 2010 season. I have no idea why this is except to say that a mooted, almost mournful feel seems to take hold. Every season has, I think, a different colour: Martha’s was green. Eccleston’s was fiery orange. Last year’s was rust – dealing with, as it did, the desert and a dead Doctor. As someone who typically thinks aurally, rather than visually, it baffles me that I occasionally come to these sorts of conclusions (although presumably if you were to examine them closely, you’d find they simply didn’t work). I’m not suggesting that the directors are tinting everything in sepia like in Traffic. But there seem to be recurring colour schemes, although perhaps they’re in my head as much as anything else. You see what you want to see.
Anyway: I cut and re-cut and eventually came up with something resembling a montage – one that came together faster than anything else I’ve done but one that even today I’m not totally happy with. It feels like the pacing is a bit off. Looking back I’m not convinced that the song choice was quite right; there are gloriously appropriate lyrics within it that marry quite well with the visuals, but I relied on fewer quick cuts than I have in the past, and there are times when I wish the whole thing would hurry up a bit. It feels sluggish and amateur. At the same time, I think it fits thematically, because the lyrics are an eye-opener:
Show me moonlight on the sunrise
I’ve seen so many planets dancing
I’ve seen too many people hiding
Show me sunset and I won’t forget
That I am one of two planets dancing
I am part of two planets dancing
Sign your name
On my sun!
The song of Solomon
Died in the battleground
The song of Solomon
Died in love’s battleground
I am full
Shattered by this sailing time
For all your suffering by night
Oh warm, but under bright
And life is so much dark and light
When day cannot exist without a night
And you are not separate from me
I am a heart that’s full of life
And to be shared
On this night
Feel my hands
Feel my life
For the Sun
And the stars
Are my Mother
And my sister
I know where the form is changing
I know that the stars will follow me
At first I suppose the second and third lines, taken literally, reminded me of the Doctor, and that may be where all this came from. And I didn’t realise at the time, but it basically seems to be the story of Amy, at least during her first season (before she became less interesting), and so it was a quirkily appropriate, if imperfect union. But who said marriage had to be perfect?