This SEXWITCH article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson
Natasha Khan has created something truly original with SEXWITCH, helped by psych revivalists TOY, and Dan Carey, who produced the brilliant Kate Tempest album ‘Everybody Down’. He’s also worked with Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand and Khan’s main band Bat For Lashes, among many others. Khan lets loose as she does only when live with Bat For Lashes, the first time her recorded material properly bears witness to her wild side.
‘Ha Howa Ha Howa’, starts without a word of English. It is atmospheric, thoughtful and, despite being almost seven minutes long, it flies by, because it is forever changing and captivating. It is earthy and visceral. Khan squeals and chants. Then the bass and synth come in and the song goes on a hypnotic Moroccan trip. “He addicted me and I addicted him,” she sings, and it is an addictive track, largely because of the heavy bass and Khan’s vocal pyrotechnics. As on almost all of this album, the words are translated from a rare old “world music” original — ”a thousand kisses… he’s my lover” — but feel fresh, dark and modern.
“Dark girls” are the possibly autobiographical theme of ‘Helelyos’. It’s crazy — Persian, witchy, sensual and out of control — but in a really good way. There’s a touch of Siouxsie about the singing with some Banshees and Creatures echoes in the guitar and drums, respectively. A spikey guitar motif runs almost the whole way through ‘Kassidat El Hakka’, a monster of a song that, at nearly eight-minutes, doesn’t feel a second too long. Again, that’s because it has a hypnotic quality that makes it easy to surrender to the Moroccan trance.
“When I die I’m going back to what I was,” Khan chants, mutating subtly and intriguingly into “When I die I’ll go back to where I was.” The drums become tribal, inclusive and inviting. Layers of bass and keyboard are added, and the guitar theme waxes and wanes, amid Khan’s sexy shamanic screaming. It’s hard to get the tune out of your head.
‘Lam Plearn Kiew Bao’ is rich and satisfying. It starts spacey but builds into a weirdly rewarding mix of Jonathan Richman and The Doors, with a reggae underpinning. “You’re a handsome guy,” sings Khan, but there’s menace in the flattery. ‘Ghoroobaa Ghashangan’ is enrapturing, Middle Eastern, mysterious, with its secular driving bass and shimmering high hat. The first verse starts off reminiscent of Bat For Lashes tunes, but the song soon twists into flights of overlayered chanting, like something floating over a souk, whispered entreaties, more echoes of Siouxsie, and a swirling climax.
All the songs on SEXWITCH are translated from Asian or north African songs, apart from ‘War In Peace’, an Alexander Skip Spence gem. It’s a lovely echo of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’, rocking out near the end and getting challengingly discordant as it closes, with a blast of 60s drumming and free-wheeling joy. SEXWITCH is a gem, from start to finish.
Natasha Khan’s breakout from Bat For Lashes lets her take her hair down and go a bit psych mental with TOYS and Dan Carey. SEXWITCH is truly original, a gem from start to finish.