Friday, December 18, 2009


Yet another performance/tune by performance artist turned musician Natasha Khan.

Live performance for a band that does a lot of weird stuff can be difficult. Having good monitors to make sure you're getting exactly the right effect you're looking for is essential. Here Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan and friends) play "Glass" off the new album Two Suns for KCRW, and the monitor situation was dire enough that they all donned headphones for the occasion so they could hear the mix without getting feedback through their mikes (especially an issue for the acoustic instruments here).

I especially like the drums on this performance. A drummer who can come in on the right beat this way rather than serve as a metronome is a gem. It takes a lot more skill to do a syncopated beat of the sort that Sarah Jones is doing than it takes to just bash the shit out of the drums like a giant drum machine.

Remember, sometimes less is more. Despite the effects being applied to the stringed instruments, this is actually a fairly simple song with simple instrumentation applied skillfully. It works surprisingly well despite -- or because of? -- its simplicity. Natasha Khan comes at this with the background of a performance artist, where mystery and drama doesn't rely on having a lot of props, and it shows -- her approach to music works the same way.

-- Badtux the Music Appreciation Penguin


  1. Hmmm - Isn't all singing performance art? Except for in the shower, I mean.

    I like this. Natasha has an interesting voice, and good vocal control, at least from a trombonist's perspective.

    I like the drumming, too. But it says something damning about modern drummery if merely get it right is cause for comment.

    I don't know the first thing about drumming. But I've seen rock drummers try to play in a jazz setting, and they are clueless and befuddled - they just can't do it. Very puzzling.

    I played Sibelius tonight and will be doing Kenton on Monday.

    JzB the playing a lot these days trombonist

  2. Natasha was a spoken-word performance artist. Basically dramatic poetry readings or storytelling with minimal props. Then she got the idea of having some music around while she did that. Things snowballed from there :).

    Rock drummers: The only famous rock drummer that I can think of who *might* have been able to play in a jazz setting would have been Keith Moon, who, alas, is not with us anymore. Moon didn't have to keep time (Pete Townshend took care of that) so he was free to do basically jazz riffs on the drum. The modern rock drummer's job is to keep time and make some racket, which doesn't work so well when you're in a setting where time changes are common and making racket is not the point.

    Listen to Steve Shelley's work for Sonic Youth, Cat Power, Thurston Moore, Two Dollar Guitar, etc. for an idea of what a good modern rock drummer does. His job is to keep out of the way of the guitarist and vocalist while keeping them on time and adding some noise to fill in the spaces between the notes. He's basically a human metronome, a biological drum machine. I like Steve Shelley's work, he's a hard working drummer who does what he does very well, but I doubt he would be comfortable or useful in a jazz setting. That just isn't what he does.


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