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Baker's Dozen

Sonic DNA: Natasha Khan Of Bat For Lashes’ Favourite Albums
Laurie Tuffrey , May 7th, 2013 08:50

As part of our series of articles previewing this year's Field Day Festival, Natasha Khan roots through her record collection to pick out her 13 top LPs

“I don't listen to a lot of these albums very much anymore,” says Natasha Khan part way through talking about her Baker’s Dozen list. “I feel they're just in my DNA now. They're like old friends: you don't see them for a few years but if you see them it's just as easy as it always was.”

Perhaps like a lot of us, Khan’s favourite records aren’t the most frequently played - like she says, they get deeply ingrained in your consciousness through their associative memories and moments of first listen, but imbued with a brilliance that gets reanimated when needle touches vinyl again: “In a way it's like I don't need to go back because they're filed in there but I have enjoyed going back through some of them for this and realising how fucking good they actually are, it's not just me imagining it!”

They list serves as a pretty good blueprint for Bat For Lashes’ sound, with Khan pointing up the influence Lou Reed’s Berlin played on ‘Laura’, the pared-back, direct centrepiece of last year’s luminous The Haunted Man, and remembers scrolling through the patches on her first synth to find a similar sound to Aphex Twin’s when starting out producing her own songs.

But the fact that she knows them through and through isn’t just a reflection of some diligent study for her own songwriting. Khan comes prepared with notes made on her phone, but for the most part these go unused, with the reasoning for the albums’ greatness delivered in an enthusiastic flurry of descriptions and metaphors, punctuated by impersonations of Kurt Cobain and Robert Smith and sung-back versions of the albums’ music, with the customers of the Victoria Park cafe we meet in getting versions of Berlin’s double-bass parts hummed out by Khan. They’re even, in the case of Michael Jackson’s Bad, the leaping-off point for some large-scale philosophising (though Khan doesn’t get starry-eyed, noting afterwards: “People'll be like: ‘What a wanker, she's so pretentious!’”).

One theme, though, that does get returned to across the thirteen albums is musicians' ability to reconcile technical ability with emotional conviction. This more than anything seems to be the standard of proof for greatness for Khan: "They're channelling something that all of humanity... you can make a person cry because of what you're doing. That combination is just dynamite, isn't it? There's nothing better."

Bat For Lashes plays Field Day in Victoria Park, London on May 25; get hold of tickets here. To begin scrolling through Natasha’s choices, click on the image below.