Dick’s Picks: More witchcraft related shenanigans from our man Dick as he waxes lyrical about this top-slice of modern acid/folk/psych from Sexwitch….
Sexwitch – a bit rude isn’t it, what’s it all about?
Firstly, let’s just say that while ‘doing a bit of google research’ into this LP on more than one occasion I came close to a) joining a witches coven b) sacrificing a goat c) casting not one but three spells – blimey, what might have happened if Dick had chosen Cliff’s ‘Devil Woman’….yikes!
Released in 2015 the self-titled ‘Sexwitch’ long player is a collaboration between Brighton based multi-instrumentalist Bat For Lashes (Natasha Khan), who since 2006 has been responsible for putting out a succession of gloriously unhinged experimental pop. Lazy journalists have dusted down their usual roll-call of ‘experimental female artists’ when discussing her music – so cue Bjork, Kate Bush, Cat Power and even Tori Amos (nooo! Wot’ no Annie Lennox?) to illustrate just how, like, weird she is. However, that does Khan a disservice, her Bat For Lashes LPs have ploughed their own singular furrow, her most recent album under the Lashes moniker is a concept album (yes one of those) that details the story of a woman left at the alter after the husband-to-be dies in a car crash on the way to the wedding – blimey!
What about Toy?
Also hailing from Brighton, Toy feature several refugees from former indie landfill hell (Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong) plus other inter-connected NME types. However, by 2012 Toy had developed their own angle; an updated version of ‘80s/’90s shoegaze mixed with a liberal dose of psychedelia – N-I-C-E!
So, if you’ve guessed a collaboration between Khan and Toy was going to offer something a little more, errr, challenging than, I don’t know….Annie Lennox fronting Simply Red you’re right! Here’s album opener ‘Ha Howa Ha Howa’, a percussive monster with eastern sounding vocal histrionics riding on a wave of low-end-bass moves….
The ‘world music’ vibe is not accidental, each of the songs on the album are covers of super obscure ’60s/’70s folk, psychedelia from Afghanistan, Morocco, Thailand, Iran and the U.S. ‘ Ha Howa Ha Howa’ was originally performed by Moroccan Cheikha Hanna Ouakki, a teenage musician/wanderer who travelled among the villages of her homeland during the ’70s, Khan’s update taps into the originals neurosis (the song translates as ‘he addicted me, I addicted him’) with Toy giving it loads in the groove department over the tracks seven minute duration.
More psych-groove action can be found on their interpretation of Iranian song ‘Ghorooba Gashangan’, the original recording of which dates from a pre-revolution Iran, top U.S. reissue label Light In The Attic added it to their ‘Zendooni ‘ collection, which is possibly where Khan/Toy heard it? It’s a great take, with Khan’s vocals sounding not unlike Siouxsie Sioux having Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) round for a light supper.
…..and here’s the original so you can, errr, compare and contrast…
The album itself was the result of one (yes one) day long session, with all tracks purportedly first-takes too. Not only that, the copy we have for sale is part of a very limited run that were signed by Natasha herself along with producer Dan Carey.
….will there will be a follow-up, who knows? So for now enjoy this, possibly one-off, collaboration that does what any self-respecting cover version should do – that is, draw attention to great music that you might have otherwise never heard whilst also giving it your own unique spin……