Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan joins forces with rock band Toy for a six track EP that takes music back to some of its tribal and most basic premise – the drum and the voice.
Sexwitch as an EP works on a hedonistic edge that repetitive chants, drums and basslines can work their way inside of your brain and entrance you to dance and lose yourself in the hypnotic dirge. “Ha Howa Ha Howa” opens with this in mind with tribal beats, a wirey bass line and occasional ethereal guitars playing like an electric raj behind it all. Khan infuses sex, Earth, nature and a free spirit as she moans and chants her way to an almost completely different song – taking about 3 minutes to spit out one line. Yet it strangely all works together. “Helelyos” moves into a more trippy side with drum loops and abstract guitar loops that are more akin to math rock than Bat For Lashes. There is also little chord change throughout the song and so it feels quite flat – again driving home the hypnotic hedonistic thoughts.
At eight minutes long “Kassidat El Hakka” is the longest track but also in some ways the most dynamic. It features an Eastern guitar riff that flows effortlessly out of the speakers as the percussion swaps and changes over Khan’s drawn out vocal screams and mumbles. Over the eight minutes the track gets progressively more angry, grainy, synth heavy and crunchy. It’s like the song is readying for war as the vocals end up blurring into a montage of whails behind the heavy band work. It’s a track that rewards patience although it, as with the rest of the EP, is certainly not for everyone. “Lam Plearn Kiew Bao” is the light track of the EP. It’s opening quarter providing much needed solace before the instruments take a more Asain Jazz Ska feel. The issue with this track is less about the instruments and more to do with Khan’s voice being out of tune and free flowing. It worked in the previous tracks as it sounded raw – here it sounds off key. “Ghoroobaa Ghashangan” however is possibly my favourite track from the EP. It has a proper beat, more than one chord and holds a psychedelic spooky feel that is both grounded and ethereal. To me its the only time where band and singer feel like they are at one and if Sexwitch continued beyond this EP, I’d love to see this direction being taken over the epic rock rajs. “War In Peace” ends the half hour in a more 60’s rock vibe and whilst it takes a while to get going and seems to me to have a tempo problem in places, it’s a mystical trance that’s worth getting to know.
Sexwitch as a whole is fascinating because it shows two bands jamming in an almost experimental improvisational way. Sadly the end result is often something that either outstays its welcome or is to incoherent as a fully formed group to leave an effect on me. There’s definitely something there though – it just needs more time in being a focused form, not an excessive scream fest.