For all the hubbub over Khan's predilection for fairy-tale lyrical elements, it's important to note that her music always works at the intersection between myth and reality. "In my songs, sometimes the mythic elements outweigh the 'real' ones, but other songs are kind of straightforward and don't use mythical language at all and are more naked, emotionally. I mean, I love fairy tales, but I also love Raymond Carver; I love E.T., but I like David Lynch, as well. They all kind of say the same thing to me."
This juxtaposition of reality and fantasy continues on Two Suns (Astralwerks), only this time Khan's sonic palette has broadened to fit the widescreen vistas of her recent experiences. It's a record of her touring the world for a few years after the success of Fur and Gold. But it's also a documentation of jubilation and heartbreak.
"I definitely went into this record knowing that I wanted to make a much more powerful-sounding, lush, much bolder record. I'd have loved to make another magical childlike sort of thing, but I had to be faithful to my — well, I had more going on, for me, and it's not always pretty."
For Khan, the years after Fur and Gold were spent in motion, whether traveling on tour or relocating to New York for a romance that, in ending, was the fulcrum for the album's melancholy heart and its themes of duality and spectral coupling. "There are interplanetary things on this record: big skies and huge planets crashing into each other as a metaphor for relationships. I definitely felt a need for a more expansive sonic quality, you know?"
Two Suns' recording locations included the desert expanses of Joshua Tree, California. The wide-open panoramas are palpable in the opening "Glass," with its tribal drumming, shimmering synths, and thousand-mile-canyon-echo vocal treatments. "A thousand crystal towers/A hundred emerald cities/And the hand of the watchman in the night sky/Points to my beloved" is the sort of fantastical couplet that's gotten Khan pegged as a few dice rolls from Dungeons & Dragons territory. But for her, it's all about making the mythic personal, taking ancient and personal touchstones and mixing them together till they feel not just sensible but inevitable. The lead single, "Daniel," a darkly dancy anthem to running in the dark "under a sheet of rain in my heart," is alleged to be an ode to Ralph Macchio's title character from The Karate Kid. (The cover of the single shows Khan on the beach, her naked back emblazoned with a large portrait of Larusso-san himself.) How does this all fit?
"I think that my attraction to myth doesn't just come through ancient sources; I'm fortunate to have grown up in a decade where there were so many amazing films about children experiencing epiphanies and having relationships with things much bigger than themselves. I think we all desire some sort of god or some kind of religious experience, whether it's with an alien or with giants or whatever it is. I don't separate science from religion, I don't think that one is right and the other is wrong. I think that they are just different ways of looking at the very fundamental basic thing, which is that we're all here and we're all connected and we all go through the same things, and there isn't an easy way to describe that."
BAT FOR LASHES + LEWIS AND CLARKE | Paradise, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | April 27 at 8 pm | $12 | 617.562.8800 or www.thedise.com