This week’s pick was Carla Dal Forno’s debut solo album “You Know What It’s Like”. It’s about 30 minutes of achingly beautiful, highly detailed and unmistakably somber songs. Fragile, instrumental pieces float between segments of Carla’s tilted and restrained vocal ideas – singing lines that definitely feel like hooks and yet are still extremely mysterious and foreign. Whirling, perhaps blown-up machines and things that sound like mallets or small sticks are constantly moving and shooting alongside you. These songs are heavy stuff but they are also very strangely hollowed, slaves to some kind of overwhelming emptiness – a dark space in between things that is filled with nothing. They are soundtracks to some kind of crisis, some kind of movement through the underbelly. Yes, there is surely something negative about this record but there is alongside it a steady and comforting force that feels like it may never actually give up.
In addition to being an extremely interesting and emotional composition, I really think this album could stand solely as a document of incredible skill and attention to recording and mixing. These takes are so dusty, gray, and destroyed sounding – they are filled with so much life and identity as if they were individual characters, each serving to fill out some unique shape and playing a role in the greater drama that is taking place. Sure, the arrangements and “song” of it serves this too, but sounds at this level and this clarity are extremely potent. One enters a rich sound world that is intensely transformative and feels less like an illusion and more like an actual place.
This record really reminds me of some of the stiller moments on Low, Bowie and Eno’s great Berlin collaboration or some of Trent Reznor’s more tranquil work like Ghosts I-IV. I hear brutal groove-oriented sections and I think about someone like Tom Waits. Concerning Carla’s singing, I’m reminded of Ian Curtis, both with self-conscious but expressive voices. Fans of Grouper will probably like this a lot. I mention these people not to distract from Carla’s amazing work – it sounds like all of these things and yet not like a single one – I mean to emphasize how specific and cohesive this album is. “You Know What It’s Like” is unapologetically an individual that draws on influences but also, in my mind, strongly marks territory in new places.
Find a dark room. Listen late at night. Locate your favorite headphones and lie down.