Local de nascimento
Melbourne, Victoria, Austrália
Technically speaking, Australian musician Carla dal Forno is a singer-songwriter, but her solo debut album shows her mindset is closer to that of a lighting director or set designer. Where even experimental singer-songwriters privilege vocals and chord progressions, dal Forno emphasizes the marginal details, to the extent that what we might think of as the “song” at the core of each track either dissolves outright or lingers in the background as a set of out-of-focus shapes.
Dal Forno’s approach falls closer in spirit to ambient music. Only one song on You Know What It’s Like emphasizes her voice to the point where you’d consider it the “lead” vocal, and she doesn’t even sing on half the tracks. She obviously takes after Grouper in the way she occupies the sumptuous gloom of her songs like a ghost, but her grandiosity and shamanic presence suggest a subdued modern answer to an outsider-art icon like Moondog.
Intro track “Italian Cinema” starts things off on an extravagantly strange note, with layers of sounds resembling the cyclic, serrated rotation of helicopter blades. At times, dal Forno uses found sounds—water pouring from a teapot to introduce “The Same Reply,” a crack of distant lightning at the beginning of “Fast Moving Cars”—to provide hints of setting. But she never lets the sounds eclipse the music's intensive focus on mood. Smoky and ominous, You Know What It’s Like simmers, both musically and thematically, with powerful undercurrents that dal Forno never quite spells out.
On “Fast Moving Cars,” the album’s first vocal tune, dal Forno navigates that thorny zone of longing where she’s prodding the object of her affections not to be so passive. “It’s safe to assume that I like you best, so don’t be so frightened,” she sings. Her unassuming place in the mix actually serves the resolve in her voice—once you pick up on it, the album’s gravity becomes hard to deny. Even when dal Forno tips her hat to Nico on “What You Gonna Do Now?,” she still manages to stake out her own territory. Much like other singer-songwriters who march unequivocally to their own drummer, Carla dal Forno is willing to provoke listeners on a number of levels without spoon-feeding them. With You Know What It’s Like, she manages to do so on her own terms, in a way that feels both distant and inviting and rewards the listener’s willingness to sit with the ambiguity in between.
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