Carla dal Forno – Look Up Sharp
On her second LP, Carla dal Forno sharpens her songwriting to create a record of creeping beauty
Carla dal Forno’s solo work has always tread a delicate line between the spacial heaviness of experimental electronics and a hazy stillness that's both rather troubling and tremendously pretty. She stays in this space on Look Up Sharp, her second full-length solo work, but develops her fundamental skills in every way.
dal Forno has already made clear her capacity for concocting emotionally resonant soundscapes, and Look Up Sharp is no different. The record is steeped in a sense of emotional retreat and the somnambulistic numbness of the everyday. This is particularly true of the largely instrumental Leaving for Japan, whose faintly pastoral loveliness gently transforms into a murk as her vocals are introduced. She maintains her loose relationship with genre, drawing on trip-hop, ambient and post-punk, but the production style moves away from the Young Marble Giants-indebted minimal intimacy of her debut and into a cleaner, more expansive sound. Don’t Follow Me pulses with a curiously swampy texture, the bass squelching beneath increasingly dense layers of synths. It’s a quietly overwhelming effect that dal Forno stays close to, but manages to not overplay at any point on the record.
However, it is her songwriting that has taken a particular leap. This is no more evident than on standout track I’m Conscious, which builds from droning synths over a heavy, almost boom-bap drum pattern into a chorus of remarkable intensity, her vocal lines circling its synth line to momentous effect. dal Forno's lyrics too have taken a great step forward, particularly on more narrative songs such as this and the genuinely funny So Much Better. They hold a particular capacity to present often simple images but to make them wrought with implicit emotional weight without feeling mannered or self-consciously poetic.
As an exploration of a incredibly specific emotional space, and attempts to leave it, Look Up Sharp works tremendously. But it’s dal Forno’s compositional poise and skill with restraint that sets her apart as a creator of works of truly unnerving grace.
Listen to: I’m Conscious, Don’t Follow Me, So Much Better