Dal Forno beckons a bold new era in her peerless output pushing her dub-damaged DIY dispatches to the limits of flawless dream-pop. In a transformative move towards crystal clear vocals and sharpened production, Look Up Sharp is an evolutionary leap from the thick fog and pastoral stillness of her Blackest Ever Black missives, You Know What It’s Like (2016) and The Garden EP (2017). Three years since her plain-speaking debut album, the Melbourne-via-Berlin artist finds herself absorbed in London’s sprawling mess. The small-town dreams and inertia that preoccupied dal Forno’s first album have dissolved into the chaotic city, its shifting identities, far-flung surroundings and blank faces. Look Up Sharp is the story of this life in flux, longing for intimacy, falling short and embracing the unfamiliar. Dal Forno connects with kindred spirits and finds refuge in darkened alleys, secret gardens and wherever else she dares to look.
In her own territory between plaintive pop, folk and post-punk dal Forno conjures the ghosts of AC Marias, Virginia Astley and Broadcast through her brushwork of art-damaged fx and spectral atmospheres. The first half of the record is filled with dubbed-out humid bass lines, which tether stoned hazes of psychedelic synth work as on ‘Took A Long Time’ and ‘No Trace.’ These are contrasted with songs like ‘I’m Conscious and ‘So Much better’ that channel the lilting power of YMG and are clear sequels-in-waiting to dead-eyed classics like ‘Fast Moving Cars.’
The B-side begins with the feverish bass and meandering melody of ‘Don’t Follow Me,’ which takes The Cure’s ‘A Forest’ as its conceptual springboard. It’s the clearest lyrical example since ‘The Garden’ of dal Forno’s unmatched ability to unpick the masculine void of post-punk and new wave nostalgia to reflect contemporary nuance. Look Up Sharp reaches its satisfying conclusion with ‘Push On’ – dal Forno’s most explicit foray into an undiscovered trip hop universe between Massive Attack and Tracey Thorn. The album’s last gasp finds personal validation in fragility: ‘I push on / I’m the Place I’m Going,’ a self discovery lifted by reverberant broken beats and glass-blown vocals.
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