Carla dal Forno’s greatest talent is world-building. Over the course of an album and an EP she’s released over the last couple of years, she’s demonstrated a knack for crafting uniquely misty recordings, shrouding brittle drum programming and swirling synthesizers in the dense mists of reverb and other effects. But the bits of clarity that peek through lend depth and weight to her smoggy sound world, there is the promise of a bountiful, florid world outside—a distant garden maybe—where all the gloomy melodies and memories contained in her recordings would dissipate in the afternoon sun. All this to say, through simple, quiet songs, she crafts a strange mixture of woe and hope, twisting the two around one another in inseparable helices.
Last month, she proved that the world she evokes is welcoming to visitors too. In preparation for an upcoming tour, she released a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness,” stripping down the swooning ambience of the original until what remains is a dense, dark collection of ringing basslines, seasick electronics, and cathedral-esque chanting. It’s sorta surreal and unsettled underneath the pop charms of its ringing melody, something like the sound of coming down with heat stroke on an otherwise pleasant day at the beach. It’s a great cover—a perfect fit for the complicated emotional project of her solo recording.
Today, she’s turned in a Noisey Mix that explores the concept of covers in general, including her “Summertime Sadness” flip among a host of tracks that similarly transform their source material into something more unsettling. There’s a rippling post-punk flip of Cameo’s funk hit “Word Up,” surrealist takes on 60s psych songs, and reverb-heavy reimaginings of lost soul anthems. Taken as a whole, it’s sorta like an alternate universe version of 20th century pop music, where everything was a little slower, sadder, and stranger. It’s a beautiful collection, so check it out below alongside a chat with dal Forno about what makes a great cover and her upcoming live dates.
Noisey: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Carla dal Forno: Catching a train and listening on headphones.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
Neurologists say it’s a real thing so I guess we should believe them. I don’t know what color this mix is, perhaps white? If someone actually does have synesthesia perhaps they can get in touch and tell us.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
The concept is “great covers.” I appreciate a good cover, and the risk a band or artist takes in taking someone else’s material and making it their own. Also, it seems like a good time to make a mix of covers as I’ve just finished recording a bunch for a new tour cassette that I’ll have with me on my forthcoming US tour. I’ve included two of those covers on this mix.
Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
Not really. I guess what I like best is hearing my own covers alongside all these other great covers and thinking that they stand up.
What makes a great cover for you?
I think when someone can record a cover and they bring it into their own world than that makes it good. A while back I was listening a lot to The Space Lady’s Greatest Hits record, she’s really an expert at doing that, and also Anika has done lots of great covers as well. When it came to choosing tracks to cover what I’m interested in most is good melodies and interesting lyrics.
You bring the covers you do on this mix into your universe so clearly, can you talk a little bit about the sounds that have become your hallmarks—drum machines and reverb. Do you find some comfort in abstracting the humanity from your songs?
Well I do like reverb it’s true, but for me it doesn’t automatically imply emotional distance or removal. I like how reverb can create space. I also tend towards using sounds that are more analog sounding (although most are made digitally). Other than that I like to hear sounds that show the testing out of new ideas, the mistakes, the sounds of different rooms. All sounds that I would say sound subtly human.
You’re about to play a bunch of North American dates for the first time right? The music you make seems so quiet and private (or something like that). Is it strange performing this sort of material before an audience?
It definitely took some time to figure out how to play some of these tracks live. When I first started there was some trial and error but I ended up enjoying the challenge of figuring it out. I’ve also played in other bands for a while now and take what I’ve learnt there and apply it to performing my solo work. I usually feel quite comfortable and enjoy sharing the music with a live audience. I also play with a bandmate, Mark, and he brings a whole other dynamic to my music in a live setting.
You’ve released an album and an EP in successive years, do you have more on the way this year? Is there anything you can say about your upcoming work?
I’ve been working on new material and might releasing a 7” later this year, ahead of an album next year. I’ve started playing some of these new tracks live, so come to a show if you want to hear a preview.
Denial - “California Dreaming”
Carla dal Forno - “Lay Me Down”
The Space Lady - “Radar Love”
Family Fodder - “Sunday Girl”
Fall of Saigon - “The Model”
Anika - “Go To Sleep”
Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland - “2”
Anna Domino - “Land of My Dreams”
Carla dal Forno - “Summertime Sadness”
John Maus - “Hey Moon”
Solid Space - “Tutti Lo Sanno”
Flesh World - “Destination Moon”
Alive She Died - “She’s Lost Control”
Mordwaffe - “Supersonic”
Heavy Metal - “Wort AB !”
The Raincoats - “Lola”
Carla dal Forno tour dates:
May 18 – Norfolk, VA – Charlie’s American Café
May 19 – Durham, NC – Pinhook, Moogfest
May 21 – Washington, DC – Union Stage
May 24 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst
May 25 – San Diego, CA – Whistle Stop
May 26 – Los Angeles, CA – Resident DTLAA
May 27 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
May 28 – Arcata, CA – The Miniplex
May 29 – Portland, OR – Holocene
May 30 – Seattle, WA – Timbre Room
June 1 – Toronto, ON – Double Double Land
June 2 – Chicago, IL – Do Division
June 3 – Rock Island, IL – Rozz Tox
June 4 – Detroit, MI – El Club
June 6 – Portsmouth, NH – 3S Arts
June 7 – Brooklyn, NY – Elsewhere, Northside
June 8 – Philadelphia, PA – The Barbary
June 9 – Boston, MA – Boston Hassle
June 11 – Montreal, QC – Suoni Per il Popolo