Carla Dal Forno – ‘Come Around’ review: delicate dreampop without the disorientation

The Castlemaine native’s third solo album is haunting yet inviting – her most approachable record to date

Romantic dislocation softly haloes the third solo album from Carla Dal Forno. Recently returned to her hometown of Castlemaine, Victoria after a decade spent living in Berlin and London, the Australian multi-hyphenate suffuses ‘Come Around’ with dreamy longing.

It’s been some years since I’ve seen your face,” she sings on the opening ‘Side By Side’, which unfolds like a lopsided ambient track. On the following ‘Come Around’, Dal Forno applies another ghostly lyrical summons – “You could be the next one in my life” – against dub-like echoes on the guitar licks. She even offers to show the song’s subject around her favourite parts of her modest town.

Understatement is key to Dal Forno’s approach, both in her lyrics and her self-produced arrangements. This is delicate dreampop rendered without the usual disorienting layers. Instead, it’s closer to the skeletal minimalism of fellow Australian outliers HTRK, with dry, dazed vocals hanging over slinky bass lines, ticking percussion and ephemeral synth washes.

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The theme of human connection always feeling just out of reach continues with ‘Stay Awake’. Dal Forno measures the passing of time in the unreliability of sleep. “I am still what you need,” she repeats in a tone verging on lethargic. ‘Mind You’re On’ is similarly incantatory, cycling through the comforting phrase “It’s OK, OK, OK, OK / You’re on my mind”. On the aptly titled lullaby-esque ‘Slumber’, she finds an ideal duet partner in English artist Thomas Bush, who sings “my arms will envelope you” with an equivalent air of impossibility.

Beyond those recurring motifs, Dal Forno makes some surprising left turns. A pair of instrumentals deepen the album’s vaporous New Age vibe, with ‘Deep Sleep’ recalling Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 landmark ‘Oxygene’. She also reinterprets ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, a 1968 psych oddity by The United States of America. As much as her own lyrics value plainness surrounded by subtext, she clearly enjoys the macabre ornateness of describing “venomous blossoms” and “blackening mushrooms”, amongst other life-threatening flora.

Some of those touches may sound overly odd on paper, but this is Dal Forno’s most approachable outing to date. After making her name in the inscrutable slow-burn territory of her early acts F Ingers and Mole House, she has spent the past half-decade refining and clarifying her delivery with her solo records.

Released on her own Kallista imprint, ‘Come Around’ remains haunting while inviting us to explore every corner of its open space. At once airy and ominous, it should appeal to fans of both Dry Cleaning’s deadpan post-punk and David Lynch collaborator Julee Cruise’s swooning ethereality. That’s because Dal Forno gives her everyday pangs of wistfulness a gorgeously surreal edge, splitting the difference between the waking and dreaming worlds.

Details

Carla dal Forno - Come Around

  • Release date: November 4
  • Record label: Kallista
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