Carla dal Forno:
Fleeting Moments

© Vasily Agrenenko

Words by:

Carla dal Forno isn’t used to feeling settled. In the past three years since leaving her home in Melbourne, she’s moved more times than she can put a figure to with certainty. Even when she has a space to call her own, the musician seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once.

During a two year period spent in Berlin, dal Forno tells me her address changed at least five times, while her latest relocation to London involved transporting a priceless cargo of synthesisers and amplifiers once again. Living in suitcases, dal Forno tells me, has been essential to her survival as a functioning artist. Despite the constant upheaval, she has just signed a 12-month lease for a new apartment. “Hopefully I’ll stay out for a while this time,” she sighs, closing her eyes in silent protest.

Like so many breakthrough musicians, Carla dal Forno’s move to Europe was a practical necessity. “Logistically, if I wanted to continue playing, the expense of having to travel from Australia to Europe to perform was entirely nonsensical,” she clarifies. But beyond these logistics, dal Forno’s compositions mirror the mirk of Europe’s colder climes; her glacial sounds beckon for the iciness of the Northern Hemisphere.

Something of a permanent fixture for Kiran Sande’s Blackest Ever Black label, Carla dal Forno’s career trajectory spans the fields of improvisation, dub and lo-fi post-punk. Early recordings with Melbourne-based indie outfit Mole House in 2010 saw her develop her skill for multi-instrumentation. With her solo work, alongside collaborations with Samuel Karmel and Tarquin Manek for the Tarcar and F ingers projects, her vision was solidified. Her records capture a kind of shamanic gloom. Dal Forno’s softly phantasmal vocals and abstract approach to synth and drum machines create a simmering, dimly lit moodiness. Her partially conversational vocals sound weightless. Like smoke, her sound itself feels transient, intangible.

Despite not having seen her family for over a year, dal Forno is right where she needs to be. “The infrastructure that’s connected to my music is all based here. Kiran and the label. And now this,” Carla gestures away from where we are sitting and towards Hackney’s recently opened record shop, Low Company, where she currently works. Managed and owned by Sande, it’s an unassuming space stationed amidst cafes and work studios. “I really don’t think I would be working there if not for my experience in radio,” dal Forno tells me. “Don’t ask me anything about the techno or jazz sections.”

© Vasily Agrenenko
© Vasily Agrenenko

Despite her modesty, track selection clearly comes as second nature for dal Forno, whose monthly slot on London’s NTS radio careens wildly through stylish psychedelia, post-punk and art rock. “Once you start listening to music, you start joining the dots. It becomes a history lesson based around connections. It’s also helping me position my own music. Everything I play on the radio I admire something about it. I feel like there’s a connection with my own sound there, however tenuous that might be.”

While she sponges up the sounds of her peers through radio and in the record store, Carla’s sound is wholly her own. Her debut solo album, 2016’s You Know What It’s Like, was a swell of skulking pop and revised cold wave. It’s both sensual and chilling in equal measure. Her latest project, The Garden EP, toys with this emotive approach to songwriting, and is built with angular instrumentation.

“I enjoy being able to express myself in ways I might not by just having a conversation with someone,” dal Forno explains. “It’s intuitive. I’m in awe of the process of making music because I’m not entirely sure exactly what I’ve done. There’s just this lapse of time. If I feel vulnerable, it’s a sign that I’m getting in touch with something that’s authentic.”

By succumbing to this impulsive drive, dal Forno allows The Garden to grow wild with opposing states of consciousness. Fear, anger, lust, vulnerability, melancholy all coincide with one another as she sings. As it happens, dal Forno’s current residence provides a fitting spiritual home for these powerful undercurrents to her sound. For now at least. “London too is a very passionate, emotional place. It suits me,” she concludes as she walks away from Low Company and surveys the rest of her working day. “Now I’ve got to go home and pack. Again.”

Photography: Vasily Agrenenko

The Garden is out 6 October via Blackest Ever Black

Carla dal Forno appears at Simple Things, Bristol, 21 October

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