OAKLAND — Around the time she began writing her own songs for the first time, Melbourne singer-songwriter Carla dal Forno lived in a house that was supposedly haunted. Her music reflects that haunted feeling, and she put that on full display at her Noise Pop show at the Starline Social Club Friday.
Carla dal Forno’s late-night set was her first-ever U.S. show. She took to the stage with dimmed lights, wearing a dark mesh top over a dark tank top and in the cool blue light, her small frame swayed.
Dal Forno’s sound is ambient and moody. It’s a fascinating combination of bass and synth. Her voice is an ethereal, reverb-swathed murmur just above a whisper. Her set also included a dash of psychedelia, with lyrics that were introspective, personal and emotional, but delivered in a detached, matter-of-fact tone. It’s music that makes you want to close your eyes and sway, and that’s just what Dal Forno did all night long.
On the opening song, “Italian Cinema,” off her solo debut, You Know What It’s Like, she greeted listeners with a noise that sounded like a combination of a helicopter and a spaceship on top of a gust of howling wind. On top of that base, she layered her alluring, haunting voice.
Throughout her performance, many of her songs were very different in the base, but similar in their peculiarity. Somehow, it all worked. The vocals sounded far away, melancholic and moody. But they were not overwhelmingly melancholic, either. “So day and night, I’ll always be outside/ Come and look for me if you like,” she sang on “The Garden,” a tune from a 2017 EP of the same name. The line held true when describing the reaction to her songs.
During her 45-minute set, Dal Forno didn’t address the crowd often. She concentrated on getting through as many songs as possible, sticking to the 2017 EP, her 2016 album, You Know What It’s Like, and throwing in a cover of “Blue Morning,” by ’80s New Zealand band The Kiwi Animal.
San Francisco duo Chasms’ Jess Labrador and Shannon Sky Madden, opened the show with an alt-pop sound similar to that of The XX, but more raw. In 2016, Chasms lost friends and family in the Ghost Ship warehouse fire, including Madden’s brother, Griffin. The tragedy was life-altering.
On their 2016 album, On the Legs of Love Purified, which made up most of the set, the two explore the connection between devastating grief and beauty. Soft, yet urgent lyrics sit atop echoed electric guitar, and a drum that mimics a heartbeat and drives songs forward. Their songs celebrated life and mourned its hardest realities.
Electronica duo BLXCK was the first non-DJ act at the show and performed one continuous stream of anxiety-inducing bass and synthesizer. It felt a bit like that noise that is played in the movies right before someone gets killed, but it was drawn out for an hour.