When Natasha Khan – who records under the name Bat for Lashes – finished touring the world behind her 2009 sophomore CD “Two Suns,” she was mentally and physically exhausted.
Having just endured a romantic breakup as well, she returned to her seaside English retreat in Brighton and drew the brakes on her fast-paced existence.
“I wanted to get back to my roots and do nurturing things for myself, like cooking and gardening and doing pottery,” she says. “I went to life drawing classes every week, went for walks in nature and I bought a cat – her name is Mopsy. I just did a bunch of really domestic, homey things for a couple of years.”
Gradually, Khan, who appears in San Francisco tonight, found an easygoing, if unusual, way in to her next album, “The Haunted Man”: through dance.
To create rhythmic new numbers like the serpentine “Lilies,” techno-tribal “Oh Yeah” and minor-keyed co-write (with Justin Parker) called “Laura,” she took her home demos to a local dance studio, and, with a choreographer, began physically re-interpreting her own work.
Soon, the music was essentially telling her how it should sound.
“Doing that, twice a week for three hours in a studio, I think definitely connected me to my body a lot more, and got me confident in embodying the themes of the record through movement,” says Khan, 33.
It was all spur-of-the-moment improvisation, she says: “Just closing your eyes and imagining the scenes of that song, and what elements would be around you, like the people or the ground you’d be treading, or what the air and landscape would be like. That went hand in hand with the recording, up the mountain that was this piece of work.”
Ever since her Mercury Prize-nominated 2006 debut “Fur and Gold,” the ex-nursery-school teacher has traded in heady motifs. So while “Haunted” metaphorically discusses the letting go of past relationships, and relationship patterns that have come down through her family, she says its inspirations include Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” book, French New Wave cinema, vintage Ingmar Bergman films and contemporary “monochrome and raw” dance performances.
Khan is so proud of her new dancer’s body, she posed nude for “Haunted’s” striking cover shot, with a naked man draped tastefully across her shoulders.
“It felt like a long time,” Khan says of the surreal five-hour session with photographer Ryan McGinley. “I had assistance getting the guy onto my shoulders, but I could only hold him for three or four minutes before I had to slowly put him down. So it was a tough workout. I felt the burn, for sure!”
IF YOU GO
Bat for Lashes
Where: Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 14
Tickets: $25 to $27
Contact: (415) 673-5716, www.axs.com