|Parlophone | discogs.com|
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One of the most enduring archetypes in modern music is the siren — the woman who cries and wails and laments. They all seem to possess an identical soprano timbre, yet each by its own idiosyncrasies seems to belong to a unique subgenre. Jenny Hval relishes a particular visceral intimacy. Susanna Sundfør wrests nuggets of wisdom from the dichotomy between violence and love. And Natasha Khan's project Bat For Lashes revels in lush, gothic themes and textures.
The Bride, Khan's fourth album as Bat For Lashes, is her most focused, her most tragic and tightly conceptual. A bride departs on her honeymoon alone after her fiancé fails to show up for their wedding. But this is no clichéd Nicholas Sparksian misunderstanding — he has tragically died in a tragic car crash. The Bride at once leans into and rejects this familiar framework.
Natasha Khan is of course endowed with that timeless ghostly howl of a voice, favouring emotional clarity over perfect diction. This unearthly wind swoops its way around funereal harp and chiming piano, through gentle hushed melancholy to raging, literally thunderous climaxes — one track dramatically samples thunderbolts as percussion.
(This flair for melodrama does not go unindulged. Musical experiments Khan deems too left of centre for Bat For Lashes are relegated to her aptly titled side project, Sexwitch.)
Over thirty years ago, Kate Bush memorably begged Heathcliff to open his window to the bracing moorish night and let her in from the cold. Brontë, Bush and Khan all share a knack for juxtaposing ecstasy, terror and desolation, each drawing on the same contrasts, each linking marriage and murder in their own special way.
Ruminations on life and death, on love and loss, occupy substantial emotional territory as these women well know — but as skillfully demonstrated, they need not be glum quagmires of depression. They can be nimble, elegant, coherent, shining parcels of wisdom.