1---Bat-for-Lashes---The-Bride---Neil-Krug_670

In the run-up to the release of her fourth album, Natasha Khan has been asked a number of times about the legacy of David Bowie. She has, like Bowie, successfully transitioned between a number of identities. After her debut album, ‘Fur And Gold’ (2006), sold more than 100,000 copies, she assumed the glittery personality of Pearl on ‘Two Suns’. Last year she interpreted Iranian and Moroccan folk songs for her Sexwitch collaboration with Dan Carey and TOY. This time, Natasha Khan is someone else again.

‘The Bride’ is the story of a winter wedding that never happens. The expectant couple (the husband-to-be is ‘Joe’) are robbed of their matrimony when he’s killed in road accident on his way to the church. The Bride takes off on the honeymoon, and journeys into a world of self-reflection.

On paper it sounds like a bad Hollyoaks plot, but Bat For Lashes is a deft writer bringing the story to life in a magic and personal way. The scene is set with ‘I Do’, the Bride’s voice, full of promise, hovering above a quivering piano. But next, a mystical premonition – ‘Joe’s Dream (Don’t Say Goodbye)’ – foretells his fate with ghostly voices, a thudding drum machine and trembling guitar. ‘In God’s House’, which sounds like Animal Collective, is where the sinking, tragic, looming realisation begins to set in and ‘Honeymooning Alone’ begins with an audible crash… The Bride leaving in the wedding transport, “an empty seat by my side”.

That’s where the deep introspection begins – the shock, numbness and a cold bed (‘Sunday Love’ – set atop a ‘Kid A’-like Radiohead beat), the depression, haunted memories (‘Close Encounters’ – an Irish folk song about having sex with a ghost) and ‘Widow’s Peak’.

But from the deep sorrow she slowly begins to mend. It closes out with a pair of songs ‘If I Knew’ (“And I thought it was you I’d been searching for/But somehow I am the mirror, the mountain, the door”) and with ‘I Will Love Again’ The Bride beings to re-build herself from adversity.

Of course, the dominant themes here are loss, bereavement and loneliness, so it’s a cold blood that pumps around the body of the album. It’s certainly BFL’s most downbeat work to date but, in it, there’s also a message that hope and strength can crawl out of even the most tragic of situations.

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