Think ‘doomed bride’ and your mind might settle on Greek mythology’s Ariadne: Theseus dumped her on an uninhabited island, sailed away and left her to the unsolicited come-ons of the horny wine god Dionysus. Or maybe you’d opt for Kill Bill’s Black Mamba: her hubby-to-be is gunned down at their wedding rehearsal, so she turns into a vengeful killer.
Bat For Lashes, AKA Natasha Khan, adds to this long-established canon of cinematic almost-nuptials with her concept album ‘The Bride’ – but her Groom has a rather less exotic name (Joe) and he’s not to blame for the Bride’s abandonment: he dies in a crash on the way to the wedding. Khan’s story musters the same potent anguish as these ancient tales, but it’s not just fury the Bride experiences: grief, reflection and self-discovery are also crucial to her road-trip parable, which champions self-worth and questions the ideal of finding completion in another person.
This fourth album – her most ambitious yet – finds her pairing the filmic qualities of her first two (2006’s ‘Fur And Gold’, 2009’s ‘Two Suns’) with the stark maturity of 2012’s ‘The Haunted Man’. Khan refuses to yield crossover hits like 2009’s ‘Daniel’ (only the frenetic rhythms of ‘Sunday Love’ come close) opting instead for a slow style of storytelling that rewards the patient listener.
Opening track ‘I Do’ darkens its Omnichord with ominous bass as she anticipates her wedding day: “All of the sorrow will drop away… when you say ‘I do’.” When news of the Groom’s death has her fleeing the church in their honeymoon car, she notes the poignant “cans on the road in tail lights”. ‘Never Forgive The Angels’ pays homage to the sombre guitar of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’; the bewitching chimes of ‘Widow’s Peak’ have the Bride in a spoken-word purification ritual; the bassline of ‘I Will Love Again’ is simple but transcendent.
Khan opens up this imaginary world with her voice, vaulting tragically high (‘In God’s House’) or turning feather-light for the album’s serene resolution (‘If I Knew’). There’s even a mad ballad about sex with a ghost (‘Close Encounters’), but by that point Khan could probably take you anywhere and you’d still be enthralled.