Writing from the perspective of a character is a customary aspect of Natasha Khan’s expression. It’s one she dramatically continued on last year’s side project Sexwitch to magnanimous séance proportions. On her return to Bat For Lashes after a four-year absence, she absorbs another skin that is just as powerful and grief-stricken. The titular The Bride (no relation to the Tarantino character) is a love-struck individual whose groom is untimely killed in a car accident on the journey to their wedding. Although it’s a fictional tragedy, it confronts Natasha Khan’s own life crisis fears and indecisiveness about marriage as she enters the latter half of her thirties. Therefore this personality is closer to her heart than her other alter egos such as Pearl (Two Suns) and Prescilla (Fur & Gold). Also, with less quirks and a simplistic, spacious production to the tracks – many tracks feature only delicately strummed guitars, flutters of angelic autoharp, tiny portions of electronica, ghostly post-rock echoes swimming behind the vocals – Natasha Khan wants us to hear her words equally to the atmospheric mood.
Narrated in chronological order, mapping pre-catastrophe, the moment of woe, mourning and post-bereavement, it’s comparable to Björk‘s 2015 album Vulnicura. To be appreciated for their artistic merit and true impact, they both have to heard in their timeline of grief and acceptance. Especially as their ominous storytelling is so effective this way. Plus Khan intended this to be digested like a movie, as suggested by the cinematically-lit, David Lynch mise-en-scene engrossing music videos and sound effects (car crashes, rain). Encouraged and motivated recently by her new interest in film making and first self-directed short film premiering at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival last year.
The story begins with ‘I Do’, full of optimism and anticipation. It’s pure and unscathed lyrically and musically – an autoharp that could tune a baby mobile- with The Bride dreaming of the pinnacle moment of the wedding experience: “When you say I do.” Although calm and steady in its music, the succeeding ‘Joe’s Dream’ is poetically spine-chilling. Her fiancé confesses to Khan that he’s seen clues hinting at his imminent death, the premonition puzzle pieces include: “God’s search light“, “Angels at his bedroom door” and “a body on a chequered floor“. In a state of confusion, Khan tries to make sense of it all whilst simultaneously comforting her boyfriend by telling him that “everything is fine“. Just one track later though, disaster strikes. “In God’s House” takes place on the wedding day. The Bride discovers the truth behind his church absence: “What’s this I see? My baby died on the beach“. Khan ends the track by emphasising on the cause of his demise: “Fire” in an astonishing wail, that demonstrates her pain.
What follows is The Bride’s unique reaction to his death. The bride angrily plays the blame game, targeting spiritual figures on ‘Sunday Love‘ (a conflict with Cupid) and ‘Never Forgive The Angels’ respectively. On ‘Widow’s Peak’ we enter into the protagonist’s troubled conscience, guided by Khan’s whispering vocals – a treat especially for fans who loved this technique on ‘Sarah’ from ‘Fur & Gold’. In the concluding chapter, Khan reveals that she is using The Bride’s situation to teach the audience how learning to love oneself after unexpected misfortune is possible, as demonstrated on the breathtaking and beautiful ‘If I Knew’ and ‘I Will Love Again’.
Through its tale and analysis on romantic impermanence, there’s no denying that Bat For Lashes gives a multi-faceted and deep meaning to the wedding phrase “Till Death Do Us Part“.