Bat for Lashes The Dream of Delphi

Bat for Lashes – The Dream of Delphi (Mercury KX)

Four years ago, when the pandemic was just beginning, we all fantasized about what oeuvres based on it would look like. Many pop culture experts assumed that when it all ended, creative people of all kinds would tell the story of those times in color and with rich sound. Well, more than a year since the official end of that era and about two since the actual one, we continue to get new albums conceived, written, or recorded during the worldwide lockdown, and there is almost nothing about how we survived with face masks and struggled with other stuff that Steven Soderbergh smartly showed in Kimi.

Many musicians sing mostly about the everyday challenges of those days: how they were losing and finding their love and relatives, how they managed to survive different personal struggles, and how they witnessed the birth of a new life. Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, is one of them, telling the story of the birth of her daughter Delphi back then. From today’s perspective, despite the countless lives lost and the unbelievable restrictions on movement, the pandemic was just a frame for people’s everyday lives, like wars and natural disasters. Being politically active on social media, on her sixth studio offering, Khan carefully separates the concept of childbirth from the general socio-political background.

Although The Dream of Delphi is a straight concept album about the first steps of a baby in the world, it doesn’t just retell the facts of childbirth and motherhood. Its events are set in a multidimensional reality where the birth of a child named Delphi isn’t just that, but a celestial phenomenon to which everyone can relate. “That portal opens, and a spirit comes through into this dimension”, Khan describes the record’s conception. The title track, filled with large-scale emotions of cosmic proportions, perfectly sets the scenery for this otherworldly narration. Conceptually, it reminds us of The Flaming Lips’ King’s Mouth, but emotionally, it lays the mood of their ‘Look… The Sun Is Rising’ or even dEUS’s ‘Bad Timing’.

Beginning with such a bold move, promising profound contemplation of the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything, it’s a challenge to sustain the momentum throughout the entire record. Yet, Khan holds steady, delivering more and more enigmatic and spiritual tunes as this little story progresses. Right after the grandiose opener follows the psychedelic-soaked ‘Christmas Day’ and the post-minimalism-indebted ‘Letter To My Daughter’, which has a clearly audible consonance with Kate NV’s ‘Oni (They)’, who, like Khan, was definitely influenced by electronic pop music pioneers and, say, Philharmony-era Haruomi Hosono with his avant-garde peers.

“It’s sort of my avant-garde, composer-opus dedication to my daughter and this whole era”, she states, upsetting those waiting for a sequel to the poppy ’80s-tinted Lost Girls. There’s no coquetry here; it’s a scientific fact. She places a strong emphasis on piano motifs, conjuring almost French Impressionist pieces ‘At Your Feet’ and ‘Her First Morning’ out from silence. It would be not far from the truth if we dared to compare them to the iconic ‘Pavane’ or even ‘Clair de Lune’. All these seamlessly flow into the ambient sounds of ‘The Midwives Have Left’ and ‘Delphi Dancing’, which in turn morph back into, let us say, Gabriel Fauré’s or Francis Poulenc’s piano works.

Considering all those above and that The Dream of Delphi is actually “50% non-vocal”, it’s still hard to deny a certain pop charm of the record. On its meridian, we hear the pretty danceable ‘Home’ with pulsating beats and rhythm-keeping finger snaps fit for the best examples of Scandinavian pop. Here and there, we hear sweet saxophone interventions (‘Breaking Up’), Mary Lattimore’s magical harp (‘The Dream of Delphi’), and a lot of synths ranging from The Weeknd’s to ’80s styles. All of these elements make the listening process less boring than it might appear when hearing expressions like “avant-garde” and “composer-opus”.

The pandemic. Wars. Natural disasters. Political tensions. We all saw stuff and continue to live through it. Some artists try to be as direct as possible in their music to help resolve momentary issues without worrying that news-based creativity doesn’t last forever. Others prefer to talk about more universal themes that touch everyone and have the potential to resonate for centuries. With an evergreen conception, poetic lyrics, and ethereal instrumentation, Bat for Lashes has every chance to strike a chord with a wide audience and ensure her music lives on beyond her.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.