sun 16/06/2024

Album: Bat For Lashes - The Dream of Delphi | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Bat For Lashes - The Dream of Delphi

Album: Bat For Lashes - The Dream of Delphi

Sixth album from exploratory singer-songwriter embraces motherhood but not tunes

'Heathcliff, it's me, I'm Cathy, I've come home'

Natasha Khan’s musical career has always explored the artier end of pop. Her latest album, her sixth and first in five years, is more akin to the soundtrack work she did with Swiss composer Dominik Scherrer on BBC spook-thriller Requiem in 2018 than her Bat For Lashes albums.

There are not many actual songs. Instead, lots of “pieces”, most of them between two and three minutes long. Ethereal in tone, enjoyment depends on an ability to roll with gossamer fairy waftings. Instead, this writer grew bored.

The album is titled in honour of Khan’s daughter and she terms these sonic snapshots “song poems”, while the press release suggests they’re “haunting instrumentals that express the ineffable”. They certainly have a serious musicality, exploring a range of instrumentation, notably revolving analogue synth motifs as backing and accompaniment from harp, flute and other wind. The feel of it, to be crass, is Cocteau Twins B-side but The Dream of Delphi has a more modern-classical flavour and is less edgy (yes, less edgy than The Cocteau Twins).

Much of it is also built around quiet, reverbed piano. Khan’s crystal-clear soprano vocals, sometimes layered to a folk-ecclesiastical feel, float off into ambient chamber-pop atmospherics. Listening, the mind conjures pre-Raphaelite art, Evelyn de Morgan’s sylph-women or even John Everett Millais’ elegiac Ophelia. The flavour is captured well in lyrics such as “Breezes, breezes, on your fingers, touching thin air/Playing, playing with the angels”.

There is one notable song on board, “Home”, with a 4/4 pulse, a tune, and actual verses and choruses. This isn’t to suggest that music must adhere to such a predictable template. Far from it. Much fantastic music, clearly, resides elsewhere. Many other reviews will likely throw the words "beautiful" and "atmospheric" around like confetti because this music feels serious, centred on womanhood, parenthood. But the sub-classical airiness of The Dream of Delphi also sounds like incidental music for film or TV. It might work well in such an environment. Listened to alone, however, while it's constructed with clear craft, it's not more-ish.

Below: watch the video for "Letter to my Daughter" by Bat For Lashes

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