Tuesday 24 October 2017

Haunting echoes of Kate Bush in Khan's album

John Meagher

John Meagher

Bat for Lashes

The Haunted Man

(Parlophone)

HHHHI

Natasha Khan -- aka Bat for Lashes -- says she felt burn-out after touring her last album, so she indulged in some domestic bliss, took tutorials with an art lecturer and immersed herself in old books and films.

Somewhere along the line she discovered the Ireland-set David Lean epic Ryan's Daughter and was so taken with its storyline, magisterial cinematography and -- who knows -- all those risible Irish accents that she was inspired to write the evocative, spectral title track.

What emerges is possibly her finest song to date -- a thought-provoking meditation on love and loss, and The Haunted Man is a song that will do nothing to lessen those Kate Bush comparisons.

Ms Bush's name is thrown out too often when describing the music of a new generation of British singers, but here's a song that Kate would likely be proud of.

Khan has flourished into a songwriter to be reckoned with.

The understated piano ballad, Laura, finds her attempting to console a young friend. Her voice is delicate, but her words robust and in its quiet, intimate way the song soars high.

One of the attributes of this album that makes for such a rewarding listen is the wide sonic palate she employs -- everything from hip hop to power-pop to rustic folk.

There are tribal beats, a male voice choir and even an appearance from Beck (on the single Marilyn).

While sadness pervades much of the album, there's joie de vivre too -- not least on the joyous opener Lillies with its arresting cry of "thank God I'm alive!".

Khan sounds invigorated and this album shows she's up for the challenge.

KEY TRACKS Laura; The Haunted Man

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