Since her arrival as Bat For Lashes, Natasha Khan has never shied away from the dramatic in her music. It would be hard to do so with a voice like hers; rich in timbre, expansive in range, and simply whimsical when spoken. On all her albums she has placed that voice into grandiose pop compositions, and through it she brought to life characters like Pearl on Two Suns or the titular Haunted Man from her last album. The Bride follows the same suit, playing as a soundtrack to an imagined feature film wherein a bride is prepared to marry the love of her life, only for him to be killed in a car crash on the way to the ceremony. It sounds a little Kill Bill, and the neon green cover suggests a similarly colourful and outlandish affair, but the actual contents are much more sombre and reflective.
We’re introduced to The Bride through ‘I Do’, where our heroin is singing over harpsichord, daydreaming about the next day when she’ll say the two little words and become betrothed to her beloved Joe. However, by the end of the third track Joe is dead. Khan then takes us on an exploration of what it means to the Bride, to now go on living her life without this love to prop her up. Perhaps unhealthily she decides to go on their honeymoon anyway, and the wallowing ‘Honeymooning Alone’ gives us our first taste of the cold isolation that The Bride inhabits for most of the rest of the album. In fact rather than go down a road of self-re-discovery, the Bride veers off into more unhealthy mental feelings. She takes her anger out on mythical creatures in the slowly scalding ‘Never Forgive The Angels’, and in ‘Close Encounters’ she’s imagining that her “lover is a pale green light.” 'Widow's Peak' makes use of layers of wavering synths, creaking strings, and wordless vocal flourishes, building up a Tim Burton-esque world that is escaped via “a keyhole in a Douglas fir.”
Due to Khan’s dedication to telling the story of The Bride, and doing so chronologically, the album can seem quite ponderous at points. The most thrilling moments come when Khan is reminiscing about the past. ‘Sunday Love’ is the most upbeat song in the collection, galloping along as Khan dreams about lost memories that stalk her from every hiding place. ‘Close Encounters’ can be forgiven its trite “…til the stars don’t shine / ….fill this heart of mine,” chorus rhyme due to its heart-ripping, elegiac delivery; placed over a stately-yet-simplistic violin sprawl. By the time we get to ‘Land’s End’, another song where she's trying to escape her memories, and there is little more than sparse strings and her voice, it starts to feel a little familiar.
The Bride reaches some dark and low places, but it does finish with a happy ending. The last three songs, ‘If I Knew’, ‘I Will Love Again’ and ‘In Your Bed’, show the Bride has reached the end of her journey and is ready to move on. However, Khan doesn’t express these feelings as celebration; they come off as another mournful development, with a hint of hope. This might be Khan’s most suited milieu, and 'In Your Bed' is a particularly poignant closer, but it does start to drag a little. Khan has spoken of not wanting a single like ‘Daniel’ or ‘Laura’ that would overshadow the project, but an upbeat pop hit that we know she’s so capable of would not have gone amiss somewhere here. Nevertheless one cannot deny that Khan’s creative vision is as strong and singular as ever on The Bride, and she has created an album that fully renders this world and vision through lush musical creations.