What with the alter egos, the dark fantastical imagery, and the moody timeless music, Natasha Khan is an artist known for her boundary pushing creative output. Only she could create an album about a jilted bride at the altar.
'The Bride' is a high concept album filled with gloom, though it begins on a hopeful note. Opener I Do is the epitome of innocence, with its angelic vocals ("tomorrow you will ask me if I do") and gentle harp lulling us towards doom. In God's House, the bride is left at the altar as her fiancé tragically dies, signalled by the car crash at the start of Honeymooning Alone. From here, she must learn to cope with solitude, building towards I Will Love Again.
For all intents and purposes, then, it's a break-up album, but one that's wrapped up in cinematic storytelling. But is this really a culmination of concept, poetry and music, or just a pretentious step too far?
In truth, it's somewhere in between. There are some stunning moments here where storytelling and music collide. In God's House perfectly encapsulates the bride's tragedy, haunted by bells and organ, the final calls of "fire, fire" evaporating into smoke. Honeymooning Alone adds a Tarantino flare with its twanging guitars, a not-so-subtle link to a certain other bride. And with Sunday Love there's a real sense of urgency in the driving beats and bass as her world crashes around her.
Yet as the bride goes alone on honeymoon to reconnect with herself, the album dissolves into bleak, minimalist ballads. There remain some highlights: the weirdly tragic psychedelia of Close Encounters; the spoken word incantation of Widow's Peak; the yearning determination of I Will Love Again. But amongst these are piano ballads that fail to spark, either dramatically or musically.
For all its theatricality, 'The Bride' doesn't quite satisfy. With its focus on storytelling, it lacks the musical creativity we've come to expect from Khan; equally the story itself fails to reach a satisfying conclusion. Instead she floats off into the lofty dreamworld of Clouds; but Khan remains more entertaining when she's grounded, earthy and raw.
* Sunday Love
* Close Encounters
* I Will Love Again
Listen: 'The Bride' is out now.