Album Reviews

Bat For Lashes – The Dream Of Delphi

(Decca) UK release date: 31 May 2024

A project to sink into, Natasha Khan’s latest is another starkly beautiful missive from one of our most consistent artists

Bat For Lashes - The Dream Of Delphi A lot has happened, both in the world and personally, to Natasha Khan since we last heard from her with Bat For Lashes‘ last album, 2019’s Lost Girls. She’s released a live lockdown album, created her own Tarot style Oracle card deck, and most importantly, gave birth to her first child, a daughter, in July 2020.

That daughter was named Delphi, and it’s her, and Khan’s experiences of raising her in a Los Angeles locked down during the covid era which is the inspiration for her sixth album. Khan has described the album as an account of early motherhood, told partly from the perspective of a character called the Motherwitch. And, while this does sound unbelievably pretentious, it shouldn’t put anyone off – there are moments on The Dream Of Delphi that are some of the most beautiful you’ll hear all year.

The Motherwitch character doesn’t stop this being an accessible record: titles such as The Midwives Have Left, Delphi Dancing and Her First Morning are pretty self-explanatory experiences of parenthood. Kate Bush may be a much-used comparison for Khan’s music, but it’s an inescapable one on The Dream Of Delphi – the spirit of Bush’s record Aerial certainly hangs heavy over this album.

The title track kicks things off, built upon a hypnotic, repetitive synth line, hints of harp and a soothing chorus of “the dream of Delphi on my mind”. Suitably enough, it feels like a lullaby and is the perfect way to open the record. At Your Feet is a strikingly beautiful track – simply a stately piano melody with some vocalising by Khan, while Breaking Up is almost unbelievably lush and languid. The latter seems to marry a twinkly Ryuichi Sakamoto-style score and mixes it with some saxophone. It’s a pure instrumental and, in anyone else’s hands, could have turned into elevator muzak, but Khan moulds it into a thing of beauty.

Admittedly, it’s hardly crammed with catchy pop tunes (which may be surprising from the artist behind songs like Daniel and What’s A Girl To Do). Home is probably the most commercial moment, a subtly funky track which sounds like Sugababes covering Christine And The Queens, while Letter To My Daughter has a squiggly synth motif underpinning it. Yet mostly, the mood is pastoral and calming. The Midwives Have Left is another piano-led instrumental (with some wordless vocalising from Khan) and manages to feel impossibly moving and poignant, even without any lyrics and at just two and a half minutes long. It’s a similar story with Her First Morning, another piano piece in which you can almost imagine a new born’s eyes slowly blinking open to let the world in.

The shiny electronica of Waking Up closes the album (discounting a rather pointless extended version of the title track) and it feels like a suitably dreamy way to bring proceedings to a close. As with most Bat For Lashes projects, this is less of an album, but more of a project to sink into – it’s at its best if you can completely submerge yourself into the music and be transformed. The Dream Of Delphi is another starkly beautiful missive from one of our most consistent artists.

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Bat For Lashes – The Dream Of Delphi
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