English artist Natasha Khan brings back the atmospheric, intricately orchestrated style of her debut album on her follow-up, Two Suns, a record that explores the instability and multiplicity of identity and takes place in a landscape filled by people with alter egos aplenty (Khan herself is best known by her musical stage name, “Bat for Lashes”).
Just as pervasive, however, is her fascination with fantasy, fairytale and woodsy imagery, which coalesce to create an entirely bewitching, enchanting effect, already solidified on 2006’s Fur and Gold.
Two Suns’ opening track, “Glass,” reinforces the inevitable Kate Bush comparisons. Her voice is entrancing, howling and caterwauling, channeling the ghostly vocals of many female artists of years past. However, Khan, with her powerful voice and formidable soundscapes, transcends mere mimicry of the iconic singer-songwriter.
“Sleep Alone” continues the persuasive tones and melodies of resounding bass lines and swooning vocals, and offers richly poetic landscapes in both sonic textures and lyric imagery. She sings of knights in crystal armor and weaves spells in an attempt to summon lovers, all while maintaining a perfect visage of confident composure and never failing to be emotionally evocative and beguiling.
The towering synth-pop lead single, “Daniel,” exemplifies the recurring motifs and narratives of this album: nocturnal, soporific dreamscapes and musings on heartache, absence and death. In keeping with the dualisms of Two Suns, “Siren Song” and “Pearl’s Dream” reveal Khan’s alter ego: a mysterious, seductive, dangerous femme fatale.
Despite the electronic tonality of the album – keyboards, drums, cello, wispy piano – Khan’s subliminal, mystical voice never loses that sense of dreaminess and otherworldliness. That cohesiveness and invasiveness are perhaps what define Two Suns above all else.
Every song is highly stylized, ominous, suggestive and effective, in spite of what could feel like unbearable preciousness in the hands of a less-skilled artist.
Performance is as much a part of her persona as her music, and more than ever, her sensibility toward postmodern pastiche is flagrant. She captures multiple eras, influences and styles and lends them her own distinct, insidious charm. Khan once again masterfully asserts her promising, alluring power, which is simply too strong to be resisted or written off.