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Bat for Lashes: The Dream of Delphi – A profound record inspired by motherhood

Natasha Khan’s sixth album is a collection of ‘song poems’ exploring the idea of the ‘mother witch’

The Dream of Delphi
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Artist: Bat for Lashes
Label: Mercury KX

In 1938 the critic Cyril Connolly wrote, in Enemies of Promise, “there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall”. It was a concern that Natasha Khan tentatively shared, but for her motherhood “opened up ... the deepest caverns ... so pushed and exhausted, but so enlivened, and inspired”.

Khan’s sixth album as Bat for Lashes is her most profound, taking the idea of the “mother witch” and its attendant roles, from the protector to the cosmic, with Khan anxious about our loss of ritual. The title song is an intoxicating conjuring that swoops and soars, with layered vocals that resemble a loving exhalation. It deepens in scope, with harp by Mary Lattimore and strings by Jake Falby that act as a metronome, keeping time and keeping watch. Other sonic flourishes help to create an immersive universe, which is something Khan has always done so well.

Khan calls the record a collection of “song poems”, and there is something poetic in this collection’s conceit, both “ancient and astral”. It is there in the sombre piano of Christmas Day and in the chasing melody and rhythm of Letter to My Daughter. The wobbly haze of At Your Feet, with its rockabye piano melody and synth bass, is so affecting, as is the surprising choral beauty of The Midwives Have Left, with its spindly piano and drone sounds.

Home’s steady-heartbeat rhythm and spectral piano amplify Khan’s vocal. Breaking Up sounds like Desire as directed by Noah Baumbach – with its slinky saxophone it brings us into melancholy midnight territory, and thoughts of promise and dissolution of, perhaps, a relationship, a summer, a life.


Delphi Dancing folds in Italo sounds with English pastoral-folk, creating something charming and dislocating. Piano takes centre-stage on the twinkling Her First Morning. Waking Up suggests an exercise in future possibilities, and in the act of paying attention. With a melody that sounds like a sonic waterfall, and with Khan’s gorgeous voice, it is the ultimate “song poem”.

Siobhán Kane

Siobhán Kane is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in culture