The Kahn of Wrath
In case it wasn’t obvious on 2006’s Fur & Gold, Natasha Kahn is into role-play. Some of the best moments of that Mercury Prize-nominated debut found her donning the masks of aspiring prostitutes and maternal bikers, among others. On her second outing as Bat for Lashes, Kahn pushes the idea of multiple selves even further. Two Suns introduces us to Pearl, a femme fatale alter ego who has broken free from Kahn’s more spiritual self and fights for control. Enjoying this album ultimately depends on which personality one roots for.The first round goes to fans of the furrier, more golden Kahn with opener “”Glass.”” Her voice rises and eventually soars over cascading drums, chiming keys, and barely tangible guitars. Another victory is scored via live favorite “”Moon and Moon,”” with its tender piano line and soulful backing vocals. Ditto the chilling closer “”The Big Sleep,”” helped along by distant howls from spectral singer-songwriter Scott Walker.
ame However, for every song that reasserts Bat for Lashes’ established strengths, that pesky Pearl strikes a mighty blow of her own. “”Sleep Alone”” stews in a swampy groove before springing to life with arctic synthesizers reminiscent of The Knife. Those same synths dominate slinky yet somber first single “”Daniel”” and the tribal, Yeasayer-assisted album centerpiece “”Pearl’s Dream.”” These songs, while initially jarring, are every bit as alluring as their counterparts, recalling Sinead O’Connor circa The Lion and the Cobra more than Kahn’s previous Kate Bushisms.
ame The quality of material on both sides is undeniable. So who wins the battle? Hard to say. While each song is a triumph of composition and execution on its own, their collisions into one another prove to be bracing at best, polarizing at worst. Two Suns easily trumps Fur & Gold in terms of sheer ambition, but often does so at the cost of cohesion. Kahn might do better to give Pearl a full album to make her case next time. There is more than enough evidence here to justify it. Until then, let’s call this a respectable stalemate.