4 stars Don't be fooled by the vaguely Stonehenge-like set dressing which adorns the stage for Natasha Khan's current tour to promote her recent third album in her Bat For Lashes guise, The Haunted Man. Khan's hippy sensibilities may still be intact, but the school-assembly whimsy of yore has been ditched in favour of a more muscular synthesiser-led euphoria that adds a more grown-up sense of drama to her vocal gymnastics. Sporting a full-length blue-grey backless robe slit at the sides, Khan is all smiles for album opener, Lillies. With microphone in one hand, drumstick in the other, she whacks the accompanying drum-pads with a relish gloriously at odds with her visual elegance. When she sings the words 'Thank God I'm alive' with arms outstretched, it sums up the sense of release that pulses throughout the new material. With a lone cellist tucked behind the stage set, much of the songs' dense textures are provided by the two synth players and drummer who remain similarly discreet. Khan skips along to the jauntier, glitch-driven fare, wiggling her shoulders with her back to the microphone. For sublime ballad, Laura, she sits at the piano for a song that sounds very much like this term's halls of residence lullaby. Any accusations of Khan's canon leaning towards coffee-table blandness are undercut by the sheer volume of a delivery that still manages to capture each arrangement's nuances. For the album's title track, Khan holds a vintage radio to the microphone, then above her head as the ghosts in the machine let rip a torrent of martial mediaevalism. For the encore Khan taps into her inner electro-pop disco diva, her demons purged at last.
The Herald, October 22nd 2012 ends