It took a re-dressing of the scales of sanity to award Elbow the latest Mercury prize after the Klaxons nabbed what ought to have been Bat For Lashes crown for her 2007 debut 'Fur And Gold'. A wonderland of piano balladry, Natasha Khan's falsetto and primal beats, 'Fur And Gold' further earned two Brit nominations and everyone from the Guardian (naming her one of 2007's women of the year) to Radiohead (with whom she toured) were touting her talents. 'Two Suns' is a far more complex work of imagination and stellar invention for which Natasha Khan has created a coquettish alter-ego by the name of Pearl to navigate the chambers of the heart and the celestial skies. It's a work of myth-making and flaming hearts running in the dark, queens and crystal princes, stars explode and galaxies are born. It's metaphysical, alchemical and packed with a whole lot of good tunes.
Looks like Natasha has taken a certain cue from that sexy and incongruent Biblical work that is The Book Of Soloman and married celestial themes of the impossibility of two hearts finding union, or two planets coming together. The dualities at work are thematic, man and woman, the self and shadow, Pearl and her conquests countered by Natasha's spiritual and romantic longing, while musically there's the ancient tribal beat with the modern sensibility framed by Natasha's spectral falsetto. Yeasayer pop with bass and percussive support, and the legendary Scott Walker further adds to Natasha's ambitious scope.
The tribal opener 'Glass' finds Natasha singing intergalactic of "...a 1000 crystal towers, a 100 emerald cities..." giving birth the album concept of two archetypal lovers, and it's the high notes that really shine among the chimes and tribal drums. On the single 'Daniel', Natasha sings "....and when the fires came, the smell of cinders and rain...", a poppy work of kosmik disko à la Empire Of The Sun as a sexy working of electric violin and vocal overdubs are strapped to the beats and bones of a mythic love song. While the Moogish-toned 'Good Love' has cheesy backing singing of hearts going up in flames, Natasha sings of magicians and scatters enough star dust to make it credible and whoopee.
Cosmic invention shows as 'Sleep Alone' is suffused with a rhythm equal parts tribal, mystic and magical with a pulsing staccato beat, groovy and ancient, shamanic and romantic, and 'Peace Of Mind' is anything but, a PJ Harvey-like zither-infused male gospel choir backed work of psychedelic discordia, and the rumbling, pulsing 'Pearl's Dream' marries 80's disko to a kind of prog-indie that's kitsch and kool, while there's a loneliness at the heart of the poetic 'Two Planets' as Natasha sings "...I've seen so many planets dancing, I've seen too many people hiding..." among references to the sensual Book Of Soloman, the drums like some ancient kingdom and hand-claps shaping other worlds.
There's a Tori Amos-like template of piano arpeggios to be found on the lovelorn and mighty fine 'Moon and Moon', touching the tender spots like Fur and Gold's 'The Wizard' as Natasha's voice refracts like a crystal forest, singing "...I'm a huntress, for a husband lost at sea..." on a track that takes its' name from her ex-boyfriend's band. Likewise, 'Siren's Song' is a building scatter-shot work of timpani and strings that sings of the darker side of Pearl's psyche on a tale of lust and need. The closer 'The Big Sleep' finds Natasha's passionate falsetto and Scott Walker's mournful tones wed on the final curtain as there's "...no more spotlights coming down from heaven..." for the sad torch song as Pearl and her dress are hung up and illusion is stripped down.
The mellow 'Travelling Woman' just about wraps up and reconciles the opposites and antagonisms, a Fleetwood Mac-like number and Natasha singing "...carry on travelling woman, don't sacrifice your plan, because it will come back to you, before you lose it on the man...". 'Two Suns' is as equally visceral and kinetic as it is cerebral and metaphysical. As magisterial as it is un-earthly and cosmic. The push and pull of planets as for the celestial bodies. Carbon and stellar. Natasha Khan has never sounded so alchemical. A Plaedian messenger.