Heather Leigh – Throne (4 stars)

Heather Leigh – Throne

Sensuous gothic pop and dark psychedelia from the pedal steel guitarist and singer

Heather Leigh follows 2015's justly celebrated I Abused Animal with an album of sensuous gothic pop and dark psychedelia. Throne is not so much a departure from its predecessor as a radical expansion, bedding subtle layers of synth, drum machine, bass and violin in behind her striking voice and pedal steel guitar. Throne is gothic in the broadest sense, with Leigh conveying the beauty and terror of the Romantic sublime. 'Prelude To Goddess' and 'Lena' are complex reflections on femininity, full of yearning and awe. The former deploys ecstatic end-phrasing reminiscent of Kate Bush's channelling of Molly Bloom in 'The Sensual World', as the object of Leigh's infatuation is elevated to mythic status. The latter has a conspiratorial intimacy that suggests it could be an ode to a friend or a lover, but it's dramatic too, as Leigh's crystalline voice soars over rumbling timpani and bass.

Leigh transforms the pedal steel's high and lonesome quality into a heady and reverberant sound that takes in Jack Rose-like picking, stark melodic figures and searing riffs. 'Soft Seasons' is driven by the latter, with Leigh's distorted pedal steel scything through the night sky, as a drum machine grinds out an industrial pulse. 'Gold Teeth' is the album's centrepiece, a 16-minute epic that fully justifies its length. Leigh glides back and forth between two finger-picked chords, creating a woozy backdrop to her recurring images of 'diving into the sea'. Dark clouds of bass roll in, with a higher-pitched statement of the riff breaking through like shafts of sunlight. Later, she kicks in the distortion, dragging the ragged Americana of Neil Young's Dead Man soundtrack to a dark and desolate plain. It's genuinely psychedelic, drawing the listener into its twilit world, warping reality around it.

Out now on Editions Mego.