The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Looking Back at the Enduring Sound of Kate Bush

Photo+by+Chris+Walter%2FWireImage
Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

Paul Holtz

At the end of 2018, one of the most quiet, influential, and strange voices of the modern age released their entire of body of work remastered: Kate Bush. The collection is a look back at the past, and shows that past is just a construct, and music is timeless.

Bush originally was brought into the public eye at just 18, and with “Wuthering Heights,” surely the most literary and therefore one of the strangest hit singles in history. Bush received initial fame for “Wuthering Heights” and her album The Kick Inside in 1978, and continued in moderate stardom in the UK for most of the 1980s. She then crossed over to the US charts in 1985 with the release of her album, Hounds of Love.

Bush’s work was never meant to be blasted through the stereo and sung along to. They are vignettes, stories, and a record is just the platform that she wrote them on. Songs like “Cloudbusting” and her aforementioned “Wuthering Heights” are all narratives; with “Cloudbusting” being a story of the son of psychologist Wilhelm Reich and “Wuthering Heights” taking inspiration from the novel of the same name by Emily Bronte.

The remastering of her long career’s work just shows how creative and intriguing she is. These songs are what make newer artists like Tori Amos, Björk, Joanna Newsom, St. Vincent, Perfume Genius, and Mitski be inspired by her work.

She is able to distort her four octave vocals through accents (see any song off 1982’s The Dreaming) and vocoder overlays (“Deeper Understanding” and “Leave It Open”), giving off a ethereal and mystical vibe to every song she produced. Her use of the vocoder and synthesizers sound out of style now, but Bush was making music while the technology was constantly evolving. She has gotten credit for her pioneering use of the Fairlight synthesizer, and the headset microphone onstage, for producing her own albums, and for evolving an ahead-of-its-time sound that combined heavy bass with the ethereal high notes, swoops, and screeches of her own remarkable voice. She is a dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty, and people have always noticed that.

All of her works are beautiful and strange in their own right, but one stand out for all the right reasons: Hounds of Love (1985). Hounds of Love was her most successful album, and it makes sense why. It is Bush at her best and most commercial, she removed all of the bells and whistles of her older works and just sang songs. She elegantly combines music styles like opera, classical, prog-rock, and pop while still standing taller than ever.

“Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” is one of the most interesting songs to be produced. The warped drums and high pitched synthesizers makes the listener feel like they are being chased, and with Bush’s hushed breathing of the verses before going into an operatic chorus; it all seems to be amounting to something more than a simple song.

As the track climaxes, weaving in and out of perception is the Fairlight-manipulated sound of Bush screaming, as if trying to escape her body and mind. “If I only could, I’d be running up that hill,” she sings once again at the end, but this time her soprano is joined by a down-pitched rendering of her own voice. Armed with equally advanced machines and melodies, Bush now creatively trumped nearly every mid-’80s rocker; only Prince and a few others were in her league.

The second half of the album (“The Ninth Wave”) has Bush playing a sailor who finds herself shipwrecked and alone. She slips into a hypothermia-induced limbo between wakefulness and sleep, where nightmares, memories and visions distort her consciousness to the point where she cannot distinguish between reality and illusion.

The abstract storytelling and detailed crafting of each song makes the story fascinating to listen to. It feels like a very surreal children’s book, with Bush telling a story but leaving enough for the listener to make their own story with her. It is a masterful way to end the album; Bush is showing how far her sound has grown since her rise to stardom, while nodding at her past with a very vivid narrative like her previous works.

The remastering of her work will hopefully bring a new audience to dissect and appreciate Bush’s very bold and distinct sound. It shows off her past work even more, with the remastering allowing listeners to hear certain mixing and production that you could not have heard before otherwise.

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Looking Back at the Enduring Sound of Kate Bush