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30 August 2010

Kate Bush - 'The Dreaming' (EMI)

She's a household name in the UK, but resigned to "cult" (or even worse, "college radio") status in the US. This is a US issue of The Dreaming, definitely my favourite Kate Bush record as it strikes the perfect balance between big bold glossy pop record and major weirdo art-statement. Production-wise, Bush is rooted in 80's drums and bass sounds - specifically the Fairlight synth which is just everywhere to be heard. This is Bush's vision of music, which she's stuck to fairly consistently - I love how her 'comeback' record, Aerial, is fairly timeless in that it could have been produced in 1987 at the peak of her powers. Her weirdly synthetic bass, heavily compressed background vocals, and processed instruments are a really distinct place on the electro-acoustic axis. This record isn't dripping with hits like Hounds of Love, but it's chock full of near-hits. 'Sat in Your Lap' and 'The Dreaming' were the big singles, and both are ferocious. The former is thunderous and pounding and I always sing along in falsetto to the 'Some say that knowledge is...' banshee screech. 'The Dreaming', well, it's just an amazing tune, a bit of car crash and murderous stalker at the same time. No one would typically compre this to Brian Wilson's SMiLE sessions but that's as close of an antecedent as I can hear - just bathed in minor key hysterics instead of sunny Americana. The Aussie coda blends into 'Night of the Swallow' which is more of the Never For Ever piano balladry - the signature K. Bush sound. It's here where the production really separates these cuts from her earlier works. The strings on this album sound fake - but they're credited as "strings" and "fiddle" so I'm sure they're not MIDI. It all strangely works. The Dreaming edges out Hounds of Love for me because it contains my personal favourite Kate Bush tune, 'Suspended in Gaffa', the most fractured piece of bubble-gum imaginable. It's direct and driving, and in opposition to the lyrical stasis described. I've listened to it hundreds of times and it never gets tiresome. "This album was meant to be played loud", says the liner notes, and that distinct Bush bass warble sounds absolutely sick when you crank it. But the lesser-remembered cuts on The Dreaming have beautiful, mesmerising passages. 'Leave it Open' is a wonderful bit of melting energy, and the dark edge of lyrics like "Harm is in Us" sets a nice element of unknowing. 'Houdini' touches on the canyon ladies vibe, though maybe not intentional - and has a great dark growl at times. 'Get Out of My House,' has a bit of crunchy wobble in the 'This house is full of...' part and I love how it's pretty much all tribal echo-drums. 1982 was a hell of a year and I can only imagine walking into a record store that year and leaving with both The Dreaming and This Heat's Deceit under my arm. It's even more impressive that this record ends with Paul Hardiman imitating a donkey.

1 comment:

  1. Ee-aw! Graeme Thomson also did a great summing up of the sessions in Uncut magazine.