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Waking the Witch: The Music of Kate Bush

Kate Bush is the haunt of a stained glass temple after hours, a melodious cathedral. Her music is its own sort of church — hymnal in its movement. She is not the subdued female artist nor does she have the synthetic vulgarity that permeates much of the music scene. Her music feels like the beauty of a black and white film, the kind where you can taste the development. “Running Up That Hill” was the first song that I heard from Kate Bush. I was 15. It felt like falling so far into someone that they become your grave. It changed the way I felt music. It seemed complete, like a painting of a ballet at a street carnival. I had never heard a musician who could capture every art form in a song. You couldn’t dance to it because you felt so much that it was impossible to calculate, so you sat on a chair in the far corner and masturbated. That’s what you do when your senses are so overloaded that you can’t process the electricity.

Kate Bush’s influence cannot be denied. When Tori Amos first came on the music scene I could hear Kate all over her music. She was writing about the things that Kate Bush had already sensualized in the “The Kick Inside” a song based on an English folk song about incest, pregnancy, and suicide. Kate has a raw innocence. She is able to refine the dirtiest of subjects and feed them to us in a way that we can easily digest. She is oxygenated energy, she can’t be contained in a space or an era. She’s still moving, still possessing artists as they try to emulate her and give us something that we don’t recognize. Kate Bush has never become a studio musician but has remained a true artist. She has never been an actor nor bent or broke for a record sale. She is first and foremost, a storyteller. Her albums are accidental, conceptual masterpieces and I’m going to paint three of them for you.

The Kick Inside/1978 Kate Bush’s debut album. She is nineteen but you can hear the tactile emotion. It is basically Kate, a piano, and clear static – her inception. “Wuthering Heights” is the foreshadowing of what’s to come. It holds back on us and then takes us inside. Although this album is almost exclusively piano, Kate fills the space with her celestial vocals. Her voice is new and clean but that is the only thing that is young about this album.

Hounds of Love/1985 Kate’s music has become more atmospheric and less fractured. You can no longer hear dividing breaks. The first track “Running Up That Hill” is absolutely one of the most beautiful and brilliant songs that you will ever hear. It is misery, obsession, and carnality. Each song on Hounds of Love pulls us into the next. The classic English/Irish instrumentation is indicative of a walk down brick streets through a city that is still sleeping. The last track on the album, “The Morning Fog”, feels like an end and a beginning. It breaks my heart then tells me, one day you will remember him and smile. And I believe it.

The Sensual World/1989 “The Sensual World” gives us only fragments of sound from previous releases. Like any great artist, Kate begins adding and subtracting to create something completely new. “This Woman’s Work”, the most prolific song on the album, is the goodbye that no one wants to feel, the eternal separation from another spirit. It’s truly impossible not to cry at the quiet desperation in Kate’s voice on that track. “Never Be Mine” is my second favorite track. It’s about wanting something that won’t last but taking what we can get, for that one moment of extraordinary. “The Sensual World” is about feeling heaven and hell at the same time. It is about love.

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About Ara Harris

Music junkie, Atari 2600 bringer backer, word maker upper, loves to photograph and write about suburban decay. Ara grew up on a corner lot in small town Ohio. She began escaping the micro minds of the Midwest by listening to music, watching b films, and touring the cities in her mind. She wrote poetry on the back of algebra tests and asked Lou Reed to take her to prom. Two decades later she self published a full collection of poetry that one reader described as “a Tom Verlaine riff in every synapse”. She believes that we all have a gift, we just have to find it.

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