Hounds of Love
1985 – Pop / R&B
To get the year off to a great start, we rated one of the best albums in history: Hounds Of Love, Kate Bush’s incredible and unique project.
Coming from a couple consisting of an amateur English pianist and a traditional Irish amateur dancer, Kate Bush, who was born in Greater London in 1958, would become one of the most visionary singers in history. However, the artistic influences not came only from parents, but also from siblings, one who worked as a manufacturer of musical instruments, another as a photographer and poet. Kate Bush, at age 11, was already carving out her future as a great singer, songwriter and artist in her own right: she began playing pianos in the barn behind her house, as well as practicing violin, and also, starting to weave her cautiously thoughtful lyrics.
After studying in a Catholic school, Bush’s family saw Kate’s potential. At that time, Kate and her family produced a tape with 50 demos, which was later declined by all record labels to which it was sent. However, Ricky Hopper, a family friend, sent David Gilmour, Pink Floyd guitarist, the demo tape with all of Kate’s compositions. The compositions captivated Gilmour, who subsequently helped Bush produce a more professional demo tape. The tape that contained 3 tracks, including “the man with a child in his eyes”, was sent to EMI, which signed with the 16-year-old girl. Despite having her power questioned by EMI executives, Kate continued with her contract. In his first two years, Bush focused on finishing his classes at school, so, amid the ups and downs of his homework, Kate barely had time to produce, practice and compose. Even with limited time for a professional job that required dedication, during the break times, Kate wrote and made homemade demos of about 200 songs. After conducting tests to ensure his departure from school, Bush in 1977 will start devoting himself to writing his first album: The Kick Inside.
With The Kick Inside, Bush guaranteed a never seen success for a woman in the UK. With the help of old friends and her brother, the album sold millions of copies and secured a certificate for Kate Bush at Guinness World Records. So, to enjoy the success of her first album — which continues songs that had been written by Kate when she was 13 — EMI convinced Kate to release her second album in the same year — 1978. Lionheart, even though it wasn’tsuch as successful as The Kick Inside, has songs that sang fearlessly about religion, homosexuality and incest. Never for Ever (1980), had a visionary sound variety for the time, and with the aid of synthesizer Fairlight CMI, used by Peter Gabriel, Kate achieved a sound power that earned her first place on the British charts. However, in 1982, Bush discovered herself as a producer as well, and decided to produce her next album on her own. The Dreaming was criticized for its vast unpleasant sound, besides not being successful like its predecessors.
With the failure of The Dreaming, Kate took time to take care of herself. According to her own in an interview for the Daily Mail: “I finished my last album, did the promotion, then found myself in a kind of limbo. It took me four or five months to be able to even write again. It’s very difficult when you’ve been working for years, doing one album after another. You need fresh things to stimulate you. That’s why I decided to take a bit of the summer out and spend time with my boyfriend and my family and friends, just relaxing. Not being Kate Bush the singer; just being myself.” In 1983, trying to avoid high studio rental costs, Kate built her own studio in the barn that spent her childhood studying music. In early 1984, Bush started to record the demos for Hounds of Love. Instead of re-record the demos in the studio, Kate just improve the amateur recorded demos. All in all, the mixing process and improvement took almost a year, which resulted in an excellent LP.
Hounds of Love is eccentric, millennial and classic. With the help of Fairlight CMI, but now harmonizing with other instruments, Kate Bush delivered her most cohesive, promising, personal and ambitious project. Unlike others who had used the expensive synthesizer computer, Bush would use it to his best advantage for the best result. In addition to the lyrical freedom that accompanied this project, Fairlight CMI has helped Kate incorporate new sounds from around the world, whether these trends are new or old. While everyone questioned the breadth of The Dreaming, in Hounds of Love, this breadth was seen as inspiring and creative.
Hounds of Love is separated into two parts: The first, Hounds of Love, is a set of hit songs that, although they seem made to become hits, are amazing; and the conceptual “The Ninth Wave”, which is a story told of a woman who went through a wreck and now is raving as she awaits her death, as the singer explains in: “about a person who is alone in the water for the night. It’s about their past, present and future coming to keep them awake, to stop them drowning, to stop them going to sleep until the morning comes.”
As mentioned, Fairlight CMI was an important piece for the development of the album. From the first song, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), the kick is made when the machine creates electronic sounds — which no musician of the time would ever think of — in the midst of monochromatic and matte beats. The song that had its name changed for some reasons, which in the deepest layers were religious, is a great initial track for the project. The track sounds like an exciting, upbeat, promising and inviting ride. The story that tells about a relationship that is wasting away, in which the woman wants to change places with the guy so that he can understand how bad she is in order to perhaps reach a greater understanding. While at the end of the first track, the remixed voice sounds like something from the 2010s (30 years after its release), Bush manages to reach various vocal levels in a natural way. Although it sounds like a track with a not so elaborate lyrics, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” presents several verses that seem to come from a poetry or classic book of literature. For example: “Is there so much hate for the ones we love?”.
In the second track, the album cover dogs appear. In the album art, Kate is surrounded by hounds that sniff her trying to find something while she is reluctant, but at the same time, raising the white flag. At first, Kate shows up as a scared new girl, in the end shows up as a grown woman who isn’t afraid to walk barefoot through the streets of London. As in the first track, the singer’s voice is a golden key: in the most exciting and visual moments of the track – which seems to be the theme song of an 80’s romantic comedy – Bush can reach various levels of voice. The musician computer acts here also in the remixed voices of “tchu tchu tchu” that while sounding like a dog’s cry, sounds like teenagers accompanying Bush and his journey. As mentioned earlier, in Hounds of Love, Kate invested in doing something that sounded groundbreaking with Fairlight’s help but also had a “down to earth” sound. In the second track, we have a violin that sounds as shy as possible, almost flawless, but obviously extremely necessary.
One of Kate’s most powerful things is her imagination, and in “The Big Sky” Kate comes back to her childhood in a gentle way. When we are children, we look up at the sky and we look at clouds that look something, like “That cloud, that cloud / It looks like Ireland”, and at night, when we look at the sky, we look at the past – the stars. In short, music is about the past and maturing. The track sounds free, loud and liberating. With instrumental sound that sounds provocative and at the same time matte, Kate leads a choir at the end of the track that is led in the most natural, casual and dramatic way. But the track doesn’t stop there: when quoted, a jet passes over our heads, and the instrumental begins to sound like a chorus of frantic clapping and synchronized voices.
By the time the album came out, Bush was only 27 years old, but his performances and lyrics looked like a much older woman. In “Mother Stands For Comfort”, after a glass breaks, Bush talks about how mothers always protect their children, regardless of what they do. “Mother stands for comfort / Mother will hide the murderer”. In either case, mothers clean up their children’s mess, or push it under the rug. Bush represents the natural love of a strip made up of a very dark rope, out of sync cymbals, screams and even the scraps of broken glass being swept away. Turning his eyes to the father figure and taking ideas from the book “A Book Of Dreams” by Peter Reich — which tells the story of his father, Wilhelm Reich — Bush managed to write a beautiful poetry. The track, composed of a dancing beat built by guitar and drum, speaks not only about the personal relationship between parent and child / student and teacher, but also about how the children, in general, always look upon their creators innocently and always want to save them from all evil: “I can’t hide you / From the government / Oh, God, Daddy / I won’t forget”.
After the somewhat loose-sounding tracks, the second part of the album begins: “The Ninth Wave”. Just the name already sounds omnipotent, the project itself sounds 10 times more powerful. The last seven tracks tell the story of a woman who has just been wrecked, detailing despair and delirium. Although it seemed like something that should be worked apart, somehow, both seemed so cohesive and connected.
The lonely and wrecked sailor’s stoy starts with “And Dream Of Sheep”. The song is composed by a beautiful a Grand Piano and the solemn voice of Kate. The track features despair, hopelessness and a freezing sadness. Despite the hopelessness of “If they find me racing white horses / They’ll not take me for a buoy” in “Ooh, I’ll wake up to any sound of engines / Every gull seeking craft” hope becomes something real in this storm of feelings. Already in the terrifying “Under Ice”, Kate’s instrumental and vocal performance seems to have come from a Broadway horror musical. The ice begins to take care of all the systems of the woman who begins to hallucinate, and one of them is the submarine that appears under the ice. Her judgment begins in “Waking The Witch”, where the voices of acquaintances roar in his head, as well as marine noises, pianos and church sounds. With religious references, the devil appears to judge as a witch just like the witches of Salem. This is one of the tracks that struck me most because it sounds extremely innovative for the time.
After another illusion of fate, in “Watching You Without Me” Kate leaves her body and remembers the relationship with her beloved. The sound of the track is a deconstruction of the sound of the time, mixing various elements of various cultures. Ironically, or rather purposefully, when reporting the bad phase of the relationship, Kate interprets the phrase “You can’t hear me” in the most faithful way: Kate utters it in a minimal, almost unheard-of way, even appearing like a backing vocal. This track also features a number of unique things like the pronoun way of “Don’t ignore, don’t ignore me” or even the brittle effect on the voice — something we saw earlier in Madonna’s Express Yourself. “Jig of Live” shows her future self confronts her so she stays alive. the Irish instrument track is dancing, to the point that we want to get on the table and tap. Her vital forces are left and the woman reaches the point of her death in “Hello Earth”. The track mixes a syrup piano with the funeral sound of an old Disney movie and a submarine at the end of the track.
At the end of the storm, the cleanest and most renewed instrumental joins hope with the singer in “The Morning Fog”. In order to enjoy life better with herself and those she loves, the woman who has been through the worst moments also finds that loving herself is the best of everything. Throughout this great little story of a sailor, Kate has shown us the best of herself, her composition, her vision and her innovation.
At the end of Hounds of Love, I felt strange. The album can be so intense: it made me want to run down the streets in “Hounds of Love” and made me want to cry in “A Dream of Sheep”. An album that fascinates me every time I listen to it. In a macro way? Kate Bush’s fifth album is amazing, exciting and as I have said many times, visionary, however, Bush has thought of so much that it would never be thought of at the time that the fact that it is visionary and ambitious is really relevant. Kate’s lyrics? Amazingly lovingly crafted poetry. The production? Impeccable even to the present day. Instrumental? Relaxing, extinguishing, catchy and inspiring. With an album that’s simple, honest and personal, but also complex and full of public sentiment, Kate Bush shows us, probably, the best pop album in history.