Stan Deely on The Dreaming
EXPOSURE AT THE TIME
I remember hearing the Dreaming single when it was released and thinking it was pretty out there. I listened to a radio interview Kate did with Radio One at the time (possibly with Richard Skinner – Rock On?) and as a disinterested non-fan I remember thinking that she gave a good account of herself.
When I reviewed ‘Never for Ever’ I said it was Kate turned up to 11 and on steroids. Hawkfall commented that I should wait until I heard this album and he was right. Whilst some of the songs have similarish melodies and piano sounds to the last album, The Dreaming has a more dense electronic sound, and the gated-reverb drum sound that would become ubiquitous in the 1980’s..
There’s still some of the old Kate here with her kooky coquettish vocals but also a new element – a host of multitracked varispeeded Kate vocals, dueting with herself, at times sounding distraught and angry.
Lyrically and melodically it’s like Never for Ever through the looking glass, down the rabbit hole and out into Australia and a parallel universe. I can imagine the record company weren;t too happy on first being presented with this.
SAT IN YOUR LAP
Released a whole year before the album so not much a trailer for the album as a stand alone single. However a fair indicator of the direction she was about to take.
Sets out her stall from the start. Starts off like a speeded up PIL Flowers of Romance with a stomping urgent beat, crazy piano and Fairlight horns. We are presented with multiple Kate vocals, some dry, some reverbed. An insanely catchy and insane and catchy song.
Quite a simple straightforward song compared to what is coming. Seems to bridge the gap between post punk and minimalist prog. In fact, it manages to be both minimalist and maximalist at the same time. Quite a basic song but she adds extra twists and turns. The male staccato backing vocals towards the end are a bit Bohemian Rhapsody –or is it just me. Very infectious and feels too short at three and a half minutes. Starts the album off on an energetic high note.
THERE GOES A TENNER
This one’s a bit music hall. Theatrical Kate narrating an Ealing comedy style scenario in a vocal that seems to veer from mockney to Julie Andrews. Very Madness or Chas and Dave. Lots of different Kate voices and she is even on backing vocals. This album really could have been called “The Many Voices of Kate Bush” I have a bit of a thing of a blind spot about story songs – also with Tom Waits and Pulp in story telling mode. Whilst I find their work impressive I find if there is too much narrative I tend not find myself not coming back to listen much.
This one I’m not sure about. I prefer it when it calms down a bit and the melody can breathe. Time will tell if it’s a keeper.
PULL OUT THE PIN
Written after viewing a documentary on the Vietnam war. Starts with some vaguely Oriental sounds and then a piano riff that sounds just like something off of Never for Ever although I can’t pin it to any one song.
Quite conventional Kate compared to the previous song.. Juxtaposes coquettish purring Kate vocal from the verse to an anguished vocal refrain of “I love life”. Lots of sound effects. Possibly a bit too busy. This is full kitchen sink job. Full use of studio, backing vocals and Fairlight. Helicopter sounds – very Apocalypse Now. Also incorporates a weird jazz odyssey break down towards the end where the initial piano riff comes back in and meshes with something that sounds suspiciously like David Bowie’s Its No Game – another song with oriental influence and screaming.
A bit disjointed but works as a kind of collage. I like this one, a mini symphony that works.
SUSPENDED IN GAFFA
A bit of a Fairground waltz feel to this one. Once again it’s the many vocals of Ms Bush. Relatively straightforward verse lifted by some ethereal backing vocals. Strangely compulsive.
I’m thinking this multi-layered multifaceted album could definitely have been accompanied by a dub remix a la Echo Dek, No Protection etc. There’s lots going on but it seems to work even for a garage minimalist ASD person like me.
References religious experience although seems to be about something theoretical that she took from her Catholic schooling rather than her actual lived experience. Still fair play to her for tackling such a subject.
LEAVE IT OPEN
Reverb gated drum, piano. Kate duetting with herself again. Not afraid to use quite weird varispeeded vocals that recall both the Laughing Gnome and Babylon Zoo’s. Spaceman. Both understated and overproduced.
Less banging than other stuff. Pretty out there and unique, not sure anyone was doing anything like this and just over two minutes we get the full 80’s pounding drum sound and Kate wailing away and it turns into a bit of a rock anthem.. I like this. It is pretty different. The only thing I can really compare it to is Bowie at his most obscure/out there. Would have ended side 1
On the CD we go straight into this one which manages to keep up the “WTF” factor.
It’s like the sound of the third (Melt) Peter Gabriel album meets Rolf Harris’ Sunarise and features Rolf on didge. The drums are tribal, quite Burundi, lots of found voices. And a strange vocal. You don’t hear this one very often on the radio.
Also reminds me of PIL Flowers of Romance album – ie big drum sound and what Joe Strummer described as “a slippery fish” ie. non existent tune. I remember thinking it was pretty bonkers at the time
Busy but not overwhelming. Lots of harmonising with herself. I think I prefer her singing with female or her own backing vocals more than with male choir chorus. I know later albums will feature the Trio Bulgarka so I am looking forward to that.
In fact as it moves along not much happens but it does groove a bit. It’s less arranged or segmented than many of the tunes on this album. Curious choice for a single. Wonder how it plays on the Complete Story.
NIGHT OF THE SWALLOW
Doomy slow piano chords. Kate sings in quite a challenging ‘wailing cat’ vocal, then calms down a bit into a more stripped down verse and then we have a bit of stompy Irish folk with uillean pipes a plenty. This one is right bonkers with the Irish influence hitting the none more 80’s gated drum sound and then back to a calm verse. Bit incongruous – doesn’t need such a rigid groove accompanying the Irish bit in my opinion. Then it goes even louder and super swirly at the end. I feel a bit hit over the head by it. Nice 20 seconds piano refrain to end. A bit of respite. Impressive but hard work.
ALL THE LOVE
Fretless bass, jazz piano chords. Sounds quite Joni Mitchell-esque, a cross between 70s Joni with Jaco’s bass and 80s Joni with synths. No percussion which is good. To do with death and friendship. I won’t attempt any psychological interpretation – the internet’s there for those who are interested. Good song though and Kate sounds like she means it.
Nice gentle intro. Harks back to previous albums and forward to a Cloudbusting style symphonic pastoral vibe. Challenging (at least to me) vocal. Then strips back to strings followed by piano/fretless bass. A bit of a mini-opera, lots of changes and instrumental passages, some bits pleasing and some bits less so for me. Overall a bit too busy, over complicated and prog rock for my taste.
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
A lot going on. Very 80s. Banging tribal drums which reminded me a lot of Public Image’s Flowers of Romance album – another album that is either groundbreaking or wank depending on one’s stance – or possibly both! Lyrically. the old ‘I am a Rock’ trope – after a relationship break up I will make myself hard and invulnerable. And the song sounds it. Another kitchen sink job. Lots of vocal asides, spoken words, and then icing on the cake getting her brother to impersonate a braying donkey on the fade out. This one really builds in a total bonkers way. I can see why people think this album is a classic but I remain a bit perplexed and unmoved albeit super impressed by her audacity. So much I am going to listen to it again.
Received wisdom is that this is Kate’s “mad” album which was misunderstood at the time but is now seen as either a classic or as paving the way for her masterpiece (or mistresspiece as Simon Reynolds would put it) Hounds of Love.
Fully embracing the extended time in her own studio and modern (at the time) studio techniques – Fairlight samples and gated drum sound . She truly is becoming the Princess of Prog. The winsome pop of the first two albums now becomes something more monumental, a thicker synthetic sound incorporating some pretty out there vocals giving us a feast that needs some digesting.
I’m okay with her going off piste however I think some of it suffers from 80’s overload. For me it’s a bit too dense and heavy and I miss the lightness and space of her earlier work and I’m not sure if the production defeats the tunes or the tunes defeat the production.
I find the album a bit uneven to listen to in one go especially towards the end. Maybe I should start reviewing these albums listening to them in the modern way downloaded to a device, on headphones, on the move.
Having said that the songs themselves are pretty good and I could imagine further versions of this album, that it would work well both in a stripped down unplugged style as well as an additional dub reworking.
I would say after nearly two months of listening I am still getting to grips with this and feel it still has much more to give me and I can understand those who find it a classic. Still time to knock off now and move onto Hounds of Love.
Over to you. Masterpiece or mess? You tell me.