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Archive for the ‘Kate Bush’ Category

This month Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes) has given us another beautiful record, entitled “the Haunted Man.”  And I can say with certainty that I am pretty much in love with her and her music.  For many reasons.  The music is nothing short of stunning: emotional, visceral, atmospheric, imaginative, feminine, often danceable, it harkens back to elements of 80s New Wave music, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, the Cure, and Kate Bush…but Natasha Khan really has her own sound, despite these influences.  But she definitely comes from a tradition of theatrical British musicians.  I may lose people here, but her music makes me think of chilly towns in Belgium or France in autumn with grey skies and frost on the ground.  (Around the time I discovered her music for the first time in 2009, I happened to see “In Bruges” in a hotel in Mexico City, and I was totally fascinated from that point on…with Bruges and with Bat for Lashes).

I think as human beings, we are always looking for role models — regardless of our age.  For many, many years, Tori Amos was a role model for me — through my teenage years, through my twenties.  And much of her message and music, particularly from the 90s and early 2000s, continues to be a tremendous source of inspiration, personally and musically.  But what Tori has done in recent years seems to be steeped in glitzy appearances, crazy haute couture clothes, plastic surgery, far-fetched supposedly “feminist” themes, and often over-produced sounding music.  I mean, she pretty much lost me and so many of her fans the second she used the term “MILF” in a song.  I shudder.  That hardly seems like a feminist term.  (I still love Tori, btw).

But Natasha Khan is something different, and I think frankly, something/someone more like me and my best friends…and certainly more like someone I aspire to be.  There is a naturalness to her, a lack of pretentiousness, despite her rather dramatic music.  Take the cover of her new record, for example.  She is totally naked, with an equally naked man draped over her shoulders; she is carrying him.  She said of the shot, “”I think it freaks people out because I’ve got no makeup on, there’s no retouching. It’s super-raw and wild and black and white. But that’s what Patti Smith did, that’s what PJ Harvey did, that’s what all the coolest people have done, from my icons anyway.”  Writer Caitlin White (spinner.com) states, “…a sexualized female body has become a banality that doesn’t even cause a blip — but a completely natural, make-up free woman literally supporting a man leads to endless speculation.”

I’ve always thought that some of Bat for Lashes’s music reminded me of Kate Bush, and to be totally honest, this new record has lots of Kate influence.  The vocals, the electronics, the danceable beats, the layering of textures and samples.  The song “Lilies” (see link below) off the new record sounds uncannily like KB, particularly the vocal style.  But I feel like just about every female artist I listen to (Tori, Joanna Newsom, Bat for Lashes, Austra, etc.) gets compared to KB, which of course, is a huge compliment to KB and certainly a tribute to how unbelievably influential and revolutionary she was/is.  BUT it does get to be a bit of an old cliche.  Natasha Khan says, “”I think it’s really interesting, the way that you get kind of pulled into this group of female musicians no matter how disparate and eclectic you are, just because you are a woman. I don’t see male musicians coming out … imagine if all the male musicians coming out all got grouped into one group? It’s just like, really weird to me.”  She has specifically cited Robert Smith (yay!) as a huge influence on this new record.  And maybe I’m off base here, but I hear some Michael Jackson from the “Thriller” era.

Lastly, BFL has a beautiful, other-wordly quality, which is probably also one of the reasons she’s been compared to Kate Bush.  There is a mythological figure sort of aesthetic quality to the music, and the wardrobe…though this new era doesn’t have quite the Kate Bush winged-creature costume element that Natasha tended to exhibit back in 2009.  In any case, all of it is beautiful, in my opinion.

Oh, and she sounds AMAZING and IN TUNE live.  I also want to raid her wardrobe.

I LOVE the piano sample in this live track at 2:13

As corny as this may sound, I love when she takes her robe/cape off at the end of this one!…

Maybe the most beautiful track on the record.  Magnificent:

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From "Hounds of Love"

I was pleased to come across a series of youtube videos, all featuring this person’s “greatest” Kate Bush selections — “greatest song,” “greatest cover version,” “greatest video,” etc.  What a discovery!  I’m fairly obsessed with Kate Bush.  She is the coolest of the cool, the most beautiful of the beautiful, the most original of the original and just super duper interesting and bad ass all around.  Such an inspiration!  Enjoy!  (Just for the record, this person’s “greatest song” is NOT what I would consider her greatest song, nor is it the best version…but it’s still super cool.)  🙂  Something to take extra note of, if you’re interested — the “greatest lyrics” was inspired by Joyce’s “Ulysses.”  🙂

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Just for fun, I’m adding my favorite line from each record.  🙂

1. Tori Amos, “Boys for Pele”: passionate, dark, improvisational, beautiful, innovative

“Don’t make me scratch on your door, I never left you for a banjo, I only just turned around for a poodle and a Corvette, and my impression of my best Angie Dickinson…”

2. Kate Bush, “Hounds of Love”: epic, symphonic, inventive, moving, revolutionary

“It breaks the cage, and fear escapes and takes possession, just like a crowd rioting inside.”

3. The Beatles, “the White Album”: imaginative, quirky, colorful, crafted, eclectic

“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping, while my guitar gently weeps.  I look at you all, still my guitar gently weeps.”

4. Joni Mitchell, “Blue”: intimate, cozy, lyrical, nuanced, unforgettable

“Born with the moon in Cancer.  Choose her a name she will answer to.  Call her green for the children who’ve made her.  Little green, be a gypsy dancer.”

5. Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon”: trippy, atmospheric, memorable, nuanced, intriguing

“Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died.  And the general sat and the lines on the map moved from side to side.”

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Kate looking beautiful, as always

I don’t think this photo needs a caption…

Kate Bush with a fabulous biker jacket

“Consider the options for a glamourous girl singer with an acute sense of melody; consider that she’s taken the riskiest, most uncommercial route; and consider whether this album should be regarded with patience and admiration, even when it occasionally slips right over the top.” ~ Colin Irwin, “Melody Maker,” September 11, 1982 (discussing “the Dreaming”)

Disclaimer: with the exception of the above quote, I am not referring to any outside sources for this…so all of this is what I think, so if any facts are wrong, it’s because I have purposely not looked to outside information.

“Disclaimer” #2: If you’re not really into Kate Bush enough to read all of my text (I went a little crazy with it), I include a couple youtube videos at the bottom…her work really does speak for itself…

I think if there is any artist out there, dead or alive, that I would love to have a nice dinner & some wine with, it would be Kate Bush.  Probably because I have sooooooo many questions for her.  But bottom line — the woman is a bad ass and to me, she has created probably the most unique and ultimately influential career path of any female artist alive today.

What do I appreciate most about Kate Bush? Her willingness to be WEIRD…or, uh, “out,” in the more jazz-oriented terminology.

I think – especially those of us in the arts – so many of us are looking for inspiration in one way or another.  And I truly find artists inspiring when they move beyond norms & stereotypes, when they create new paradigms,  and while steeping themselves in the existing ideology, they ultimately really move beyond it and develop something quite new and beautiful.

From her first record, “the Kick Inside” in 1978, Kate Bush (discovered by the always-fabulous Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd) set herself up  to be a very, very beautiful, very feminine, young, lyrical-sounding, piano-based (generally) “pop” singer-songwriter.  But holy moly, little did the world know that the innocent (and kind of annoying) “Wuthering Heights” would lead to the uber-experimental (and weird as hell) record, “the Dreaming.”  And then, of course, she put out what many consider to be her masterpiece, “Hounds of Love.”

I think Kate Bush is one of those people who can be so many things at once.  Check out the video for “Babooshka” (there are two videos out there, but I’m talking about the sexy one)….I mean, wasn’t every man (and woman) drooling over her in that?  I mean, SEX POT.  The point is, she can be that uber-feminine, sexy, beautiful gal (check out attached photo)…and combine that with a highly skilled composer and visionary who has no problem seeming totally mad (i.e. crazy & weird in the most beautiful way) in some key points in her work.  Stellar and unique and interesting and intriguing combination, no doubt.

I remember the first time I heard “Running Up That Hill.”  I was in Paul Myers’s car (drummer from “Asciento” in Boston), and wonderful & manly but sensitive Paul really liked (loved perhaps) Kate Bush.  That record, “Hounds of Love,” pretty much changed my life in a similar way that Tori’s “Boys for Pele” did.

“The Kick Inside” I bought about a year later, and it accompanied my first year of graduate school in NYC.  “Lionheart” was literally the soundtrack to Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” and “Never For Ever” was my January 2005, freezing-cold-New-York-City-single-gal record…as was “the Dreaming” — I guess both of those last two accompanied Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” and “Smoke & Mirrors.”   I received “the Dreaming” for Christmas in 2004…I believe I put it on my Christmas list, and received it from my parents.  Probably my best gift that year!

I can’t really rate Kate above Tori because Tori’s music has been my best friend since I was 15 years old…but Kate’s music has literally revolutionized the way I think & feel about music, art, and performance in music.  “The Dreaming” really blew things open for me, especially since she released the record in the very early 80s…basically when I was a baby.  I mean, that record is wicked experimental even by today’s standards.  No doubt.

Kate represents to me the ultimate combination of feminine beauty, vulnerability, and total bad ass-edness…she has no problem being weird, doing crazy things with her voice, utilizing kind of bizarre looking choreography, using unusual instrumentation, moving WAY beyond forms of typical pop songs (while still releasing so many amazing “traditional” pop songs like  “Symphony in Blue,” “Running up That Hill,” “Cloudbusting,” etc., etc., etc.)  In a way, she really transcends any sort of stereotyping.  Part of the reason I love her sexiness in Babooshka (and elsewhere…I mean, the woman is freakin’ gorgeous) so much is because she is so NOT AT ALL LIKE any of the “sex pot” (I mean the quotes quite literally here) gal-“musicians” out there today.  Ahem, I won’t mention any names, but let’s just all laugh in unison…

I think the important thing with experiencing Kate’s records (up to and including “Hounds of Love”), is seeing her perform live.  She only did one tour (in 1978 when she was only 19, which is effin’ amazing in itself), but she’s done a handfull of TV performances since then, most of which during the 80s and early 90s…I get the impression she sort of dropped off the map since then – not musically, but because she is an extremely private person.  Very respectable, I think, especially when Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode sights you as his first crush!  I swear I saw that on some VH1 special a couple years back…youtube probably.  😉  I think she was much, much more in the public eye very early in her career, and my guess is that she got a bad taste in her mouth regarding stardom.

Within her first five albums & the performances, Kate combines very, very, very dramatic performance-art-esque approaches to performing her material, utilizing dance & mime in a very theatrical way.  The costumes, the miming, the dramatic “face dancing,” etc.  She studied dance, btw, with Lindsay Kemp who also worked with David Bowie.

Another thing I LOVE about Kate Bush is her total lack of pretentiousness in interviews and open skepticism of fame and everything that goes with it.  To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a genuine artist (except a handful of exceptionally artistic people very close to me).

I also very much appreciate Kate’s subject matter which is hugely influenced by literature.  I recently discovered that her song, “the Sensual World” was actually influenced by the last part of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which I have unfortunately not read, and I don’t think KB was able to get the rights from the Joyce estate.  Anyway, as someone who has always been vitally interested in personal, introspective songs dealing with immediate emotions, relationships, etc., I think the spectrum of Kate’s subject matter is so incredibly interesting.  In other words, it’s quite a bit more interesting than the things I naturally gravitate towards.

Some of my faves (i.e. tunes and/or videos to check out):

1. Army Dreamers — war protest tune, apparently she sings with an Irish accent in this one, but I can’t detect it

2. Leave it Open — “we let the weirdness in”…need I say more?

3. Sat in Your Lap — rhythmic, powerful, visceral, scary, totally bizarre…and catchy, to boot…uber scary video as well with quasi-KKK & ram’s head/faun costumes.  WEIRD.  Move over, Matthew Barney!!!! (Youtube video below…)

4. Egypt — beautiful, lyrical, sensual tune off “Never for Ever”

5. Delius — quite jarring (in a sedate sort of way) after Babooshka…soundscape sort of feeling. Romantic, dreamy, kind of weird.

6. Get Out of My House — I always wonder if Trent Reznor has checked out this song.  It has that masculine, angry aggressiveness combined with typical Kate Bush theatrics.  Apparently it was inspired by Kubrick’s “the Shining.”  Scary vocals!  LOVE this song.  It almost borders on industrial.

7. Moving — my favorite off “the Kick Inside.”  Love the piano.  Love her live performance & choreography.

8. Kashka from Baghdad – about a gay couple…fabulous tune

9. The Ninth Wave from “Hounds of Love” — that entire side is totally unbelievable, particularly “Waking the Witch.”  “Hello Earth” and “Morning Fog” are my feeling-totally-emotional-and-dramatic songs.  That’s not to diminish their profundity.  Really, that entire record is a masterpiece and I find it deeply moving.  Also very comforting.

10. Anything else from ‘the dreaming.’ The most experimental pop record I’ve ever heard.

There are a few I love off her more recent records, but I’ve been listening to the first five A LOT.

I almost cringe at the thought of dissertations, I can’t help but be curious as to who out there is including Kate Bush in their dissertation on 20th & 21st Century women & music.  The woman puts almost everyone else to shame, and I say that with total honesty.

Link for “Sat in Your Lap,” probably the most bizarre video I’ve ever seen:

Here’s a video from her 1978 tour (her only tour in fact); this predates Sat in Your Lap by about 3-4 years.  What  a transformation!  She was also apparently one of the very first to use the headset…way before Madonna, ya know?

“Get Out of My House,” from “the Dreaming.” Check out how different her voice is in this.  Crazy.

Happy Kate Bush listening!!!  🙂

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Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes)

Thanks to my friend & fellow-musician (and Tori fan, I might add) Jodelle, I discovered Bat For Lashes about 10 days ago, and have been pretty much listening non-stop.  I bought both her (Natasha Khan, AKA Bat for Lashes) records, “Fur and Gold” and “Two Suns,” plus a live recording which includes some tunes off both records.

To me and my taste, BFL is the perfect combination of many influences mixed with Natasha Khan’s general uniqueness.  She probably gets really tired of these comparisons, but a lot of her stuff sounds like a combination of Kate Bush (esp. Hounds of Love), 80s New Wave music (particularly on Two Suns), a tiny bit of Tori here and there, Dead Can Dance, Bjork (although I shudder at how “cool” Bjork has become particularly in artsy-fartsy jazzy scenes…yuck, sorry…yuck…too trendy for my taste…not “yuck” to Bjork herself, but I mean, the Bjorkestra?  Wtf?  It’s just a bunch of jazz musicians who – had they known me in middle school — would have thought I was a total weirdo because I listened to the Sugarcubes not to mention other uh, “alternative” bands.  And now it’s suddenly the super cool thing to do to be into her?  Sorry, maybe this is not fair to say).  I digress.  But really, at the end of the day, BFL is so eclectic and original…just too exciting!  Some of it is danceable, much of it super moody & atmospheric, lyrically filled with mythical imagery (‘a knight in crystal armor’ and ‘we saw the queen in the sky’, etc.)…GORGEOUS, imo.  Her music really takes me on a mental and visceral trip…it’s great to daydream to, it’s great to work out to, it’s great to relax to, get dressed up to go out to, etc., etc.  So many beautiful elements!  And serious tribal percussion going on on Two Suns!  Special thanks to Jodelle (whose music is fabulous, I might add) for introducing me to this incredible music.  http://www.batforlashes.com/

And Natasha Khan has the best fashion of just about anyone I’ve ever seen…maybe since Tori’s 2001 Strange Little Girls tour or 2005 Original Sinsuality tour.  Those were the best fashion-wise.  Natasha rules!  Happy listening…and viewing…

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Natasha Khan (AKA Bat for Lashes)

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