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Reclusive genius revisits albums with (re)mixed results
Peter Murphy, 05 May 2011
Should an author revisit a completed text? Is it a form of madness to endlessly re-pursue perfection? Walt Whitman rewrote Leaves of Grass until the day he died. Francis Ford Coppola reduxed Apocalypse Now. Meatloaf went back to hell. And now Kate Bush has revisited a selection of tunes from The Red Shoes (1993) and The Sensual World (1989) adding new vocals and drum tracks to the originals.
She’s done this before. Back in 1985, when she released the ‘Best Of’ compilation The Whole Story, Bush recorded a new vocal for ‘Wuthering Heights’ that was less piercing and even more gorgeous than the original. By the same yardstick, at least half these re-recordings are not only justified but required: the long awaited comeback album Aerial (2005) sometimes suffered from anomalous ‘80s muso touches, precisely the elements Bush has pruned from the masters on Director’s Cut.
So, rights clearance from the Joyce estate means she’s restored the original Molly Bloom soliloquy to ‘Flower Of The Mountain’ (formerly ‘The Sensual World’), and that original vocal line, halfway between blue note and sean nós, is now supported by bottom end boosted for stereo systems brutalised by Timbaland. Uileann pipes weave in and out of coconut shell rhythms, and Kate blows in your ear and hisses ‘Yesss’ like a soft serpent.
She’s a far more controlled vocalist now, and instead of stylised Mick Karn style fretless or flanged bass warbles, we get sparse and bony lines from Danny Thompson. ‘Lily’ is part pantheist prayer, part funk throb, with whoops, screeches and non-verbal emissions that’ll bring the hair up on the nape, while the single ‘Deeper Understanding’ is the portrait of a woman who rejects the real world for the companionship of a computer, retracing internet isolationism back to Kubrick and ARPAnet. And rest assured, the vocoder has less to do with Autotune than Neil Young’s electro oddity ‘Trans’, or perhaps Christopher Nolan’s prose transposed. It’s one of the more quietly radical pieces of music you’ll hear this year. Completing the album’s first-side suite, ‘The Red Shoes’ constructs a nightmarish fable stitched with jig-time bazouki and a bass drum rhythm figure that marries Balearic ecstasy to mental images of dancing dwarves.