Little light shining

If Kate Bush started her career in 1999 instead of 1979, I think I know who she may resemble creatively.

Shiina Ringo.

And if studio technology back in 1985 were as advanced as it is today, Hounds of Love could have sounded more like Shooso Strip. (I’m not sure Bush is opulent enough to strive for the level of Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana.)

Although the analog synthesizers of the mid-’80s sound quaint today, there’s no denying the dramatic flair of Hounds of Love.

The album is divided into two sections — “The Hounds of Love” and “The Ninth Wave”.

It’s “The Ninth Wave” on which Bush takes off. “Jig of Life” demonstrates her aptitude with Celtic influences, while the male chorus on “Hello Earth” is some of her eeriest writing ever.

“Waking the Witch”, though, is plenty weird enough for the entire album. A painstakingly rendered montage of growling voices, ominous timbres and Bush’s remarkable wail, the song is pure theatrics. And it’s thrilling.

Threaded together by the image of a “little light”, the seven tracks which make “The Ninth Wave” form a loose narrative. It’s the kind of ambition women songwriters rarely attempt today.

Ringo-chan comes close, but even her most lush machinations don’t quite reach Bush’s unself-conscious conceptual scope. When Kate Bush took risks, she really didn’t hold back.

The first half of the album — “The Hounds of Love” — comes across more conventionally. It starts off with Bush’s most successful single in the US, “Running Up That Hill”, which is actually pretty unremarkable compared to the following tracks.

The album’s title track combines tribal rhythms with a string orchestra, while “Cloudbursting” is some of Bush’s best hook-writing. In many ways, it’s a better single than “Running Up That Hill”.

Despite the technical limitations of the time — and man, I wish I could have listened to the 1997 remastered version instead — Hounds of Love feels a lot larger than it sounds.

Bush’s unabashed performance and the attention to detail she lavishes on this music gives it a sense of timelessness. Even after 20 years, Hounds of Love is still a discovery.