Kate Bush - The Sensual World - Review
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critics' view

The Sensual World is unmistakeably of the eighties, but thankfully, due to the inventiveness and sophistication of the sound, it’s aged a thousand times better than either shell suits or Bros. Kate Bush’s ethereal, unmistakeable voice equally enchants and divides audiences, but its uniqueness, and the daunting ambition of her songs, set her apart from any of her contemporaries from her 40-year recording career.

Released in 1989, The Sensual World was Bush’s sixth studio album, and the follow-up to the successful Hounds Of Love. Emotionally raw and lyrically inventive, there is a lushness to the sound, with layer piled upon layer sweeping you along in the complexity of the sound. Bush captures a broad range of sounds here, from David Gilmour’s impressive guitar chops on "Love And Anger", to the presence of Bulgarian vocal ensemble Trio Bulgarka on "Deeper Understanding", "Never Be Mine", and "Rocket’s Tail".

Reaching Out is a beautiful creation, exploring all the different meanings that can be shown in that one action, with the vocal ranging from whispery to the kind of epic wailing that only Bush could manage to keep on the right side of hysterical. "Heads We’re Dancing", which sounds the most 80s of anything here (think electronic power drum beats and synthy-guitars) is a complete contrast, telling the tale of a woman dancing all night with a stranger who turns out to be Hitler.

Deeper Understanding combines a choir-heavy chorus, with a lovely, layered percussion sound with echoes of tribal rhythms. It also has a spooky prescience too it as Bush makes references to lonely people finding solace in their computers. And then in another contrast of style, "Rocket’s Tail" manages to combine brilliantly what should have been a car crash of eastern musical influences with raging guitar solos. What should be a clash of sounds is instead one of the best things here.

Somehow, despite the over-the-top feel to most of her work here, Bush managed to create an album on the right side of self-indulgence. As with most of her work, the thrill is in having no idea what the next song will bring.

Helen Groom
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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