Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Happy Bloody Birthday, Behind the Couch

Behind the Couch turned 6 years old yesterday.

Over the course of the last year I have revisited Elm Street for its 30th Anniversary, fiddled with the Lament Configuration box during a Hellraiser marathon, had my work nominated for a Rondo Hatton Award, seen Claudio Simonetti perform a live film score for the second time, waxed lyrical about Vincent Price, written my 666th blog post, visited old cemeteries - at home and in London - and written reviews of old favourites, new favourites, French favourites, stuff I've found genuinely terrifying, and some classics I've never had the guts to write about before. I also caught up with my writer friends Christine Makepeace and Jon (Shocks to the System) Towlson to chat about their new books; a creepy Gothic novel and a study of politically subversive horror cinema, respectively.

Away from blogging I have continued to contribute to publications such as Exquisite Terror and Diabolique – my essay on the representations of the family in the films of Tobe Hooper was the cover feature for issue 20 of Diabolique. I also had the absolute pleasure of meeting Exquisite Terror editor Naila Scargill for the first time this year (we’ve worked together for about four or five years now). She took me to a pub in a crypt in London and we drank 'blood shots' and discussed the finer things in life (cats and horror films). While Paracinema magazine is still on hiatus, the website is updated regularly with all kinds of genre related articles and reviews, including my own regular feature, Audiodrome: Music in Film.

This year I have also contributed a little something to Alexandra Heller-Nicholas' forthcoming book about Suspiria, made some headway on a chapter about Heavy Metal horror films for a new book on sub-genres within horror, and finally finished an essay - which I started over three years ago - on the pornographication/eroticisation of violence in the films of Dario Argento; it’ll be published in the forthcoming issue of Exquisite Terror. Stay tuned for further updates on these...

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by over the last year – here’s to another year. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Kensal Green Cemetery

During a recent visit to London, a friend and I decided to explore Kensal Green Cemetery in the west of the city. Founded as the General Cemetery of All Souls by barrister George Frederick Carden in 1833, Kensal Green was inspired by the garden-style cemetery of Pere-Lachaises in Paris. Comprised of 72 acres of beautiful grounds, it was not only the first commercial cemetery in London, but also the first of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ garden-style cemeteries established to house the dead of an ever-increasing population. Campaigners for burial reform were in favour of “detached cemeteries for the metropolis” and in 1832 Parliament passed a bill that led to the formation of the General Cemetery Company to oversee appropriate measures and procedures concerning “the interment of the dead.”

The company purchased land for the establishment of Kensal Green in 1831 and held a competition in order to select an appropriate designer. Among the prerequisites in the brief provided to entrants, were two chapels with catacombs, a gated entrance with lodges and a landscaped layout for the monuments. Out of the 46 entrants, Henry Edward Kendall (1776-1875) was eventually chosen to design the cemetery, as the panel appreciated the Gothic style he intended to utilise. The Chairman of the General Cemetery Company however, preferred a neo-classical style and managed to persuade the surveyor of the company, John Griffith, to create new designs in the vein of Greek Revival. It was Griffith’s designs that were eventually used, though there are still traces of Kendall’s Gothic style dotted throughout the grounds.

The cemetery was divided into an Anglican section – the ground of which was consecrated on 24th January 1833 by the Bishop of London - and an unconsecrated section for Dissenters. A central avenue, surely one of the most beautiful parts of the cemetery (and one of the highlights of my visit), is lined by neo-classical monuments, including columns, obelisks, sculptures of weeping winged figures, and ornate mausoleums – some the size of small houses. Majestic chestnut trees guide the eye along the avenue and up to a terraced Anglican Chapel, beneath which are extensive catacombs, which dominates the western section of the cemetery.




Amongst those for whom Kensal Green is a final resting place, is Lady Jane Franklin, an early Tasmanian pioneer, traveller and the second wife of explorer John Franklin. She spent much of her life trying to find out what happened to her husband after he went missing in the snow and ice of the North-West Passage of the Canadian arctic; and trying to disprove claims that he and his crew had resorted to cannibalism. A great many literary luminaries are also laid to rest in Kensal Green, among them Harold Pinter, JG Ballard, William Makepeace Thackeray and Anthony Trollope.

Horror fans and admirers of Gothic literature should note that James Malcolm Rymer (author of the Varney the Vampire Penny Dreadfuls and co-creator of the character of Sweeney Todd, the 'demon barber of Fleet Street') and Wilkie Collins (author of The Woman in White and The Haunted Hotel) are also at rest here, and parts of the cemetery were used as locations for certain scenes of Theatre of Blood (1973) and Afraid of the Dark (1991). Kensal Green was also used as the setting in a particularly creepy short story by Ernest Favenc (1845-1908), a somewhat neglected author of weird Australian Gothic tales. Best known for his History of Australian Exploration, 1788-1888, Favenc was a prolific author and journalist who contributed to some of the most important literary journals in colonial-era Australia.

Favenc’s My Story, published in 1875, is an atmospheric tale of the occult, mesmeric influence and necromancy, which begins in the Australian Outback and culminates with a shocking discovery in Kensal Green: I was leaning moodily over the parapet of London Bridge one night. The hour was late, and the streets almost deserted; the night was dark and cloudy; occasional squalls of drifting rain came up the river. I stood there for some time looking at the lights of the town and the shipping, at the dark water running beneath my feet, listening to the chiming of the clocks, and weakly giving way to melancholy and despondent feelings. I was perfectly sober, and my brain clear. A solitary policeman was watching me a short distance away, as though he thought that I meditated suicide. A female figure hastily approaching from the opposite side brushed close to me, almost touched me; a strange thrill passed through me, an unrestrainable impulse made me spring after her; I overtook her just as she passed underneath a lamp; it was her! – the woman over whose body I had a tomb erected in Kensal Green Cemetery was by my side!

A chilling account of the restless dead in Kensal Green is relayed in True Ghost Stories by Marchioness Townshend and Maude Ffoulkes. It tells of a heartless publisher who is ‘reunited’ with a deceased love after happening upon her grave in Kensal Green. First published in 1936, Townshend and Ffoulkes introduced the tale with the statement, “The facts of this story were vouched for by the late Hon. Alec Carlisle, who told them to Maude M.C. Ffoulkes.” The tale concerns a rather hard-hearted publisher referred to only as L., who, in effort to gain acceptance by the upper echelons of London society, abandoned his former love; a simple but devoted girl named Elise, who was described as being in possession of "no working brains, and no money to speak of." By the time she died and was interned in Kensal Green, he had already forgotten about her. Years later, L. was attending the funeral of a colleague at Kensal Green, and, whilst wandering through one of the wilder, more remote corners of the cemetery, happened upon Elise’s obviously long-untended grave – marked only by a plain cross planted in the bare clay, leaning at a crooked angle, “as if tired.”



The pitiful sight of her grave left him overwhelmed with guilt, and he decided to improve the final resting place of his former love. Still concerned with acceptance in upper society and the potential scandal that would come about if his name was associated with the grave of such a lowly girl, he made the decision to improve the grave anonymously. When he returned home he dialled the operator to request his call be transferred to the relevant agency; but in his distracted, preoccupied state of mind, he found himself reciting a Kensal Green plot number to the operator. Moments later the call was picked up… A voice, at first muffled, then gradually becoming clearer, said: "Yes; who's calling?" L. gave his name. The person at the other end uttered a little gasp of delight and surprise. And L., with his blood turning to water, recognised the voice of Elise. "Why, it's never you, darling! Do you want me? Of course, I'll come!" (Just as she had always answered his one-time calls.) L. wanted to say, "No, no, no", but speech was frozen. "I won't be long," continued the voice; "but I was very far away, darling, when you rang up." Panic fear seized L. There was a click, and the line went dead. He dropped the receiver…




Shocked and more than a little horrified, L. dismissed his servants for the evening and retired to his study for a stiff drink. He had almost consumed an entire bottle of brandy by the time he heard his front door open, followed by footsteps in the hall. The footsteps dragged a little - as if their owner's limbs had recently been cramped - and as they came closer down the darkened hallway, sluggish, stiff and scraping, closer and closer, they were heralded by a current of icy air. L. passed out with fear just as the door to his study began to slowly creak open. L. awoke the next morning to find streaks of dark clay on his carpet, tracing a path from his front door along the hallway to his study. There was clay on the door handle, on his chair, even on his jacket; but no sign of his midnight visitor. L. never again used his telephone, nor attended funerals, and he developed a strong aversion to clay…

























The grave of Wilkie Collins

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Audiodrome #22: Mayhem, Murder & Morricone: Part II

Italian composer Ennio Morricone is responsible for creating some of cinema’s most evocative and powerful scores. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and significant film composers of all time, his work spans decades.

While particularly renowned for his scores for Sergio Leone-directed Spaghetti Westerns, such as Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Morricone has written film music for almost every conceivable genre. Though they are not as renowned as some of his other scores, his soundtracks for various horror films, psychological thrillers and Italian gialli are among some of the most dazzling, unusual and nerve shredding scores ever compos

Head over to Paracinema to check out the second in a two part series in which I examine some of Morricone's musical contributions to horror films, including John Carpenter's The Thing, Mike Nichols' Wolf, and Dario Argento's The Stendhal Syndrome (pictured). 

Friday, 14 November 2014

In Conversation with INJ Culbard

Widely known for his graphic novel adaptations of classic literature, including collaborations on the acclaimed Sherlock Holmes series with Ian Edginton, INJ Culbard has also been making a name for himself with his adaptions of the work of HP Lovecraft.

Having tackled At the Mountains of Madness, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and The Shadow Out of Time for SelfMadeHero, Culbard has now turned his attention to Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle, with a strikingly beautiful adaptation of The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

I had the absolute pleasure of talking to Ian recently about his Lovecraft adaptations, describing the indescribable, the far-reaching impact of Lovecraft's unique brand of cosmic horror, and his forthcoming adaptation of Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow (!).

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read our conversation.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Interview with Christine Makepeace, Author of 'Wake Up, Maggie'

Wake Up, Maggie, the debut novel from Christine Makepeace, former editor of Paracinema magazine, is the haunting tale of a middle-aged woman whose life is thrown into turmoil by the sudden relocation to a new home. Makepeace explores the devastating effects of trauma and guilt as Maggie battles her dark past, and confronts visions and memories of her long-dead brother which threaten the very fabric of her sanity. As shadows invade her domestic space, and dark thoughts plague her waking hours, Maggie begins a slow and harrowing descent into psychological anguish.

I recently caught up with Christine to talk about her debut novel, the influences of Shirley Jackson, Gillian Flynn and Gothic literature, and the appeal of unreliable narrators…


You once described Wake Up, Maggie as a story "about a sad lady." Can you talk me through the genesis of the story? How did it come to you?

I'm shocked at how often I "pitched" the book that way. It's sort of telling and very evasive; probably not the best approach. Honestly, it just kind of happened. I wish I had a better explanation! The titular Maggie came about because I wanted a dynamic protagonist that was at times sympathetic, but also totally dislikable. I wanted someone weak and strong and awful that would mess with how the reader felt about the fictional person they're on a journey with. All the other pieces just fit together. It was super unplanned.

In terms of fleshing out the original idea, how did you set about expanding it as a story - what was the writing process for you? Did you plan everything out, or did it all just flow together once you started writing?

I just sat down and wrote. I made notes and thought ahead, but there was never a chapter by chapter breakdown. I remember talking to my mother and saying, "I don't even know how it's going to end!" And I didn't. There was a point in the early chapters where I didn't feel like I knew the characters well enough to predict what they'd eventually do. There was a real feeling that they existed outside of me, and I was just watching them.

How did your exploration of this young woman, whose mind is completely unravelling, and her haunting experiences affect you? Was this a cathartic experience? An exhausting one?

It was mostly exhausting and sometimes embarrassing. But sure, cathartic as well. During editing I would read passages back and burst into tears. Or I would find myself equally horrified and understanding of Maggie's handling of a situation. Sometimes I related a little too much I think!

Elements of Wake Up, Maggie really echo the likes of Shirley Jackson's work (the neurotic narrator) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, particularly The Yellow Wallpaper. Who are your literary influences – and who in particular inspired you while writing Wake Up, Maggie?

I adore Shirley Jackson, so that's an amazing compliment. I read The Sundial when I was young and it scared me half to death and I didn't know why. I loved it. I'm a massive admirer of Gillian Flynn. She handles her protagonists in such an amazing way. She manages to populate addicting stories with morally ambiguous, imperfect characters. And she makes them relatable. There's something about that - making a reader relate to someone they are repulsed by - that I find beautiful. I could go on and on about Richard Matheson and Kafka and even The Twilight Zone. I am inspired by irreverence and characters. And movies.

While it is a very contemporary story, there are aspects that hark back to classic Gothic literature, I’m thinking in particular of 'female Gothic' literature and its notions of a persecuted female protagonist. How do you see Maggie - as the protagonist/heroine – in terms of archetypes? Where is her place in modern fiction?

I didn’t know I was writing a piece of Gothic literature until someone else told me. And then it was like, "Duh. Of course!" I'm not sure where Maggie fits in. I'd like to think she lives somewhere between Rebecca's The Second Mrs. de Winter and Gone Girl's Amy Dunne.

You did something very brave while delving into Maggie's psyche - she isn't always a sympathetic protagonist, but somehow you still ensure the reader understands her motivations. How do you see her in terms of the concept of ‘the unreliable narrator’?

I am a total pushover for an unreliable narrator. So there are certainly aspects of that here. But I felt that if Maggie was a venomous snake without context - without reason - she'd just be this caricature of a "bitchy" woman. I never wanted that for her. She isn't nice, but she feels she has reason. It's sort of up to the reader to decide if they agree.

How important was it for you that the story be ambiguous? It could be read as a creepy ghost story, or indeed, as a story about mental illness.

It was important to me, and it was deliberate to a point. Maggie is undoubtedly haunted. But, and then we come back to the unreliable narrator, if Maggie isn't sure of reality, how can you be?

Maggie’s house is arguably a major character in the story. In her mind it appears to taunt her and manipulate her. It seems to know more about Maggie than anyone. Of course, this could just be her projecting her own fears and paranoia into her immediate surroundings. How do you view the house and how important is its role within the story?

Jeez, I don't know if I could say it any better. So I'll fumble through an explanation... The house is Maggie's whole world. She gets lost in her mind, and she projects that outwards onto the house. The house, and the idea of "home" in general, is something that Maggie struggles with. So, and this ties into the previous question, the house is Maggie's mind, and they're both haunted. This question got me thinking!

Your prose is beautifully sparse and lends itself well to the ambiguity of the story. There’s nothing that feels unnecessary. How difficult was it to edit the material? How did you decide what to keep and what to cut out?

You flatterer! This is going to sound ridiculous, but editing for content has never really been a part of my process. When I type it out, I know if it belongs. If it feels clunky or unnecessary I abandon ship. I rewrite passages if they don't flow, but for the most part, once I walk away from a chapter it's done.

Who do you think this story will appeal to? Did you even consider who your readers might be? Or was it just a case of writing the story for yourself?

I don't know who it will appeal to! I think it unfolds differently depending on the reader. But there’s no way to predict what folks will respond to. I just wrote what was in my head. If it speaks to someone, then that's amazing. But I know it isn't for everyone, and that's OK! I'm happy with the end result.

What is next for you? Are you working on anything at the moment?

I've got some half-formed ideas kicking around my head. Hopefully those will translate into something. But right now I'm working on a book of short stories, and again, that's more for me than anything. I'm not sure if the world is clamoring for it. But who knows?


Wake Up, Maggie is available now from Amazon - you can download it to your Kindle, or purchase a good old fashioned hard copy.

Keep up to date with Christine on Twitter.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Before the Dawn: The Ninth Wave


Earlier this year when Kate Bush announced a series of live shows (her first since 1979’s Tour of Life) fans the world over waited with baited breath to see what would happen. Before the Dawn, a 22 date residency at the Hammersmith Apollo, sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. Despite several friends and myself trying on various sites, I was unable to obtain a ticket; until a friend of a friend revealed she had a spare. I was therefore lucky enough to go and see Kate perform on 16th September with said friend, and it was an evening we shall both treasure forever…

Bush has almost always had a reputation for being reclusive, which has of course led to her being viewed through a particular shroud of mystique. In the words of one critic, she “got all the madwomen down from the attic and into the charts.” Few figures in contemporary music are as original, idiosyncratic and visionary as Kate Bush, and fewer, even those who share the same mythic reputation, could generate as much interest when announcing they’re coming back to the stage. Not only is she an artist who has accomplished the rare feat of combining musical innovation with commercial success, she does so on her own terms, maintaining complete creative control of her work. When one takes a closer look at her work, it becomes apparent that Bush is something of a horror fan, particularly Gothic horror, and she frequently draws inspiration from Gothic literature and cinema to lend her music a rich, blood-dark depth.

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last/Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep/And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged/Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame... Tennyson

Before the Dawn was no exception, for sprinkled throughout it were traces of the Gothic and the downright macabre, not least during The Ninth Wave; a conceptual song cycle from Hounds of Love which narrates the plight of a woman lost at sea and slowly drowning. Kate Bush described The Ninth Wave as being “…about a person who is alone in the water for the night. It’s about their past, present and future coming to keep them awake, to stop them drowning, to stop them going to sleep until the morning comes.” Each song in The Ninth Wave is a dream/nightmare, emerging from the woman's unconscious state, though at times she appears to be conscious, drifting in and out, above and below the waves. It taps into various primal fears including abandonment, isolation, drowning and ‘what lurks beneath.’ Layers of vocals and oddly arranged fragments of spoken word create an immensely disorienting effect akin to the state of semi-consciousness between sleep and awake. Throughout the suite, Bush deftly creates a sense of the place between here and there, with call and answer vocals that seem to exist in a space between moments; the whole thing has an ebb and flow as ever-shifting as the sea. Eerie atmospherics drift throughout.

The Ninth Wave by Ivan Aivazovsky

Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon (1958) partly inspired Bush's Hounds of Love (1985)

This is not really intended as a review of the concert, more a look at the various Gothic elements of The Ninth Wave and how they were presented in a live concert setting...

Combining aspects of theatre, film, conceptual staging, mask work and puppetry, Before the Dawn begins as Bush enters the stage barefoot and, accompanied by a live band and various backing singers/dancers, sings a handful of songs from Hounds of Love, The Red Shoes and Aerial. Towards the end of King of the Mountain, when she sings of the wind whistling through the house, a figure emerges on stage swinging a purerehua (a traditional Maori wind instrument) above his head. Chaos erupts, lights flash on and off, the sound of an immense storm can be heard and the stage is plunged into darkness as the audience braces itself for The Ninth Wave…

A short film is projected onto the stage as the band is engulfed by the ribs of a large wrecked ship. It depicts an astronomer frantically calling the coastguard to report a sinking ship he’s spied through his telescope. Kate then appears on screen, floating on the black surface of water (she spent three days in a floatation tank to film these moments), the sole survivor of the wreck, singing And Dream of Sheep, which details her attempts to resist the urge to close her eyes and drift into the dark depths below. A subdued piano melody, delicate and mournful, enhances the notion of a woman bobbing up and down on the waves while gulls circle and cry overhead, and snippets of coastguard radio broadcasts are heard. References to poppies, heavy with seed (opium), bring the song to a close as the urge to let go becomes too much and she slips beneath the waves (“deeper and deeper”) and into the intermediate state between life and death, seguing beautifully into the spooky, downright glacial introduction of Under Ice. Suddenly the stage floor becomes a rippling mass of material mimicking the motion of waves and sinister, shadowy figures wearing large fish skulls begin to skulk around while various figures in life jackets also emerge, ghost-like, from the darkness as the sound of a submarine’s sonar pierces the gloom. Under Ice features disorientating dream logic, as the semi-conscious narrator slowly becomes aware of her plight; the realisation encroaching upon her dreams of drowning as internal and external narratives collide. Trapdoors appear in various parts of the stage as Kate is hurled through them and dragged up out of them, all the while gradually realising that the figure beneath the water she’s singing about is actually herself – “There's something moving under/Under the ice moving/Under ice through water/Trying to/"It's me"/Get out of the cold water/"It's me"/Something/"It's me"/Someone, help them/Wake up!” It’s a haunting moment reached by a slow-building sense of dread; the music as ominous as the opening strains of John Williams’ theme from Jaws.

Not a soul on the ice/Only me skating fast

You won't burn/You won't bleed/Confess to me, girl!

With terrifying vocals and lyrics, Waking the Witch begins calmly enough, with a gradual cacophony of disembodied voices prompting the narrator to wake up. There’s more time and sensory distortion as some voices sound near, while others sound further away. At one stage we hear a voice ask 'Can you not see that little light up there?' hinting that our narrator may be sinking deeper and deeper into the depths. 'Where?' is the whispered reply. 'There!' 'Where?', the final dreamily uttered response, as though she is half awake and not fully aware of the immensity of her predicament. Events become even more terrifying as the narrator, now staring death in the face, her life flashing before her eyes as she thrashes in the water, is confronted by a sub-aquatic witch-finder condemning her to the flame. The dancers in life-jackets have taken on an almost demonic quality; the straps of their jackets doubling as forked devil tails, they surround Kate, pointing at her mockingly as stuttering vocals emulate desperate gasps for air. The narrator, finding herself condemned to death, begins to question her right to live, and Waking the Witch, unfurling as a sort of 'trial of conscience’, contains myriad references to witch trials. As part of these trials, women accused of witchcraft were thrown into water; if they drowned, they were declared innocent, if they survived they were found guilty and burned. The song appears to have been partly inspired by Elizabeth George Speare’s 1958 children’s novel The Witch of Blackbird Pond, with its protagonist accused of witchcraft and various references to blackbirds and wings in water. The references to blackbirds and witch trials echo the tale of Molly Leigh, a woman accused of witchcraft in the 1700s who kept a pet blackbird. In European folklore blackbirds are sometimes used as a symbol of sexual temptation; it is said the devil himself transformed into a blackbird and flew into the face of St. Benedict, causing him to become troubled by an intense desire for a woman he had once known.

Help this blackbird, there's a stone around my leg

Who taps me on the shoulder?/I turn around, but you're gone - Kate Bush, Hammer Horror (1978)

Waking the Witch is perhaps one of the most intense moments of Before the Dawn. As it draws to a close, the sound of helicopters flying overhead can be heard, as voices shout “get out of the water!” and a search light flickers across the audience from above, creating an utterly immersive experience; visually as well as audibly. With the narrator’s fate in the balance, the story momentarily returns to dry land and the home of her family, who have by now begun to wonder where she is and why she’s late... A crooked house-shaped room is pulled onto the stage and a scene of mundane domesticity ensues: a father cooks sausages for dinner while his son lies on the couch watching TV. Kate appears behind them and performs Watching You Without Me, a song that takes the form of a ghost story, as the narrator ponders her loved ones back home on shore. Sang from a purgatorial vantage point, she tries desperately to alert her loved ones to her plight: “Can't let you know/What's been happening/There's a ghost in our home/Just watching you without me/I'm not here.” Her mournful, spectral attempts to communicate are signalled by more stuttering vocals, like intermittent interference on a radio broadcast. When recording this song for Hounds of Love, certain verses of the song were spoken backwards phonetically, and then played forward to create an effect similar to that used by David Lynch in Twin Peaks when characters speak to each other in the Black Lodge. In a moment reminiscent of Poltergeist, the lights in the little room flash on and off and the father and son think they see Kate’s image in the TV set; a quivering ghost in her own home.

There's a ghost in our home...

When the narrator’s attempts to communicate with her family are unsuccessful, the story returns to the dark sea, and a somewhat livelier purgatorial moment. With its traditional Irish instrumentation, Jig of Life conjures images of a céilí dance, its various rhythms pulling and pushing like a roaring sea. Irish folklore tells of countless places which exist between the realms of the living and the dead, where contact with the spirit world is intensified. The narrator of The Ninth Wave appears to enter a great dance hall where certain moments from her past, present and future are woven together in a tapestry of her life. Obscure references are made to 'One Hand Clapping' (perhaps a nod to Anthony Burgess’ 1961 novel of the same name, the dominant theme of which is the downfall of civilisation) and she is confronted by her future self (“I'll be sitting in your mirror/Now is the place where the crossroads meet/Will you look into the future?”), who urges her to try to live. “Where on your palm is my little line/When you're written in mine/As an old memory?/Never, never say goodbye/To my part of your life.”

Get out of the waves! Get out of the water!

The penultimate song of The Ninth Wave, Hello Earth, is an ambiguous lament containing a traditional Georgian choral piece entitled Tsintskaro. Apparently Bush initially heard this piece of music in Werner Herzog’s atmospheric Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht – a morosely contemplative film, largely preoccupied with death. The scene in which Tsintskaro is featured depicts Lucy wandering, trance-like, through a town square as the dwindling population gather to dance and feast amidst the debris and rats. All have seemingly accepted their fate - death by plague - and decide to live out the last moments of their lives in subdued celebration. A huge life buoy has floated into the centre of the stage and as Kate attempts to climb onto it throughout this song, she is constantly pulled back into the sea by the sinister fish-headed figures (referred to in the programme as the Lords of the Deep). The last line of the song “Tiefer, tiefer, irgendwo in der Tiefe gibt es ein Licht" is German for "Deeper, deeper, somewhere in the depth there is a light." As Kate is finally pulled off the buoy, in slow motion no less, and carried off in a funeral procession by the Lords of the Deep, she whispers “Go to sleep little Earth.”

Not wishing to end The Ninth Wave on a downer, Kate composed The Morning Fog, a celebratory song which seems to imply the narrator has made it back to land and is reunited with her loved ones. Of course, another way to look at it is that she has finally drowned and emerged into the afterlife to be reunited with loved ones long passed away…


With no thought of the shadows in her path, or the silent flight of the raven-winged hours. Edgar Allan Poe

Throughout The Ninth Wave, various thematic and narrative layers unfurl operatically, cinematically, and in parts, downright nightmarishly. It’s an astonishing collection of songs, and seeing them performed live, in such a provocative and theatrical way highlights how powerful they are; and of course, how much of Bush’s work is inspired by notions and ideas stemming from Gothic horror. Even throughout the second part of the show, A Sky of Honey, elements of the Gothic can be glimpsed, particularly in the creepy bird-masks worn by the band, the moments when a seemingly puppeteer-less marionette catches and greedily, bloodily, devours a bird before running off stage, and finally the moment when Kate herself sprouts large black wings and flies through a giant doorway.