This is a completely unique and wonderful album. Its predecessor "Never for Ever" did have occasional darker, experimental leanings, but nobody expected an album like this. It wasn't as successful with the public, but the intense, dark textures, and the astonishingly imaginative song writing makes this an absolutely timeless work.
Kate's voice is no longer just sweet and pretty - it's wide ranging and often treated or layered. Intead of simple piano ballads, the songs play around with rhythm, time and sound colour, and are perfectly coherent without being indulgent. For distant experimental cousins, think Laurie Anderson or Peter Gabriel, but this sounds like nothing else. The closest thing to pop here is "Sat In Your Lap" and "Suspended in Gaffa", upbeat, toe-tapping songs with a quirky twist. The mockney crime caper "There Goes a Tenner" just makes me cringe at how bad Genesis's "Robbery, Assault and Battery" was. "Pull out the Pin" (with Dave Gilmour on backing vocals) has a brooding, swampy backing, over which Kate lets rip with some unrestrained shrieking. The treated, squashed voice effect on the weird "Leave it Open" is positively scary.
As for "The Dreaming" itself, well, the cod-Aussie stuff might annoy the hell out of some people, but I think it's tastefully done and perfectly timed. "Night of the Swallow" has a piano backed verse with achingly emotional singing, contrasted with an Irish fiddle chorus. On the ballad "All the Love", a less imaginative producer would have increased the volume for the beautiful "I needed you" refrain. Instead we're left with the haunting electronically-echoing tones of a boy treble. Similarly in "Houdini", instead of a simple song chorus, the protagonist's descents into his watery cage are evocatively illustrated by splashes of string arrangement. The vividly intense, savage rhythms of "Get Out of My House" bring this masterpiece to a breathless conclusion.
October 13, 2003