Aphir is Melbourne producer Becki Whitton who produces all encompassing lush choral works, often built in real time from vocal loops. She also dabbles in dark experimental pop. Her fourth album is The Halo Is Shapeless, which she describes as ‘a soothing voice leading you through a change of state.’ We were quite beguiled when we first heard The Halo Is Shapeless, and it definitely changed our state, leaving us wondering where this drifting beautiful work came from. So we reached out to Becki and asked her about the music that moves her.
In the wake of the 2022 Stranger Things-fuelled Kate Bush revival, my first idea on being asked to write about ten songs or albums that I love was to write about ten of my favourites of her tracks. But, as quickly as that list would fill up, there is so much incredible local music here in Australia that takes inspiration from Kate Bush’s wide-eyed, octave-jumping influence and I would love to share some of that here too. So, here are five Kate Bush tracks that I love followed by five tracks from musicians from Provenance, the artist collective I’m a part of, who make work that channels some of the spirit of Kate while maintaining their own unique visions.
Kate Bush – The Red Shoes
In some ways it feels like I didn’t actually have a choice about eventually becoming a Kate Bush fan since my parents would play her stuff relentlessly at home when I was a kid. In those days I actually didn’t like her though, and thought she was a bit of a freak – no one on video hits at the time did such whacky things with their voices and the fixed stare she always did while interpretive dancing really creeped me out. I did love to dance to The Red Shoes when I was little, though, and this song has stuck with me in a big way – it tells the story of a sort of Faustian pact where the narrator envies a dancer’s skill, but it turns out that skill originates solely from the dancer’s highly cursed red shoes which don’t let the wearer ever stop dancing. It comes with an absolutely wild video clip that illustrates the whole story.
Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
This song is a real hero both because it’s undeniably great and because it helped to improve the whole internet’s taste when it resurfaced after being used in Stranger Things last year and introduced a whole new swathe of people to Kate Bush. My first encounter with this song was Placebo’s cover of it, which seems to be a bit divisive but I really love it, I’ve probably listened to that version just as much as the original. It’s just great songwriting that’s going to be good however it’s produced and presented.
Kate Bush – The Kick Inside
One thing about Kate Bush is that no topic has ever been too spicy for her to consider writing a song about and so, accordingly, The Kick Inside tells the story of a young woman falling pregnant incestuously by her brother, and her subsequent suicide. It’s based on a folk song called The Ballad of Lizzie Wan and it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful and sad song, driven primarily by Kate Bush’s own vocals and piano playing.
Kate Bush – Constellation of the Heart
I’m obsessed with this song. It comes from the album The Red Shoes which is full of expensive-sounding 90s pop production (it was literally given as an example of how extreme you can get with vocal compression when I was at audio school) and instrumentation is elaborate and flawless. There’s this call-and-response Greek chorus sort of thing at the end of the song where Kate Bush presents her cognitive behavioural therapy internal monologue as a discussion between the captain of a ship and his crew as they finally spot the eponymous constellation of the heart and I love that SO much.
Kate Bush – Blow Away
This is my all-time favourite Kate Bush song. It’s dedicated to Bill Duffield, a lighting engineer who died in an accident during one of her tours. The first stanza takes you right to the core of what’s moving about this song with the brutally relatable lines “One of the band told me last night/music is all that he’s got in his life/and where will it go?/surely not with his soul”. But then the song takes a really beautiful turn, imagining an afterlife where musicians might be greeted by forerunners in their craft.
Lack the Low – Brigid
Romaeo – Anna
More than any other local artist I know, Romaeo shares Kate Bush’s penchant for stepping into the persona of a character from literature or folklore to tell the story of a song. Anna is based on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and it combines Romaeo’s beautiful vocals with her own minimalist and well-chosen production.
Lack the Low has already attracted a few comparisons to Kate Bush because of her sheer vocal freedom as well as the way her melodies combine pop hookiness with baroque twists and turns. The song Brigid from her most recent LP, God-Carrier, is named after the Celtic goddess of fertility and spring, who was traditionally honoured in the depths of winter as a beacon of hope.
LOUV x MxMars – Rain Has Come
This song by LOUV in collaboration with MxMars reminds me of Kate Bush’s production aesthetic in its explorations with vocal layering, and the use of vocals as an instrument as well as a storytelling tool. LOUV in particular also carries on Kate Bush’s tradition of combining storytelling in song with dance so that the two are almost inextricable – her talents in this regard are on powerful display in the video for Rain Has Come.
Sandy Hsu – Soho
Ashleigh Hazel – Lazer Pointer
Let’s be honest, the experience of being a cat following a lazer pointer is exactly the kind of thing Kate Bush would write a song about. Ashleigh Hazel’s work is so exciting to me because, much like the work of LOUV and MxMars, it shows some of the cool ways that the genre of art pop has evolved to take on more electronic influences. I’m not gonna say h*perp*p because what does that even mean at this juncture but as well as its Kate Bushiness you can hear the influence of artists like Charli XCX, brakence, and Arca on Ashleigh Hazel’s work.
This song reminds me of the more personal and confessional songs from Kate Bush’s first album. I’m thinking Feel It, Saxophone, or The Man With The Child In His Eyes. Sandy sings the story of a romance in Soho with the same vulnerability, self-awareness, and fresh curiosity about what it is to be human.
The Halo Is Shapeless is out now on Art As Catharsis. You can find it here.