:: Theo Bleckmann
Hello Earth! – The Music of Kate Bush

Theo Bleckmann [vocals, live electronic voice processing, toy piano, glockenspiel, caxixi]
Henry Hey [piano, minimoog synthesizer, fender rhodes piano, prepared harpsichord, voice]
Skúli Sverrisson [electric bass, voice]
Caleb Burhans [electric five string violin, electric guitar, voice]
John Hollenbeck [drums, percussion, crotales, voice]

Winter & Winter 910 183-2 [1 CD]


– Nate Chinen, The New York Times
Hello Earth! – The Music of Kate Bush

After tackling American maverick composer Charles Ives and receiving a Grammy nomination for it, vocalist Theo Bleckmann now takes on the mysterious songbook of British pop recluse Kate Bush. This project goes beyond merely re-creating Kate Bush's music but taking it into other realms of sound and interpretation. Bush's œuvre is indeed mysterious and often enigmatic in nature: unusual song forms, oracular lyrics and unpredictable meter- and harmony-changes are an anomaly in pop music, making it the perfect vehicle for Bleckmann's distinctive, interpretive spirit and interest in the unusual. Even though Bush still remains a household name, it is fair to say that her music is not your usual run-of the mill boy-meets-girl/boy-looses-girl fare. Her use of British and Irish myths, her references to psychology, literature and film, her meticulously multi-layered productions and her unusually high voice make her idiosyncratic body of work challenging for other artists to interpret.
Bleckmann first heard Bush as a young teenager and was immediately intrigued... "Her music has this thing that I love in art: you're instantly drawn into someone's universe without really knowing why but somehow understanding everything in your heart." A lot of teenage pop heroes came and went, but Kate Bush remained a constant in Bleckmann's life. "Her songs and records never became obsolete ? – I now realize that the way she layered sound, speech and music became a major influence for my live electronic looping aesthetic."
For »Hello Earth!« Bleckmann chose songs that warranted a different interpretation.
Joining him in this venture is long-time collaborators percussionist John Hollenbeck and electric bassist Skúli Sverrisson and keyboardist Henry Hey and violinist/guitarist/vocalist Caleb Burhans, who can also be heard on Bleckmann's Berlin-CD. "When I set out to do this, I knew right away that these were the perfect musicians for this kind of project. "
Hollenbeck, a brilliant composer and arranger of his own, contributed his vast orchestrational palette and ideas to the music, including the use of crotales which greatly shaped the sound of this record. Sverrisson and Bleckmann also go back many years having worked together in various configurations (including Laurie Anderson's band). Sverrisson's profound sense of sound and layering and compositional instincts became essential to the music. Keyboard wizard (and newly appointed musical director for George Michael) Henry Hey, whom Bleckmann works with for the first time, contributed a vast array of sounds and possibilities, transforming and bringing to life Bleckmann's initial ideas. Caleb Burhans is perhaps one of the most sought after young musician/composers on the NY downtown scene today: "I wanted someone who could play many different instruments, loop, improvise and sing, which pretty much eliminated everyone but Caleb."
»Hello Earth!« is a journey into Kate Bush's world through Bleckmann's voice and interpretive vision: "Running Up That Hill", which opens the record, gets a mysteriously ambient treatment. The lyric suggests switching gender in order to fully experience the other, which is where Bleckmann's journey begins. "Suspended In Gaffa's" thumping waltz feel is now a suspended multi-metric virtuosic vehicle for the band, with Bleckmann (together with the other musicians) proclaiming in jolting harming: "I want it all". "And Dream Of Sheep", a song about being lost and shipwrecked at sea, turns into an ambient dream through Bleckmann's use of vocal looping and Sverrison's spherical bass playing then segueing into the unsettling "Under Ice"; a tale of entrapment under ice (a definite choice of song for Bleckmann who once was a competitive figure skater in his teens). "Violin" turns into a distorted death metal thrash, echoing the lyric's destructive fierceness.
The title track, "Hello Earth", keeps most of its original elements, including the inclusion of the Georgian folk song "Zinzkaro" in which the violin is now taking over the main melody while Bleckmann provides the harmony. "All The Love", however, gets a more radical transformation, again stripping away a lot of the original, Bleckmann stretches the original melody and harmonies and inserts a vocalise into the middle. The last verse is delivered over a static vocal and violin loop, bringing out the song's fragility and feeling of regret.
Set in a "Berlin bar", "Saxophone Song" probably gets the most jazz treatment while "Army Dreamers" has been completely stripped of most of its original accompaniment and turned into an antiphonal drinking song as a lament over a lost generation of soldiers.
The record closes with Bush's most well known (and covered) song "This Woman's Work". Here, Bleckmann accompanies himself with looped voices leading us out of the initial gender switching "Running Up That Hill" to his exit by singing "make it go away, make it go away... now".
Bleckmann treats Bush's music as he would that of Charles Ives, Thelonius Monk, George Gershwin, Guillaume de Machaut, Joni Mitchell or any other composer he takes on: with love, respect and an insatiable curiosity for new possibilities.