Divers is an album possessed by the spirit of early Kate Bush from the high register of her voice to the gentle lilting strings and piano. You can almost hear vocal echoes of Wuthering Heights or Army Dreamers here, when Kate was a rawer form of weird, less polished and studio produced, and not afraid to caterwaul or be playful with her lyricism. There are moments of chamber music here, hints of likeness to PJ Harvey’s brilliant Victoriana of White Chalk and a brilliant pagan darkness contained within.
Anecdotes is about the conversation and experiences of two soldiers talking in the middle of a watch whilst an air raid is mounted, and then time jumps forward to the present like an elastic band as the song’s narrator says “Now hush, little babe./You don’t want to be/down in the trenches, remembering with me.”
Saponkanikan continues the theme of aviation and World War I, and is replete with references to John Purroy Mitchel, a man known as “The Boy Mayor of New York,” who died after a short term in office as an Army air officer in the last months of World War I, whilst also being intrinsically linked to Native American culture, Sapokanikan being one of the Lenape villages discovered by archaeologists as having once existed on Manhattan island prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The song is also about what is hidden being revealed, as it mentions a painting of the Biblical Tobias and the Angel, and a painting underneath the inferior facade revealing a Titian painting of a girl and her mother, mirroring the archaeological discovery of Sapokanikan being hidden under Greenwich Village.
But to say that Joanna Newsome or Divers is merely the product of her influences would be doing both the artists and this excellent concept album a major disservice. Each song is a contained narrative, some with stories within stories like a lyrical Rashomon. Yes, there are themes of diving, being out of control, lost and obvious allusions to aviation and World War I, but it is also infinitely richer than that, just as Elliot’s The Wasteland is much more than the sum of its references.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.