Thirty years ago today Kate Bush released her fifth and much-celebrated album, Hounds of Love. A commercial opposite to its predecessor, The Dreaming (an amazingly deranged and artistically expansive set), which was largely ignored by record-shoppers, Hounds of Love topped the UK Albums Chart and sired 'Running Up That Hill', her highest charting single in the UK after 'Wuthering Heights'.

Side A of the album included three further singles, 'Cloudbusting', 'Hounds of Love', and 'The Big Sky', all of which reached the Top 40 in the UK Singles Chart. Its flipside, titled The Ninth Wave, hosted a moody - at times sinister - piece standing as a complete antithesis to the pop hard-hitters before it.

As revealed by Kate last year, The Ninth Wave was the starting point for plotting 'Before The Dawn', her concert residency at the Eventim Apollo in 2014. She described the suite as dark and claustrophobic and decided to portray it on stage by mixing film with theatrics, whereby real events were shown on a screen - Kate seen floating in and out of consciousness - whilst her character's hallucinations were played out on stage.

Spanning seven songs, The Ninth Wave is said to have been inspired by the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson and the painter Ivan Aivazovsky. Lord Tennyson's 'The Coming of Arthur" includes the following lines, quoted by Kate on the sleeve of Hounds Of Love:

  • "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"

Aivazovsky's 1850 painting, The Ninth Wave, shows a group of people stranded at sea, holding on to the wreckage of the vessel on which they were sailing before being hit by a storm. These two sources, combined, have a strong presence in the thematic drive behind Kate's The Ninth Wave.

The suite of songs starts with 'And Dream of Sheep'. "Little light shining/ Little light will guide them to me", Kate opens. The red light in her 'Before The Dawn' press-photograph is that signalling, I'm-here, help light aimed at attracting the attention of a rescue crew or even just a passing ship. And so the story of a woman lost at a vast, lonely sea begins. "If they find me racing white horses they'll not take me for a buoy", she continues, with the fervent spraying of water being likened to horses, so as to ensure the stranded is not mistaken for an inanimate object. The piano backing is accompanied here and there by the sounds of voices on communication radio: "Attention shipping information in sea areas, Bell Rock, Tiree, Cromarty, Gale East, Malin, Sellafield".

On 'Under Ice' the plot thickens like freezing water. Our heroine is trapped under the ice, as seen by a skating figure: "There's something moving under/ Under the ice/ Moving/ Under ice/ Through water/ Trying to get out of the cold water". The simple, string-laden sounbed helps instil the growing chill. On 'Waking The Witch' the implication is that she has been pulled out of the water. Rescuers endeavour to wake her up but she is not compos mentis. It's a jarring, noisy, thumping cut that soundtracks the character's hypothermia and decline.

On 'Watching You Without Me', the almost ghostly hallucination of the protagonist brings her to her lover (and, in 'Before The Dawn', her son) and she observes them getting on with life while they wait for her to return home. "You can't hear me/ You can't hear what I'm saying". The subtle but grabbing percussion and heavy-hearted vocals make the mood of this song enthralling. "Can't let you know what's been happening/ There's a ghost in our home/ Just watching you without me", she sings and the song leads to a section where the attempts of the character to make contact with her partner (and son) are imagined as skewed, reversed vocals. On the title-track of her second album, Ghosts, Siobhan Donaghy paid homage to this section with the vocal recordings being reversed in their entirety.

For many, the musical highlight of The Ninth Wave is 'Jig of Life', where - against the backdrop of a Celtic tremor - the character confronts her future self: "Never never say goodbye/ To my part of your life". It is an urgent, stunning song which also features an incantation/rap from Kate brother, John, who appeared on film to perform this section in 'Before The Dawn'.

On 'Hello Earth', Kate sings: "With just one hand held up high/ I can blot you out, out of sight/ Peek a boo/ Peek a boo, little Earth". At six-minutes long, this song never outstays its welcome. The piano and bouzouki accompanied sung-parts are broken up by the hums of a choir's interval. "All you sailors get out of the waves, get out of the water/ All life savers, get out of the waves, get out of the water/ All you cruisers, get out of the waves, get out of the water/ All you fishermen head for home/ Go to sleep little Earth". When performed live at the Eventim Apollo, a huge buoy took centre stage with the frail, unresponsive character portrayed by Kate being carried out off stage and through the audience.

The storm is over. Now comes the morning fog and the sonic change brought with it is a shining light of relief. "I am falling/ Like a stone/ Like a storm/ Being born again/ Into the sweet morning fog". Kate leaves things on a positive, happier note: "I'll kiss the ground/ I'll tell my Mother/ I'll tell my Father/ I'll tell my loved one/ I'll tell my Brothers/ How much I love them".

Thirty years on, The Ninth Wave and the poppier hit singles that ease you into its parent album remain a stellar career high in Kate Bush' s nigh-on-perfect discography. Moreover, Hounds of Love refuses to age and continues to be poignant and engaging.

Parts of this article were first published in The 405's series of features celebrating Kate Bush's return to stage last year.