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Since she catapulted to international fame with Wuthering Heights over 25 years ago, Kate Bush has been one of music's most reknowned artists. Aerial, the first new studio album from Kate since 1993's The Red Shoes, marks the return of Kate to the music scene with twelve new songs written and produced by Kate at her home studio in England. The new album includes her incredible new single 'King Of the Mountain'. Columbia. 2005.
It's often said that a musician's debut represents the culmination of a lifetime's worth of experiences, but their sophomore effort is usually derived from just the intervening year. By waiting 12 years between The Red Shoes and her new double CD, Aerial, Kate Bush has tried to regain that lifetime. It's a remarkably coherent recording, reflecting the unique world of sound and spirit Bush has inhabited since her debut. The first disc, subtitled A Sea of Honey, is a suite of personal reveries. It ranges from "King of the Mountain," a contemplation of unbridled celebrity and its isolation that references Elvis and Citizen Kane, to the piano-and-voice study "Mrs. Bartolozzi," an ode to household chores whose chorus is "Sloshy sloshy sloshy sloshy, get that dirty shirty clean." With its Depeche Mode-influenced synth pads, electro pulses, and lyric cadences, "King of the Mountain" is vintage Bush pop. But many of the songs attain more epic proportions, like the dynamic "Joanni," a hymn to Joan of Arc. It's the second disc--a suite called A Sky of Honey--on which Bush really comes into her own. Using metaphors of the turning of the day and the flight of birds, she orchestrates a meditation on the cycles of life. Musically expansive, she weaves her compositions out of birdsong, subtle orchestrations, and jazz trios, showing herself at her experimental best. Embracing her relatively new motherhood, as well as the death of her mother, Aerial is a deeply personal album, and a welcome return from one of pop music's true icons and vocal wonders. --John Diliberto
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Top Customer Reviews
And this album seemed a little ho-hum at first hearing. Sea of Honey has wonderfully campy prog rock feel, but also a heavy dose of sticky melancholy. There is pastoral tone (a la Lark Ascending) and mood of summer music complete with swooshing Hawaiian waves, cutesy touches (Italian theme, voices of Bertie and Harris and all these bloody birds) to the Sky of Honey. Me, I always loved the freaky side of Kate- Kite, Violin, Get out of my House, Waking the Witch, Walk Straight Down The Middle, Lily - rather than mushiness of This Woman's Work, and that's only hinted at on Aerial. And other than perfectly controlled King of the Hill and Pi, vocally Kate likes to let the quiver in her voice take over, and often loses pitch control in the lower registers.
And with all this, after listening to the entire album a few times, I am completely taken with Aerial.
It should be treated as a whole package. For starters, the album cover is great, the sound wave and sunset blended into surprisingly stark and beautiful picture. Inside the CD booklet, the pastel paintings, and photos of laundry and Kate's son flashing his milky whites are paired with a picture of someone wearing a supremely creepy "Indus Bird Mask", fashioned out of dead bird. A touch of shaman in Ms Domestic Goddess. No wonder Kate has been a muse to the likes of Outkast and Coil; there is more to her than meets the eye or the casual ear.
The lyrics have the beautiful simplicity of Yeats poetry. Mrs Bartolozzi can be Virginia Woolf internal monologue about mundane tasks, a mournful tribute to the departed or Dedalus epiphany, of seeing a girl standing in the water, with skirts around her waist, looking like an exotic bird with white plumage, and suddenly realizing what's important in your life. Or simply the best laundry song ever written. And how about the unexpected delight of Pi, where strings of numbers are turned into a passionate hymn dealing with obsession and infinity. I like the fact that Kate is not willing to explain all her lyrics, and allows people to bring their own interpretations to the table.
If you are musician, you should hear this album to witness an artist at the top of her game: it's not slapping few chords and verses together, this music is grown from a flash of underlying idea, and then woven like tapestry, dressed up, painted in delicate strokes. And Kate excels both in straightforward piano songs, like simple and devastating Coral Room, and dense and complex structures of Pi, Nocturne and Aerial. David Bowie may speak of Thomas Tallis, but it's Kate who writes an ecstatic ode to her son that seamlessly blends the old and the new, and sounds like an ancient court dance, complete with Renaissance guitar and violas orchestration, and contemporary song, all at once. And Aerial also has a piece of world music fusion so subtle that I actually missed it at first, until I realized that in Aerial Tal (Taal is a Hindi word for rhythm) Kate is singing a raga scale with the the birds... And after repeated listenings, the remarkable cycle and flow of Sky of Honey comes into full force. Discovering all the layers of Aerial is a great journey.
If you think this music is too simple for your taste, there's always Bach's Mass in B Minor with contrapuntal harmonies so complex, your brain may curdle. In my opinion, among currently not deceased composers, very few people are in Kate's league. I don't know why Tori Amos, a gifted artist whose music somehow leaves me cold, is being compared to Kate; both play the piano, but they are guided by very different aesthetics. Bjork has long surpassed her Fairy Godmother Kate in sheer musical inventiveness, but she is in a freaky place and not accessible for some people. Kate is still on top of the hill and I am glad she came out of hiding to give us this Aerial.
Imagine my surprise when a release date for "Aerial" was announced, a double CD, to be released just over twelve years after 1993's "The Red Shoes". And of course, you can imagine the level of anticipation in myself and probably every other Kate Bush fan out there.
The double album runs only a hair over eighty minutes long, but is split more conceptually-- the first disc, titled "A Sea of Honey", is a collection of unrelated songs. The second, titled "A Sky of Honey", is a reflection on the passage of a day.
Certainly the material on the first disc covers a lot of ground-- Bush seems to pretty much pick up where she left off, although her arrangements show a downright stunning depth as instruments swirl in and out of the mix. Opener and leadoff single "King of the Mountain" is a good example both of this and of the best sort of Kate Bush pop song-- it opens with electronic percussion and synths and eventually live drums joining to create a mid-tempo loping beat until the second verse where an electric guitar shows up and take the focus. Over all of this, Bush sings passionately about man becoming a myth, overt references to Elvis Presley and "Citizen Kane" throughout. The remainder of the disc proves amazingly diverse, treading through a harpsichord-driven ballad about her son (the achingly sentimental "Bertie"-- Bush pulls off expression of parental love better than anyone I've heard with her recitation of "you bring me such joy"), a driven, passionate piano piece about a house cleaner ("Mrs. Bartolozzi"), a funky pop song ("How to Be Invisible") and a lovely, subdued piano ballad ("A Coral Room"), among others. That it maintains a high level of quality throughout is a testament to its creator.
The second disc is definitely feels like a suite-- the music is all very relaxed, with rolling piano lines, lush strings, and hand drums playing in and out. The piece is constructed with several songs and some briefer tracks that establish continuity of the pieces, and while musically it's less diverse than the first disc, there are no fewer powerful moments from the delicate chords and wide-eyed (the latter by Bush's son Bertie) on the opening "Prelude" to the utterly superb "Sunset", which opens as a jazz-tinged ballad before moving into a frantic Spanish guitar section complete with castinets to the simply fantastic "Somewhere in Between".
The only thing this album is missing, truthfully, is that one piece that trumps them all-- there's nothing as immense as "This Woman's Work" or "The Infant Kiss" that stops you in your tracks, but even without that, the album is consistently of high quality and truthfully was worth the endless wait. Highly recommended.