Saturday, November 12, 2005

Aerial

The first thing I want to say is that if you want a great review of Kate Bush's newest album (yes, album!), then go here. Nonetheless, I offer my own humble musings. As devoted readers of this blog know from previous posts, I am passionate about classical music. Yet man does not live by Bach alone. Ever since I saw Kate sing "Wuthering Heights" in a trenchcoat on "Saturday Night Live," I was hooked. The usual wait for a new Kate album was 2-3 years, but after her last collection, the undeservedly maligned, The Red Shoes, there was a twelve year long silence. Amongst her legions of fan[atics], there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I myself assumed that she had merely exhausted her musical offerings, and had settled down to a quiet family life. So it was quite a shock to hear this summer that a new 2-cd album was on its way. Miracles do occur [Kate people are unrestrained in their use of panegyric and hyperbole].

So how does Aerial stand up to the accumulated desires of twelve years of silence? Pretty well, actually. It is a kindred spirit to The Sensual World (especially songs like "Somewhere In Between" and "King of the Mountain"), with a smooth, unhurried tone of pensive reflection on the beauty of life, its fragility, fleetingness, and ultimately its mystery. The islands on the cover are set in a sea and sky of honey, which serve as titles for each disc. But the islands are an illusion, they are in fact the sonic signature of a blackbird's song, forming the motif for disc 2, which is a song cycle of a passing day.

"Sea of Honey" (disc one) has seven independent songs, most of which are very good. In fact, let me state here that the musicianship on this album is the best of her career (especially the guitar work by Dan McIntosh). The first song, "King of the Mountain," is the first single, and is this album's "hit." Family comes into view, with a Renaissance madrigal paean to her seven year old son Bertie, and in "A Coral Room," which is about her mother, who died just before her last album went to print. A lovely song about Joan of Arc is preceded by "How to be Invisible." Both are accessible, rhythmically interesting pieces. There are however, some wincing moments and missteps on this album, notably the song π, where Kate actually chants the numeric value beyond the decimal point!, and on Mrs. Bertolozzi, with its praise to a washing machine. I thought the song "An Architect's Dream," rather mundane, and let's not speak of "Aerial Tal," where Kate tries to imitate a blackbird (which will not be saved to my iPod!).

"Sky of Honey" (disc two) is a song cycle, ala "The Ninth Wave" from The Hounds of Love. It is not as musically adventurous as that previous effort, but has a serenity and charm which makes it an abiding pleasure. This disc will be the one which you will listen to years from now, especially the last four songs, which have hypnotic rhythms ("Nocturne" and "Aerial" especially) and intriguing lyrics. These songs aren't "masterpieces" or even the best of Kate, but they stand head and shoulders above the rest of the current radio dreck.

In the canon of her music, where does Aerial stand? It may be too early to say. When I first heard The Dreaming, I thought she had gone insane, but now I consider it my second favorite album. Therefore, I would place Aerial in the middle. A bit better than The Sensual World, but not as great as The Dreaming or The Hounds of Love. All that being said, it is a joy to hear new music from Kate, and I am grateful for her musical alchemy and eccentricity. Oh, and go buy the cd in a store, don't just download it (legally or not). The cover art inside and out is marvelous, and there is a 24 page booklet to peruse.

6 Comments:

Blogger Blue Turtle said...

Is that an album cover? That is absolutely lovely ... some day I would love to be able to produce something with that much power and presence.

I am not religious. However, I do think that art does also influence the other way around ... what do you think?

1:56 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

It is the album cover, and yes it is quite beautiful. If you are saying that art influences religion, or religion influences art, I would agree with either statement. Religious people can often be spiritually dead, and out of touch with beauty. Spiritual people can be put off by organized religion, but find pathways to God in the pursuit of beauty.

3:59 PM  
Blogger homo unius libri said...

I love the laundry song!

4:49 PM  
Blogger Scribe said...

"Washing macheeen...Washing macheeen"

6:24 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Scott,

I appreciate your insights--particularly that it's A Sky of Honey that will probably be the one of these two discs we're treasuring years down the road. The more I listen (and I've listened many, many times by now), the more I'm inclined to agree.

And yet we have some differences of opinion: I happen to think she pulls off "Pi" to great effect (I've never heard numbers made to sound so sexy before!), whereas in my opinion "Joanni" is--well, pretty, but not among Kate's best.

Yet such disagreements are, I suppose, the stuff fan clubs are made of!

Anyway, thanks for posting this review; I enjoyed your perspective.

Best,
Andrew

8:14 AM  
Blogger Scribe said...

Thanks Andrew,
and you are right, these differences will give "The Love Hounds" and others much fodder for discussion. Which is a definite improvement over: "When will the new album be coming out?" Which we will all be asking again in 2007 or so.

8:52 AM  

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