Eye weekly (Toronto) - "King of the Internet"
The Toronto Star - Review of "King of the Mountain"
The Globe and Mail - "This woman's new work, old style"
Metro Toronto - "Bush returns with sensual Aerial"
Toronto Star - album review "Album of the Week"
Now magazine - album review
Eye weekly (Toronto) - album review
The Montreal Gazette - album review
The Brandon Sun - "Erratic genius rewards"
The Georgia Straight (Vancouver) - album review
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
King of the Internet
Eye weekly (Toronto)
by Dave Morris
October 20, 2005
Twelve years is a long time to wait for a new single -- so long that when Kate Bush announced that her first album since 1993's The Red Shoes would be on the release schedule for 2005, critics had to explain to everyone under 25 that she did more than that video with her and Peter Gabriel serenading each other in the moonlight.
The famously melodramatic (some would say screechy) chanteuse's influence on such singers as Björk and PJ Harvey has come full circle on "King of the Mountain," currently available only as a download. The rumbling bass and propulsive drumming recalls Harvey's "A Perfect Day, Elise," while Bush takes her creepy torch-song vibe down a notch, mostly reining in her upper register to devastatingly intense effect. Learning how to smoulder is the final frontier for great singers, and Bush does it without giving up the vulnerability that made every teenage wallflower in the '80s stare longingly at her LP jackets. Damn that Peter Gabriel. Damn him to hell.
The Toronto Star
by John Sakamoto
October 20, 2005
What could a piece of music possibly do to justify a 12-year wait? For starters, it should sound unaffected by anything released in the interim but without being so insular that it cannibalizes the artist's previous work. And it should resist providing easy gratification because the listener shouldn't be entirely sure what the lyrics are about or how the mood can turn from haunting to whimsical or why a reggae beat materializes halfway through. Then it should mete out that gratification slowly, after each listening. Just like this song does.
This woman's new work, old style
The Globe and Mail
By Carl Wilson
November 4, 2005
(3 1/2 stars out of 4)
CD of the week
In pop music, absenting yourself for a dozen years is like a novelist or painter vanishing for 60, the field changes so much. After British legend Kate Bush released her worn-out-sounding 1993 album The Red Shoes, she retreated to her island home on the Thames to have a child and generally depressurize from a storied career. It began with her discovery by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour at 16, took off with a stunning 1978 hit based on Emily Brontë's gothic romance Wuthering Heights, and peaked in 1986 with the album Hounds of Love, which finally gained her recognition in America.
During her hiatus, rap conquered the world. Alt-rock and techno, among others, came and went. A generation of female singers emboldened by Bush's fearless experimenting and brainy eroticism emerged, such as Tori Amos, PJ Harvey and Bjork, although they weren't alone -- hip-hop innovators Outkast also called her their inspiration, the Futureheads had a hit covering Hounds of Love's title track, and Mercury Prize-winner Antony credited her impact.
Now Kate Bush is 47, looking less like the modern-dance nymphet she once was than like a kindly English aunt. Her return album, Aerial, is finally being released after years of rumour. And seldom has "released" seemed such an apt term, since EMI kept it as tightly locked up as a royal consort in the Tower of London.
But suddenly very little of that back-story matters, for Kate Bush Land turns out to be barely changed. She seems relaxed and renewed on Aerial, but it's full of the touches that enraptured her fans and made the prigs label her barmy. There's the song in which Pi is sung to more than 100 decimal places, and the one about the washing machine. That's actually one of the album's finest, movingly tracing mortality and loss through the domestic poetics of laundry. Sure, the passage where she sings "slooshy slooshy slooshy slooshy" can bring giggles. But Bush knows when she's being funny.
She remains preoccupied with English landscape in its mystic and sensual aspects, and now as a familial setting too. The second disc of Aerial is a cycle titled A Sky of Honey, a dappled portrait of a summer day from dawn to nightfall to dawn again, with particular lingering on birds and sea. With arrangements by the late Michael Kamen at Abbey Road Studios, it shifts from Joni Mitchell-ish jazz to hard rock to Gypsy Kings to histrionic chorales in a genre known only as Kate Bush, and back. But ultimately it does, as she sings, "become panoramic," immersing the listener in colour and more than earning its grandeur.
As it has many songwriters, however, parenthood seems to have lured Bush toward less distinctive subject matter. The Elizabethan-madrigal-style paean to her son cloys as much as it charms, and other lyrics skirt platitudes that would have been unthinkable when she was a quizzical, precocious youth. But the steeped richness of her voice and inventive melodies mostly prevent banality.
The greater misgiving is that Bush, famously an early adopter of new samplers and synths in the 1980s, has added so little to her palette here. Aside from the first single, King of the Mountain (a winking ode to Elvis, Citizen Kane and, ahem, other famous recluses), Aerial sounds almost like it would have a dozen years ago.
On some tracks, such as the otherwise vivid How to Be Invisible (the recipe: "Eye of Braille/ Hem of anorak/ Stem of wallflower/ Hair of doormat"), dull production obscures the virtues. It's a relief when the collection returns to just Kate and her piano, on her sumptuously forlorn tribute to her mother, A Coral Sea. Yet how much more thrilling it would be to hear her explore some new technology.
But that could take another dozen years. What we've got is this flawed but ecstatic experience, Aerial. And once again, nearing 50, Kate Bush is making it sound like most other singers just don't know the secret of life. Listen close.
Bush returns with sensual Aerial
by Ian Nathanson
November 9, 2005
(3 stars out of 5)
Next to Joni Mitchell, few female artists would be hard-pressed not to cite
this U.K. siren as an influence. And after virtually disappearing off the face
of the planet, Kate Bush's first disc in 12 years finds her using a backdrop of
aural grandeur whilst regaling in hushed fashion all the numbers that make up
pi. Really, 3.1415927 never sounded so ethereal and simultaneously strange.
Domestic life also is central to Bush's existence on the first of two discs Bush calls A Sea Of Honey, which features her exquisite ode to her baby boy Bertie, juxtaposed with Mrs. Bartolozzi, on which housecleaning and use of a "washing machine" get turned into an exercise on making the banal sound so sensual.
On the second disc, titled A Sky Of Honey, Bush's lyrics translate to little more than reflections on a painter (An Architect's Dream, The Painter's Link) and minimalist descriptions of her many strolls (Sunset, Somewhere In Between), but musically she transcends this with multi-layered instrumentation (especially the dreamy Nocturn) sprinkled with the odd recorded bird chirp or two.
Fact is, Aerial wouldn't be such a welcome return of Kate Bush if Aerial were anything but eccentric and densely lush.
Album of the Week
by Vit Wagner
November 10, 2005
The new Kate Bush album includes a song called "How to be Invisible," a
subject the iconic '80s songstress should know a thing or two about after a
dozen years spent out of the spotlight tending the home fires.
Aerial, Bush's first album since 1993's indifferently received The Red Shoes, rewards fans handsomely with a sonically sumptuous two-CD set that is seamless without sameness.
The aforementioned "How to be Invisible" on the first disc, "A Sea of Honey," is a groovy, guitar-layered incantation in which the refrain sounds like an alternative recipe from the Macbeth cookbook: "Eye of Braille/ Hem of anorak/ Stem of wallflower/ Hair of doormat."
A couple of tracks earlier, Bush channels the Elizabethan era in an entirely different way, employing viols and vintage guitars and percussion to lend courtly neo-Renaissance flavour to "Bertie." Given that the song is an unabashed paean to her 7-year-old son and includes verses such as "Sweet kisses/ Three wishes/ Lovely Bertie" and "You bring me so much joy/ And then you bring me/ More joy," it might easily be tooth-achingly sweet, but the delicacy of the arrangement and Bush's ethereal singing produces a result that is more angelic than saccharine.
Sandwiched between these two offerings is the masterful "Mrs. Bartolozzi," in which references to the mundane "sloshing" of a washing machine are juxtaposed with images of the sea, all gorgeously underscored by piano, an approach that also elevates the first disc's elegiac closer, "A Coral Room."
The companion CD, entitled "A Sky of Honey," is a 43-minute song-cycle laced with birdsong and more of Bush's impressionistic piano playing, particularly on "Sunset," which adds jazzy, upright bass. On "Aerial," which closes the set, birdsong, laughter and strings are layered in a minimalist exercise that sounds like something Steve Reich might have come up with in a momentary flight of whimsy.
The second disc is less varied and musically captivating. Taken on its own, it might have engendered a more lukewarm response. But the two discs complement each other in a way that succeeds in making an impressive comeback that much more beguiling.
by Sarah Liss
November 10, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
Unlike her most obvious acolytes (Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos), you won't find elusive and operatic British chanteuse Kate Bush dumbing down her out-there sound to appease an aging demographic of elfin waifs turned minivan moms. Fans will be over the roof about Aerial, which, more than a decade after her last album, stays true to the whimsical and wacky Bush of yore. In her two-part opus, Bush first celebrates the magical and maddening aspects of domesticity, savouring the 'slooshy slooshy' noises of a washing machine and cooing (embarrassingly) over her wee son's darling smile, then launches into flight with part two (A Sky Of Honey), where songs about painters and the country landscape bleed into each other in a conceptual set piece. Bush's voice is as squiggly and captivating as it was early on, and though the production can sound awfully dated (there's some bad faux Peter Gabriel action going on), it seems somehow suited to the otherworldliness of Bush's keen, fantastical observations.
Eye weekly (Toronto)
by Jason Anderson
November 10, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
With its references to Elvis, Orson Welles' hero in Citizen Kane and Walt Disney's frozen head (I may be guessing at that last one), Aerial's opener "King of the Mountain" is a cryptic riposte to anyone who thought Kate Bush was permanently AWOL. That the same song splits the difference between an airy Pink Floyd soundscape and Jamaican skank suggests the 12-year layover has done little to diminish her powers. Paeans to motherhood ("Bertie"), housework ("Mrs. Bartolozzi") and mathematical calculation ("π") are all equally beguiling, as Bush juxtaposes the careful precision of the sonic textures with a spirit of playfulness largely absent in 1993's overstuffed The Red Shoes. The mood darkens on disc two, a linked set subtitled "A Sky of Honey." Though the mellow musical settings sometimes lack the overt quirks that enrich disc one, the slim narrative thread about a painter's struggle to touch the sky proves to be effective and moving. Fiona Apple should study closely -- there will be a test on this.
The Montreal Gazette
by Bernard Perusse
November 10, 2005
(3 stars out of 5)
The initial shock comes from the screamingly obvious: one of rock's beautiful eccentrics has emerged from a 12-year hiatus without anything to say. The first of two discs includes borderline-embarrassing lyrics about her son and doing the laundry while the second is an uninspiring song cycle that chronicles the progress of one day, from afternoon to dawn (flashback: the Moody Blues, 1967). On a musical level, the project is more interesting - but only intermittently so: Bush is at the top of her quirky game on tours-de-force like King of the Mountain and How to be Invisible, but too much of Aerial is instrumentally tepid, while Bush's worst tendencies come out in some meandering piano ballads. It should have been better.
Erratic genius rewards
The Brandon Sun
November 13, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
First off, this is not an album that rewards casual
listening. Anyone familiar with the work of Kate Bush will know that she is a
dense lyricist, someone who writes songs that demand to be teased apart,
yielding their thematic concerns only to the most patient of listeners. And
that’s when she waits three or four years between albums.
So it would be fair to say that, 12 years after the release of Bush’s last album, Aerial is a very dense and multi-layered work. With a sensibility that’s somewhat like Sarah Slean or Tori Amos — that is, charmingly eccentric, but very musical — Bush is noted as a perfectionist. You can be sure that this album is exactly the way she wanted it, with all of its odd little grace notes.
Bush tucks a myriad of references into her songs, and this album is chock-full of them, with Elvis, Citizen Kane and Joan of Arc all making appearances. And there’s a recurring motif of birdsong that’s no less mystifying for all its pervasiveness.
Even the cover art — which looks for all the world like a mountainous island chain reflecting off the ocean at sunset — is actually a waveform representing birdsong. The resulting album is somewhat like those odd CDs that mix classical music with nature sounds. It’s soothing in a way that doesn’t necessarily make you drowsy.
Although there’s not really that much music here, Bush has chosen to release it on a double CD. It’s a nice throwback to the days when albums had an A-side and a B-side. And, befitting an artist of her stature, the B-side isn’t just rejects from the A-side, it’s a whole other album, with its own feel. The second CD is much more folksy and poppy, although it’s here that you’ll find most of the birdsong as well.
At times, Bush seems so out of touch with mainstream music that it’s impossible to discern what message she thinks she might be getting across. Then, later in the same song even, everything just explodes into a guitar-driven riff that would sound at home on almost any contemporary album.
Overall, the effect keeps the listener off-balance, always waiting for the next surprise. Which is probably exactly the way Bush intended it.
The Georgia Straight (Vancouver)
by Alexander Varty
November 17, 2005
The test of good vocalists, or so the saying goes, is that they could sing
the phone book and make music from it. Kate Bush doesn’t tackle the London
directory on Aerial, her first release in more than a decade, but she does sing
pi to the 117th decimal point, and it’s as captivating as any Italian aria or
gospel classic. She’s a great singer.
Bush is vulnerable, however, to accusations that she’s not a great songwriter. Aerial offers ample ammunition to those who find her pretentious, solipsistic, or opaque, and there are indeed moments, especially on the first of its two discs, when her smug domesticity gets uncomfortably cloying. “Bertie”, an ode to her son with guitarist Dan McIntosh, should probably have been left in the nursery, and “Mrs. Bartolozzi”, despite its rapturous melody, treads perilously close to condescension in its portrait of a lonely housewife.
But we’re quibbling here. “King of the Mountain” and “Pi”, which together open Disc One, are perfect examples of that rare commodity, intelligent rock: like the best of Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd, they combine forceful rhythms with expressive singing and expansive harmonic structures. And “How to Be Invisible” adds an unexpected dash of self-mocking humour; the famously agoraphobic Bush’s recipe for recluse tonic includes eye of Braille, hem of anorak, stem of wallflower, and hair of doormat.
Disc Two is divided into nine discrete parts, but it’s really one long, pastoral dream, and again cynics will have fun with some of the singer’s lyrical conceits. Where, they might ask, is life all birdsong, honey, and flowers? Nowhere, perhaps, except in the green England of Bush’s imagination. Her true gift, however, lies not in lyric-writing but in the creation of atmosphere, and the gorgeous narcotic haze that permeates this journey from dawn to dusk and back to dawn again will soon persuade most listeners to recline on the grassy sward, watch the fleecy clouds drift by, and await the magic of night. It’s an exquisite trip.
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds