The Irish Times - "Can Bush scale the heights?"
Aerial Supremacy - "Aerial Supremacy"
The Irish Times - album review
The Irish Times - "What Kate didn't do next"
Entertainment.ie - album review
Sunday Tribune - album review
The Sunday Business Post - album review
The Irish Times - article about cover image
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
Can Bush scale the heights
The Irish Times
by Jim Carroll
September 30, 2005
Get ready to say goodbye to all of that. On November 7th, Kate Bush will end 12 years of enigmas, mystique, intrigue, mystery, daft conspiracy theories and headlines involving Wuthering Heights puns by releasing a new album.
For Bush fans, Aerial will probably be the most significant release of the year. For the music industry, it's yet another high-profile event release in the run-up to the December razzmatazz when sales all round go through the roof. For many others, it will be just another new album in the shops with all the attendant fuss that comes with a big release.
For Kate Bush, though, November 7th is hugely significant. For the first time since 1993, she will wake up to the knowledge that there's a new album in the shops (and stocked high in those all-important online stores which were not a retail factor the last time around). Now, everyone else will have the opportunity to judge what she's been quietly working on for the past few years.
Any musical hesitation, deviation or repetition will be highlighted. Ridiculous theories will be put forward about the cover artwork. Ludicrous meanings will be applied to her lyrics. Internet message boards will hum with activity. Bush could be forgiven for going right back to bed, turning off the radio and pulling the duvet over her head.
The release of Aerial may well be a Rip Van Winkle moment for Bush. After all, since The Red Shoes more than a decade ago, the music industry has completely flipped the script on how it operates. For a start, you can be sure that Bush and her advisors have had at least half-a-dozen ringtone conversations with the technology whizzkids, even if it's highly unlikely that her target audience would be in the market for such trinkets. Technology now calls the tune, whether the artist likes it or not.
Yet Bush continues to buck other trends. Acts who were once fęted, acclaimed and allowed long gaps between records to come up with new tunes are no longer so readily tolerated. There's absolutely no chance most artists would be allowed to spend 12 years creatively twiddling their thumbs while still under contract to a major music company. Long-term development of an act is very much a thing of the past as well, except in extremely rare cases and usually only when the act is signed to a US label, where there seems to be slightly more patience for the task.
But even new labels such as Sanctuary, boasting business models which involved signing established acts cast aside by other companies under the "distressed inventory" heading, have run into difficulties. Signing such heritage acts as The Blue Nile and Morrissey may add to a label's credibility, but recent profit warnings show there's not that much money to be made from these old codgers any more. After all, if there was, those acts would still be in the embrace of major labels.
For all this, the release of a Bush album is welcome because it will be the music rather than some spurious spinning which has the most impact. As with Kraftwerk, Bush is an artist whose stock has continued to rise in direct proportion to the length of time she has remained away from the release schedules. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
However, this album also needs to reach more than just the faithful, and it will be interesting to observe how EMI Records will go about this. It's unlikely that the artist will give up several weeks for pan-international telephone interviews with unwashed hacks, yet the thought of Kate Bush on the TV trail, going from Richard & Judy to Jonathan Ross, is probably just as unappealing.
Yet, as everyone from Coldplay and Robbie Williams to Richard Ashcroft and even Kraftwerk has found out with recent releases, you can't just sell new albums by sitting on your laurels and pointing to your back-pages. Watching Bush responding to these new realities may well prove fascinating.
by Tara Brady
October 20, 2005
In an almost entirely demystified universe, getting to know Kate Bush is still a bit of an ask. Touchingly eccentric, she belongs to the same exulted class of disappearing artists as Salinger or Pynchon, and we can never be sure if such reclusivity is whether the work is too important or we - the commoners who await - aren't important enough. No matter. We're making out like bandits, even if we had to wait over a decade. Yes, there really is a new Kate Bush album, a double album no less, though even while listening to it one can scarcely believe such a thing came to pass.
Never one for the blandishments of show business, for the past 12 years it seemed entirely plausible that Kate had slipped off, most likely accompanied by Gandalf or Syd Barrett, to some strange English idyll in a world not entirely the same as our own. There were rumours of course. All the usual conspiracies were regularly aired. The Red Shoes, her intricate '93 electro-operetta, had done her in. She would never recover or again darken a studio door with her elfin shadow. She was suffering from body dysmorphic syndrome, unable to look in the mirror as the ravages of age (she's now 47) took hold, or indeed leave the house.
The truth was rather more mundane. She was on maternity leave, raising her son Bertie and tinkering in the studio these past six years whenever she found the time. We may never know Kate Bush, but we may know this - she's been very happy thank you very much. Both parts of Aerial - A Sea Of Honey (the collection she calls 'Kate songs') and A Sky Of Honey, a concept album inspired by birdsong and in part, Rolf Harris, are infused with joy.
A Sea almost functions as a brand new retrospective, a classically watery wall of sound with gorgeous pop hooks. There are millions of impossibly beautiful things about it - the hippity hoppity reggae beats across the oceanic pop of 'King Of The Mountain', the pretty jangling guitars of 'Pi', the bongo sensuality of 'Joanni', the Latin noodles on 'How To Be Invisible', the familiar Hey Nonny Nonny Ophelia groove of 'Bertie', an achingly sweet ode to her son ("Here comes the sunshine/Here comes that son of mine/The Most truly fantastic smile I've ever seen") which suddenly sweeps into a baroque masquerade ball.
There's an arch wit to match the playful rhythms. 'Mrs Bartolozzi' is a brilliant inverted mock epic with thundering theatricality about a washing machine spiralling out to the sea before returning to a chorus that runs 'Swishy Swashy'.
A Sky Of Honey, though rather daunting and potentially new age on paper, is
equally delightful. Decadently and pleasingly fashioned from birdsong, giggling
and electronics, there's a nice circularity in Sky's bassy echoes of Dark Side
Of The Moon, bringing Kate right back to Dave Gilmour where it all began. It's
apt. It's a neat reminder that this most girlish talent - a woman who sings of
posies and kisses and crushes on Heathcliff - has always, beneath the whimsy,
been skilled enough in musical architecture to fit snugly into record
collections built around Kraftwerk and Can. If there's more where Aerial comes
from then we'll wait and we'll like it.
(ten out of ten)
CD OF THE WEEK
The Irish Tiimes
by Tony Clayton-Lea
October 28, 2005
With the possible exception of Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have It So Much
Better, Aerial is surely the most highly anticipated album of 2005. Indeed, the
level of expectation is immense, although the level of hype (it's has been
declared "a masterpiece by all who have heard it", trumpets the press release,
three weeks prior to the official release) comes inevitably from the record
company, and not the highly reclusive Kate Bush. Yet the mere fact of this being
Bush's first album in more than 12 years is surely enough to generate interest
beyond the casual listener.
The first question to ask, though, is not whether Aerial is any good, but whether anyone under the age of 30 will be remotely interested. The second question is whether Kate Bush still has what it takes to entice, intrigue and mystify. The answer to both is an emphatic yes - this has more sonic smarts and intelligence than most of the sharpest current musical operators you can think of.
Divided across two CDs (A Sea of Honey and A Sky of Honey), disc one is equal measures domesticated, maternal memoir (Bertie, Mrs Bartolozzi), mystery-of-pop (King of the Mountain, How to Be Invisible, Joanni), and expected sequences of very bold musical experiments and arrangements (Pi, A Coral Room). If CD 1 is virtually flawless, inventive contemporary pop, then CD 2 is altogether more ambitious - a soundscape suite formulated around recurring motifs of light, day, night and sunrise. It ebbs and flows like a mixture of early Pink Floyd (circa Ummagumma/ Atom Heart Mother) and Bush's own masterpiece, Hounds of Love.
An album with not a hint of the conventional about it, Aerial is a record made by a person whose values have shifted with age and experience, and which are suitably reflected. It doesn't work all the time, but when it does it's a triumph of warmth, depth and clarity.
What Kate didn't do next
The Irish Times
by Brian Boyd
October 28, 2005
For 12 years it seems Kate Bush has existed only as a pervading musical influence. But now she's back, singing in harmony to birdsong on her new album, writes Brian Boyd
January 1978. Some whirling dervish with a preternaturally high-pitched voice and a big box of theatrical tricks was keening dramatically about a gothic Victorian novel. Kate Bush was on Top Of The Pops. Aged 19, she had just had her first number one single with Wuthering Heights and nobody quite knew if this was some sort of one-off gimmick (she sounded like she had been at the helium balloons) or a new form of intricately intelligent pop music that came complete with interpretative dance movements.
Over the years she answered the question by tearing up the pop/rock rulebook, transcending ephemeral musical genres, and creating a formidable body of work which continues to inspire. She argued with her record company about artistic control - and won. She built her own studio, produced her own work and refused, demurely, to jump aboard the media-go- round for each new album release.
Lyrically, she was a revelation. She sang about the Big Things. Coming across like some freaky amalgam of Angela Carter and Emily Brontė, she dropped references to, among others, James Joyce, Wilhelm Reich and Gurdjieff into her songs. And she also worked with Rolf Harris.
Since her Red Shoes album in 1993, however, she has been dormant. Sometimes it seems that there has been a rumour for her absence for each of the past 12 years. She had "lost it" or had become the "Greta Garbo of pop" and vanted to be alone. Her two closest friends in the music business, Pink Floyd's Dave Gilmour and Peter Gabriel, would routinely have to field questions about her whereabouts and state of mind. It's understood that executives in her record label, EMI, journeyed down to her country house every 18 months or so to see if she had recorded anything new - they invariably returned to London reporting that Kate had baked them cakes.
She existed, it seems, only as a pervading musical influence. Tori Amos and Bjork spoke about her in reverential tones and the current batch of female stars from Joss Stone to KT Tunstall to Dido were quick to single her out as a lodestar. Earlier this year, one of the newest art-rock bands on the block, The Futureheads, had their biggest ever chart success with a cover version of her Hounds Of Love song.
In his just-published workmanlike biography of the singer, Rob Jovanovic talks about how a few words written by Bush on her website in December of last year had an almost seismic effect on the musical world. Amid the pleasantries, Bush had written "the album is nearly finished now and will be out next year".
Jovanovic writes: "Such startling news caused pandemonium . . . 'The Return Of Pop's Great Recluse' exclaimed the Daily Express; 'Comeback Kate' led the Evening Standard. The Daily Mail pointed out 'her Miss Havisham-like existence behind the high walls of a mansion'. The Sun shouted 'This could be the biggest comeback since Lazarus'."
Bush's eighth album, Aerial, will be released on November 7th. Already, an awful lot is known about it: the first single, King Of The Mountain is about Elvis Presley and Citizen Kane (a Bush in-joke about the themes of disappearance and mystery); the entire second disc (it's a double album) is taken up by a song-cycle which features Bush singing in harmony to birdsong; there's a song called Mrs Bartoloozi which is a rhapsody about a washing machine and on another song she addresses the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter - the song is called Pi. On the latter, Bush can be heard singing out strings of numbers - which puts a whole new spin on the old adage about singing out names from the telephone directory.
Those fervent Bush fans seeking to decode the subtexts will have to do all the work for themselves. Kate Bush is not doing any interviews, whatsoever, to promote the album. It's as if she knows that the questions will be skewed toward the inevitable "What have you been doing for the past 12 years?", which is not something she wants to talk about. There is no mystery about what she has been doing - there was no breakdown, no drugs, no particular creative blockage. All that happened was that a number of people close to her died and a long-term relationship broke down.
She had a child (a boy, Bertie, now aged eight) with her present partner who is a musician. People forget that even at the peak of her fame, she always strictly demarcated her working and her private life. In fact, it was only a slip of the tongue by her friend Peter Gabriel that led to the news that she had a child, who was then two.
Not even her record company knew. In an interview back in the early 1980s she explained her reticence with the media: "I think creative control is so incredibly important. I became quickly aware of the outside pressures of being famous affecting my work. It seemed ironic that I was expected to do interviews and television which took me away from my work."
It's highly unlikely she will tour Aerial. She has only ever done one tour, in 1979. She always felt that tour was "misunderstood" in that she practically killed herself (and almost bankrupted herself) on getting the dance/drama aspects of the show just right - remember she did train under mime master Lindsey Kemp. Audiences wanted her to bang out the hits and cut out the ethereal theatrics. The tour was hit by tragedy when her lighting director fell to his death on stage during a concert in London. The event traumatised her.
The fascination surrounding the release of Aerial is not just because it marks the return of a stunningly original creative talent, it also has a lot to do with how much the concept of the "pop star" has been recast in the past 12 years. Whereas for Bush, the music is primary and everything else a "distraction", today's pop freaks are encouraged to parade their relationships, break-ups, and rehabs all over the pages of glossy magazines and tabloids. The most mundane pop star behaviour is now captured on photograph and captioned with hyperbolic prose.
Bush's insistence on leading a normal life and refusing to disclose every intimate detail of her existence puts her at an automatically mysterious remove from her contemporaries. She has turned down millions of pounds to license her songs out for advertisements, to make personal appearances, to tour, to launch, to endorse.
When she signed her record deal with EMI she was just 16. The label gave her three years to finish her schooling, take dance and music lessons and develop before Wuthering Heights (a song she wrote when she was 14) was released. Bush is of that generation where artists were developed over time - not given the make or break by a public phone-in on a prime-time talent show.
To put all this in context, go back to a 1985 interview. At the time, there had been a three-year gap between her The Dreaming album and the release of the Hounds Of Love album. When pressed about this "huge gap", she replied: "I've just been living a normal life". And that is the same answer you would get today.
by Andrew Lynch
November 9, 2005
(4 stars out of 4)
They've been waiting 12 years for this, so Kate Bush's fans are entitled to
demand nothing less than a masterpiece. And, amazingly enough, she's very nearly
delivered it. This double album is everything you've ever loved or hated about
pop's most reclusive lady - beautiful, mysterious, intelligent and eccentric.
It's also a bit whimsical at times, of course, but then her legion of devoted
admirers wouldn't have her any other way. The first CD is largely about her
domestic life, and is pretty near flawless. The second disc is built around the
theme of birdsong and is a bit more off the wall, but contains more than enough
sublime moments to make it worth sticking with. Unique is an over-used word in
pop music, but in Bush's case it's absolutely justified - and Aerial shows why.
It's a triumph.
Rock CD of the Week
by Neil Dunphy
November 6, 2005
(5 stars out of 5)
Kate Bush's first album since Red Shoes (sic), released 12 years ago, has been enveloped in almost as much mystery as the house-bound 47-year old. With only the odd interview granted, the record company insisted on in-house listening sessions for this sprawling double CD. Upon listening to it you feel they were right to treat it with such preciousness for it is an astonishing achievement.
The "chorus" on the second track 'Pi', on disc one, sees Bush sing out the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet to a variety of decimal places. Pretentious maybe, but nothing can prepare for 'Mrs Bartolozzi', which sees Bush gazing into her washing machine as it gets her husband's "dirty shirty clean". It's a song only Bush or perhaps Joni Mitchell could get away with. The second disc is a pastoral concept album in its own right which opens with birdsong and spoken word from Bush's seven-year old son Bertie. A piano/string arrangement is followed by a painter (none other than Rolf Harris who also lends some didgeridoo) musing over his easel about the quality of light.
'Sunset', a lounge jazz style which morphs into speeded-up flamenco, gives an idea of the depth of an album Bush says she had great difficulty finishing. The title track 'Aerial' closes the record on an uplifting note and is the record's most 'rock' tune. Breathtaking, but sadly she won't be touring.
The Sunday Business PostNovember 13, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
Swathed in lavish packaging and divided into two discs,
Kate Bush's first albumin well over a decade lives up to almost all expectations
for the vast majority of its 81 minutes.
Aerial is rarely less than beautifully listenable, from the spectral psychedelic pop of King of the Mountain to the jazz-inflected swirl of Sunset. While the music is dreamily bucolic, the lyrics are as wide-eyed and dippy as Bush has ever been. Pi sees her reciting 3.14 to 50 or 60 decimal places; Mrs Bartolozzi is a study in obsessive-compulsive disorder; and the entire second CD consists of a piano-based song cycle about visual art. Her voice is the usual spectacular vibrato, forever seeming on the point of bursting into an uncontrollable, soaring shriek.
This extremely strange but frequently wonderful record treads on old ground in places (the melody of Bertie, an ode to Bush's young son, is ripped off from Cloudbusting), but it radiates an air of incredible freshness and unshakable self-possession.
Bush telegraph creates a soundwave
"The Ticket" supplement
by Brian Boyd
November 18, 2005
IF you don't have Kate Bush's Aerial album to hand, you better go and get a copy. Presuming you have it now, take a good look at the front cover artwork. It looks like a soundwave image - and that's because it is a soundwave image.
Someone, somewhere, possibly connected with Kate Bush, possible connected with her label, EMI, or even possibly with no connection to either, has started a story about how this soundwave is a visual representation of spoken, or sung words, over music.
A few people have already attempted to break the Bush code. So far, the leading suggestions are that the soundwave represents the words "We paint penguins pink". Others say they have conclusive proof that it says "Elvis is alive" (they back up this argument by mentioning that the first single from the album is about Elvis). However, there's also a growing number of people who believe it says "Wind and waves of love" - which, to be fair, sounds the most Kate Bush-sounding.
Apparently the soundwave is there to baffle and perplex the many Kate Bush anoraks out there - the types who go in for a bit of fervent exegesis of all things uttered by La Bush. It is also understood that the true meaning of the soundwave will only become clear after listening closely to the album.
You may need a pen and a piece of paper for this next bit. To crack the code, you need a very high-resolution version of the cover, you then have to use Photoshop to adjust the contrast until you have a very distinct image of the waveform. Now you try and turn the finished image into sound, by using a special Windows program called "Bitmaps and Waves". This should give you a full audio file. Click to play the audiofile and you will hear what it is Kate Bush wants you to hear.
If you've got stuck along the way, you'd better check your volume envelope and position with respect to time (rhythm) of the recording and the not the actual oscillations being produced, this is because Bitmaps and Waves uses a Sine oscillator to generate sound files.
It will come as no surprise that some people have gone through the above process laboriously. It will also come as no surprise that in all likelihood there is no secret message to be played.
Simply because Kate Bush put a soundwave on the cover of her album doesn't mean that it signifies anything. It's all a bit like Linsday Anderson's classic If film. On its release, a lot of critics got very excited by the fact that the film switched between colour and black and white. All sorts of fevered arty theories were postulated as to the significance of the switch between colour and black and white at key moments. It was only much later when Anderson was asked about this specifically that he replied, rather dryly, that the film had gone over-budget and he couldn't afford any more colour so he had to shoot the latter part of the film in black and white.
We can safely take it that Kate Bush is simply having a laugh with her mysterious soundwave image. That's certainly what she's doing on the first single, King of the Mountain, which contains references to Elvis Presley and Rosebud. She's playing with the themes of disappearance and mystery because of her own so-called "mysterious disappearance" from the music world.
But there are still people out there who think that if you speed up the audio file of the image so that it takes three seconds to play instead of 30, you will hear something. Others think the key here is to turn the image on its side (great idea - now it looks like a soundwave on its side). There's even professional sound editors on the case - they argue that you can't decode the image back to sound because "it's not zoomed out enough". Some sound editors even believe that it doesn't represent speech at all - it could possibly be a few blasts on a saxophone.
Here's a mad idea, from way out on the left-field: Kate Bush used the image of a soundwave because she thought it looked nice.
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds