The Straits Times -
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
The Straits Times
by Yeow Kai Chai
November 18, 2005
(4.5 stars out of 5)
Absence does make the heart grow fonder, especially in the case
of the much imitated but never surpassed icon called Kate Bush.
The Kent-born English singer, now 47, was last heard in 1993 with The Red Shoes. And in her 12-year sabbatical, many a female artiste's career has blossomed and died.
But it says a lot about her reputation that everyone still awaits her return with a kind of reverential hush.
With her new double-CD, Aerial, it's clear from whom the likes of Tori Amos, Sinead O'Connor, Fiona Apple and Alison Goldfrapp owe their inspiration.
The feral passion of 1985's Hounds Of Love and the art-rock gumption of 1982's The Dreaming has opened doors for other quixotic talents to come along to stake their own ground.
Her ground-breaking work allows and lends credence for female imagination to find its own forms of expression vis-a-vis male pursuits. Not everything has to be about babes and booze.
Aerial, classically divided into two song cycles subtitled A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey, is an uncompromising record dedicated to domesticity, parenthood and all the quizzical things not normally associated with heady rock 'n' roll.
It's quintessential Kate Bush in its emotional and sonic expanse, as she roams far and wide from the legend of Elvis Presley (King Of The Mountain) to her adoration of her son (Bertie), and reflections of a mathematician's love of numbers (Pi) to the rather innocuous habit of cloud-watching.
On paper, the whole thing does sound twee. But in the hands of a natural genius, it becomes a remarkably involving absorbing discussion on mortality, ageing and humanity.
For all its multicoloured palette ranging from light, flighty beats in Somewhere In Between to jazz meets Spanish reverie in Sunset, what comes across is a woman in her prime, an artist in full command of her talent and vision.
Compared to Madonna, the incessantly hungry revisionist who seeks out new tastes from the street, Bush is a whole new world unto itself.
Her album has its own logic and pacing, a self-sustaining ecosystem that marvels at its own hidden depths and exalting highs.
It does not matter that her beats aren't as club-savvy as, say, Bjork's, or that she is not as indie rock-chick cool as Polly Jean Harvey or her contemporary, punk rocker Patti Smith.
All the sounds - from dated-sounding 1980s bass and percussion to Bulgarian folk strings and her onomatopoeic mimicry of a washing machine - come together to form a compelling narrative that is alternately fascinating and maddening, modern yet ancient.
Indeed, who would have the cheek and audacity to sample a bird twittering in the song Aerial Tal and turn it into an avian-human duet both funny and touching?
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds