The Oklahoman - album
Tallahassee Democrat - album review
The Indianapolis Star - Kate Bush's music still in orbit
Scripps-Howard News Service - album review
Knight News - "Twelve Years, Dreadful Results"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch - album review
The Onion's AV Club - album review
Portland Phoenix - "Womanly work: The return of the inimitable Kate Bush"
New York magazine - "Girls Gone Mild"
St. Petersburg (Florida) Times - album review
San Francisco Bay Guardian - Pastoral priestesses
The Daily Cardinal (University of Wisconsin-Madison) - "‘Aerial’ attacks genres"
Bust - album review
NPR - album review
The Chattanooga Pulse - album review
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
by George Lang
November 18, 2005
Musical careers waxed and waned and new global economies emerged
since Kate Bush's last disc, 1993's "The Red Shoes." During those 12 years, Bush
stopped recording, had a child and then began working in 1999 on the hypnotic
two-disc set, "Aerial," an ambitious but understated and eminently listenable
song cycle. Its narrative structure and classicist leanings secure "Aerial" as
the stylistic heir to Bush's greatest album, 1985's "Hounds of Love."
As she did with "Hounds," Bush bifurcates "Aerial" into distinct sections, "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey." "Sea" is the more song-oriented section, in which Bush richly details her maternal, domestic bliss in "Bertie" and "Mrs. Bartolozzi." "King of the Mountain" works as a mystical look at Elvis Presley's downfall as Bush compares the king to Charles Foster Kane, while on "Pi," Bush engages the fascination with scientists she previously explored in "Cloudbusting" and "Experiment IV."
The dreamy, pastoral "Sky" cycle chronicles the passing of an afternoon and is suffused with nature sounds and whispers as Bush explores her more idiosyncratic vocal tendencies. Rich with flamenco guitars, brushed drums and organic instruments, and radiating happiness and contentment, Bush's beautiful "Aerial" was worth the dozen years of silence.
by Kati Schardl
November 18, 2005
Chief among the many musical blessings for which I'll be giving
thanks on the national day of culinary excess is Kate Bush's new double CD,
If that sounds obsessive and excessive, well, it probably is. I freely and cheerfully confess my deep and longtime love for Kate and her wild musical gift. The divine and often thorny enchantment of her music has held me in its thrall since her 1978 debut, "The Kick Inside." Her 1985 masterpiece "Hounds of Love" is on my lifetime Top 10 list. "The Sensual World" helped guide me through the seemingly trackless waste of a particularly foggy period of my life.
Fans have waited 12 long years since 1993's flawed but intermittently thrilling "The Red Shoes" for "Aerial." During that time, Kate retreated to her Berkshire farm to revel in raising her beloved son Bertie, born in 1998.
But as one might expect of an artist whose whole life seemingly has been given over to serving as a conduit for voices and melodies from the Beyond, Kate never stopped writing songs. The 16 songs on "Aerial" - seven on Disc 1, subtitled "A Sea of Honey," and nine on Disc 2, "A Sky of Honey" - represent 12 years of domestic and maternal bliss, earth magic and exquisite artistry.
"A Sea of Honey" is vintage Kate, which is to say it's wonderfully eccentric and sonically mesmerizing. It takes the mundane and makes it miraculous. The second song is a dreamy, sensual incantation based on the mathematical concept of pi. It's followed by an ode to "Bertie." In lesser hands, the song would be pure mush. But Kate sets her simple lyrics to music that has the exquisite formal structure of a Renaissance rondeau.
"Mrs. Bartolozzi" starts as a song about cleaning house and doing laundry and ends with the erotic tidal motion of the ocean. The chorus of "How to Be Invisible" is a spell with ingredients that include "Eye of Braille/Hem of anorak/Stem of wallflower/Hair of doormat."
The drowsy earthbound beauty of "A Sea of Honey" takes wing - literally and musically - on "A Sky of Honey." The second disc is a suite - practically a symphony - of songs that throb with birdsong, belly laughs, gypsy guitars, cascading piano, pulsing acoustic bass and plangent cello. Kate trills like a blackbird and coos like a dove. Her voice is by turns rich as amber, cool as silver and gleaming as gold, and her throaty chuckle infuses every note.
This is music that's astonishing and gorgeous, made to accompany the golden glide of an autumn afternoon into an inky, starlit night crisp with visions and fraught with smoky romance. Kate is at her witchiest, fey and powerful, as the disc builds to a climax in the final two songs, "Nocturn" and "Aerial."
On both discs, Kate's in wonderful voice. Even when she allows her timbre to fray and go almost flat, it's with purpose - a counterpoint to the ethereal heights she scales with such ease. With the late Michael Kamen, a longtime musical collaborator, Kate crafted dense but delicate orchestrations. Even the CD's packaging is a work of carefully considered art, using images - photographs, drawings, paintings - to illustrate the songs.
I'm thankful for the overall musical beauty of "Aerial," but most of all I'm grateful to Kate for proving I can still be completely and utterly ravished by melody and rhyme.
Kate Bush's music still in orbit
The Indianapolis Star
by Edna Gundersen
November 20, 2005
(3 stars out of 4)
Her first album since 1993's "The Red Shoes" is clearly outside the boundaries of current trends, not that Kate Bush has ever marched with her peers.
A piercing, tremulous voice, childhood-obsessed themes and art-pop pretensions don't earn heartland acceptance, and "Aerial" moves her ZIP code somewhere near Saturn.
The first half of the double-album is "A Sea of Honey," a seven-song diary with odes to her son, Elvis and washing machines, plus a painful account of her mother's death.
The second disc, "A Sky of Honey," is a weirdly gorgeous nine-track song cycle tracing birds singing from afternoon to dawn. Folk, jazz, rock, symphonic pop and electronica co-exist on Bush's elaborate eighth album, which is mesmerizing and pretty, but also indulgent and largely inscrutable.
by Chuck Campbell
November 21, 2005
(4.5 stars out of 5)
Kate Bush's "Aerial" gives more ammunition to those who eschew
her sometimes-histrionic ways. The two-disc collection _ the U.K. art-rock
icon's first release since 1993's "The Red Shoes" _ finds her meditating on the
refrain "washing machine," bouncing to a harpsichord in a rapturous tribute to
her son and laughing maniacally in response to birdcalls for what seems like an
So those who haven't gotten it still won't get it.
Yet those in the Kate Bush cult will be fascinated by the mix of sensuality and the mundane in the piano-based "Mrs. Bartolozzi" (the "washing machine" song), stirred by lines like, "my blouse wrapping itself around your trousers." They'll be charmed by Bush's show of pure motherly love on "Bertie." And as for the birdcall thing, it's a natural, albeit creepy, part of "Aerial's" avian theme.
Bush seems to defy space and time with her expansive songs built largely on piano and electronics, nuanced by such devices as primal drums under the symphonic swells of "An Architect's Dream" and exotic percussion in the unexpected funk of "Joanni." Also, her symbolism-steeped lyrics sink deep into complexity: "Pi's" pulsing profile of a math nerd could apply to anything that arouses obsession, like sex or love, and the chilly single "King of the Mountain" is more than a simple examination of Elvis and celebrity.
Yet it's Bush's preternatural voice _ quivering with empathy, brooding with melancholy and soaring with ecstasy _ that makes "Aerial" so sublimely surreal. The vocals alone on "Nocturn" easily rank the hypnotic dreamscape among her best songs.
Overall, the new release breaks down as something just short of her zenith one-two punch of "The Dreaming" (1982) and "Hounds of Love" (1985). "Aerial's" first disc, dubbed "A Sea of Honey," is a stately set of adult pop songs akin to 1989's "The Sensual World," and the second disc, "A Sky of Honey," is a concept piece parallel to the "Ninth Wave" (second) side of "Hounds of Love."
In other words, fans should be satisfied, if not euphoric.
Also, given the 12-year gap between releases, Bush will inevitably win over a few new followers from the latest generation of maturing music lovers, some of whom surely crave a bigger challenge than Coldplay.
Twelve Years, Dreadful Results
Knight News (student newspaper)
Queens College, New York
by Siddharth Watal
November 21, 2005
There is a thin line between high art and utter pretentiousness.
And Kate Bush apparently has no idea where that line lies.
Bush's first album in 12 years is a collection of one un-listenable song after another. I know I am coming as a little bit harsh, but I am completely serious here. There isn't even one song that even halfway redeems this album. Now, I do realize that it may be that I just don't get it.
If you look at the other reviews of the album, you would think that it was first in line for every award and album of the year list. I like to give myself a little more credit than that, though, and I think that those other reviewers are buying into the whole pretentiousness and are ignoring the fact that there are absolutely no hooks or catchy melodies on the entire album.
The album, Aerial, is split into two CDs. The first CD is titled A Sea of Honey and is just a normal collection of songs. If songs about Elvis, Pi, washing machines, and Joan of Arc (more on these later) can be considered normal. The second CD, titled A Sky of Honey, is where Bush really dials up the pretentiousness to a 10. It is a concept album detailing the arc of a day as it progresses from morning to night to the dawn of the next day. I've always considered an album that I can go to sleep listening to a good album. This second CD, though, literally put me to sleep. This is definitely not music to listen to while driving, unless your aim is to cause a 10-car pile-up. I can't even review the songs on this CD except to say that they are all utter trash.
This brings us back to the first CD. A Sea of Honey has a mere seven songs on it. Which is great for two reasons: I didn't have to suffer through this album for a very long time and this gives me the opportunity to go through almost every song here. So we start with track 1, "King of the Mountain." Calling this the best song on the album is like calling a Hoover the world's best vacuum cleaner; it's still awful. I will grudgingly say that it does have a decent melody and lyrics that aren't entirely nauseating. There, now I swear that from this point in there is absolutely nothing good left to say about this album.
The second song on the album is "Pi," as in the number. This is so unintentionally funny that there are points when I literally started laughing. Just hold on for a second here and try to guess what the chorus to a song called Pi would be…If you guessed that the chorus is Bush singing the actual digits to the irrational number, then you are correct. I kid you not. The chorus is literally "3.1415926535..." down to the 166th decimal place. I know. I actually counted. Who is Bush trying to kid here? Are we supposed to take her singing almost random numbers ad nauseam seriously?
Song 4 is titled "Ms. Bartolozzi." Who the title character in this song is I have no idea, but the song really doesn't make me want to meet her if she is a boring as she seems. Sample lyrics: "Then I took my laundry basket /And put all the linen in it /And everything I could fit in it /All our dirty clothes that hadn't gone into the wash /And all your shirts and jeans and things /And put them into the new washing machine." Seriously people, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
Track 6 on the CD is Joanni, an ode to Joan of Arc, I think. The chorus has a weird electronica synth sample in it. It just seems so out of place with the subject matter and tone of the rest of the song. Bush manages to sound like Enya in this song. Don't worry, people, this is in no way a compliment. I hate Enya.
So I hope that after reading this review you will avoid this album like the plague. My only question is how can albums like this be released and absolutely amazing albums like the last Fiona Apple CD be delayed for years. Are there no label executives that have any ear for good music anymore? With a little luck, this album will bomb in the store. Nothing against Kate Bush personally, but maybe that will make the labels think before releasing such garbage to the public.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
by Calvin Wilson
November 22, 2005
If getting to the top of the pop world is a challenge, staying
there is just as difficult. Once listeners become devoted to an artist, they
want more of the same and as much as they can get. That poses a dilemma: How can
a pop star get off that treadmill without alienating fans?
Kate Bush, one of the biggest and most revered stars in England, found an offbeat solution: delaying gratification. She retreated from the music scene, taking refuge in the demands of everyday life. Her last album, "The Red Shoes," came out 12 years ago - a very long time in the recording industry (ask Stevie Wonder). That only rendered expectations for Bush's latest album, "Aerial," incredibly high. It must be a relief for both artist and her followers that those expectations have been met, and then some.
Throughout the double-disc collection, Bush is at her exhilarating best, conjuring epic soundscapes that imaginatively meld with the intimacy of her lyrics and voice. The years haven't eroded her talents as a songsmith, as anyone who checks out "How to Be Invisible" can attest: "You stand in front of a million doors/ And each one holds a million more/ Corridors that lead to the world/ Of the invisible."
What may come as a surprise is the album's sheer stylistic scope. Bush is mostly known for a certain ethereal sensibility, and many of the tunes here are in that mode. But Madonna would be hard put to top the dancehall swagger of the exhilarating "Nocturn."
The Onion's AV Club
by Noel Murray
November 23, 2005
Some musicians take so long between albums that they lose track
of their own careers and start issuing periodic annotated census reports when
simple yearly newsletters would do. Then there's Kate Bush, whose new Aerial
comes after what turns out to have been a welcome 12-year absence. Bush has
followed her own trilling muse since her 1978 debut, and aside from some minor
cosmetic and thematic differences, each of her records has offered a similar
blend of prog, folk, and new wave. By the time Bush released 1993's unfocused
The Red Shoes, her routine had grown stale, and though Aerial doesn't change
that routine significantly, the record still sounds fresh, because it doesn't
follow a decade full of cookie-cutter albums.
Aerial's two discs of nocturnes, folktales, and sensual dance tracks have been sorted into sections. The first disc, "A Sea Of Honey," is more character-driven, with songs about a sad Elvis ("King Of The Mountain"), a happy-making child ("Bertie"), and the courage of Joan Of Arc ("Joanni"). Bush tries out a variety of styles on the first disc, from Renaissance balladry to trance-y rock, but she's at her eccentric best when she sits alone at the piano and sings "Mrs. Bartolozzi," about a load of laundry that inspires an erotic reverie. (Perhaps only Bush could imbue a line like "slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy / get that dirty shirty clean" with deep emotion.)
The second disc, "A Sky Of Honey," is more about tone than tunes, though it does tell a unified story of a kind, about the passing of a single day in an oceanside artists' colony. Bush builds the songs around stunted piano runs, crafting melodies that hover and pace without ever going anywhere. Where "A Sea Of Honey" is really just a handful of new Kate Bush songs, "A Sky Of Honey" is a fully realized mood piece, designed to lift listeners out of their own heads. It's a stirring return to that special place behind the eyes of Kate Bush, where every raindrop contains universes within universes.
Womanly work: The return of the
inimitable Kate Bush
by Joyce Millman
November 23, 2005
Twelve years have passed since Kate Bush’s last release. What
was she doing all that time? Nothing, and everything. There is recurring imagery
on Aerial of "women’s work," of mothering and household chores ("washing
machine, washing machine" she repeats like a mantra on one track). Bush has
spent the past decade-plus tending her home, raising her son, and working
sporadically on the new album. In contrast to the widescreen drama of 1985’s
Hounds of Love and 1982’s The Dreaming (both Columbia), Aerial keeps a
microscopic focus on the mundane stuff of life. Which is not to say that the
microscopic stuff is insignificant.
Bush has always made music that could have sprung only from a female psyche, full of feminine sexuality and eccentricity. Her melodies don’t build to one big climax; they rise and fall on shimmering waves. Her childlike voice refuses to behave; she’s often helium-shrill and unruly. She writes about messy relationships, messy passions, messy bodies, messy minds. Even in her long absence from public life, Bush has influenced a whole school of women artists — Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple, to name four. Bush has always mattered. And at 47, she has never mattered more.
Aerial is a mysterious, meditative work reminiscent of Joni Mitchell in her Hissing of Summer Lawns/Hejira period, in both its music (the upright bass and piano jazz of "Sunset") and its themes. At that point in her career, Mitchell began writing about the inner lives of older women who were becoming invisible in a culture of glittery youth. Bush takes up the cause with a smirk on "How To Be Invisible." With its spidery guitar lines and witty take on the witches’ incantation from Macbeth ("Eye of Braille/Hem of anorak/Stem of wallflower/Hair of doormat"), the song celebrates the coiled power of ignored and underestimated women.
Sneaky and hypnotic, Aerial’s watercolor wash of symphonic and electronic textures becomes more defined with repeated listenings, just as Bush’s portraits of seemingly placid hearth and home reveal unexpected twists and depths. The first disc, "A Sea of Honey," loosely strings together songs about retreating into private worlds. The Elvis Presley references of "King of the Mountain" may be a little tired, but the electronica beats are contemporary and seductive. From the bosom of domesticity comes Bush’s song for her son, "Bertie," a charming Maypole dance played on traditional Renaissance instruments. "Lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely Bertie," trills Bush. She packs a breathtaking treatise on the all-consuming nature of maternal love into three deceptively simple lines: "You bring me so much joy/And then you bring me/More joy."
The memory of her late mother propels the gorgeous "A Coral Room," with its womblike imagery of water and fishing nets. But the masterstroke of disc one is the washing-machine song, "Mrs. Bartolozzi," a hushed piano-and-voice reverie broken by moments of unsettling silence. The song earns its allusion to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway when the title character (possibly a widow) lets her mind wander from her washday chores to an erotic recollection (or fantasy) of passion.
"A Sky of Honey," the bewitching suite that takes up all of disc two, depicts the sensual pleasures of a day in the English countryside, from the trill of birdsong (a recurring sound on Aerial) to the changing quality of the sunlight to the fall of velvety night. Did I mention that Bush is singing all of this from a bird’s perspective? When she tries to imitate the twittering birdsong samples and breaks into peals of runaway laughter, the effect is that of joy flitting along the border of madness. It’s quintessential Kate Bush.
Girls Gone Mild
New York magazine
by Ben Williams
November 28, 2005
(The title is a play on "Girls Gone Wild", a heavily advertised proof of the decline of Western civilization.)
Madonna and Kate Bush lord over opposing constellations in pop’s
cosmos: the deity of public materialism versus the divinity of private
mysticism. These two 47-year-olds have had oddly parallel careers, emerging onto
their respective scenes—post-disco New York and post-prog-rock England—in a
blaze of sex and self-sufficiency, trailblazing paths that barely existed for
women in the music business before them. The house of Madonna has given us Gwen
Stefani, Peaches, and Britney. The line of Bush descends to Sinéad O’Connor,
Björk, and Tori Amos.
Now both singers have comeback albums of a sort—in Madonna’s case, after an experimental, poorly reviewed album and tour; in Bush’s, after a twelve-year maternity leave. Both are a return to roots, and to a kind of rapture—that of the dance floor and the English countryside, respectively. But they represent rather different responses to middle age.
Madonna is still searching, in her clumsy way. An enthusiastic latecomer to self-doubt, she blurted about her dissatisfaction with the nannies and the yoga and the chef and the jet on the underrated, punky-funky American Life. She’s not quite done processing—“How High” wonders about the fame and the money, lamely concluding “I guess I deserve it,” “Push” thanks a lover who challenges her, and the final track, “Like It or Not,” is about taking or leaving her, just the way she is.
Well, we don’t come to Madonna for lyrics. Confessions is pitched directly at the dance floor: Essentially, it’s one long, shimmering synthesizer riff. The riff gets faster. It gets slower. It crests. It falls. It stutters. It flows. But it never stops trying to make you swoon with ecstasy (in fact, it’s so tactile that it seems designed to be heard under the influence of her adopted country’s national drug). The album is sequenced as a D.J. mix, each track merging into the next with assistance from string sections, and the orchestral borrowings are no accident: Madonna has built a disco wall of sound.
In this, she’s as just-behind-the-trend as ever. In recent years, dance music has looked back longingly to the mixed-up glory days of early eighties New York, and Madonna’s chief co-producer on Confessions is the Englishman Stuart Price, known for uncanny electro-pop re-creations under the pseudonym Jacques Lu Cont. The lead single, “Hung Up,” which manages to sound both throbbing and wistful, samples Abba’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”; elsewhere, everyone from Donna Summer to Pet Shop Boys is quoted.
Yet Confessions isn’t really a throwback—it’s too lush for that. The first half, in particular, has irresistible momentum: The probable second single, “Sorry,” belts along, propelled by a catchy bass melody, and the grungy “I Love New York” just might be the disco remix of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The second half drags a little, and you wish Madonna would strip the synths back to work a bass line every now and then, but the only real misstep is “Isaac,” the latest bulletin on her spiritual adventures. Mixing wailing from Yemeni singer Yitzhak Sinwani with flamenco-ish guitars and clip-clopping rhythms, it’s an ersatz soundtrack to privileged dabbling in alternative religions.
Much of Confessions on a Dance Floor was recorded at Stuart Price’s tiny London home studio. In an interview with the Website PopJustice, Price praised Madonna’s hands-on approach but was “amazed” by her coffee-stain removal skills: “The technique she had was to never rub, just to gently pad the carpet with the kitchen towel,” he enthused. He’s yet to record an album as Jacques Lu Cont, but key remixes include Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For” (from which Price seems to have stolen the ticktock sounds that open “Hung Up”), Felix Da Housecat’s “Silver Screen Shower Scene,” and Missy Elliott’s “Lose Control.”
Kate Bush, on the other hand, was using didgeridoos way back in 1982. For a brief moment, she might have been Madonna—after all, she famously got her start writhing around in a leotard and sung about masturbation on her debut album, The Kick Inside. But her palette is the baroque instrumentation of progressive rock, and she’s been exploring the weird nature-mysticism of Olde England from the beginning of her career.
On Aerial, Bush has become, literally, a domestic goddess. Packed full of lyrical and visual arcana for her disciples to obsess over, it includes a paean to her son; songs about Elvis, Joan of Arc, mathematicians, and painters; and a second-CD concept suite titled “A Sky of Honey.”
The best track, “Mrs. Bartolozzi,” finds transcendence in laundry. Over minimalist piano, Bush sings about cleaning the kitchen floor and washing clothes—“Washing machine! Washing machine!” she croons then cries as the piano dies. The machine’s churning water suddenly transforms into the ocean, and Bush is standing in the surf, waves lapping around her. Then she’s back to the laundry room for the wonderfully loopy coda, where she sings, high-pitched, “Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy / Get that dirty shirty clean / Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy / Make those cuffs and collars gleam.”
If only the whole album were that odd. The last time Bush did a concept piece—her 1985 masterpiece, Hounds of Love—she fooled around with Irish jigs, voice cut-ups, and tape loops. Her voice is still exquisite, but too much of Aerial fades into a soft-focus background of soothing synthesizers, murmuring bass, and twittering birdsong.
“A Sky of Honey” supposedly progresses from late afternoon through sunrise, but it’s not clear what it’s about exactly, beyond an amorphous oneness with nature. There’s a prelude and a prologue, but no epilogue; a brief voice-over from a painter about getting “that tone a little bit lighter there, maybe with some dark accents coming in from the side”; and a closing half evoking the sun’s streaking light.
Bush sounds incredibly contented, secure at the center of her world. You imagine her roaming around her country estate, occasionally dropping into the home studio to daub a dark accent onto track seventeen. It’s doubtless a nice place to reach in midlife, and if one were strolling the hills with her, one might, as “Nocturne” urges, “become panoramic.” But Aerial soundtracks bliss, rather than communicating it—what’s needed is a little more of Madonna’s restless spirit.
Petersburg (Florida) Times
by Times Staff Writer
November 28, 2005
Kate Bush is the idiosyncratic British singer/songwriter whose
penchant for high concept albums, ethereal croon and insular ways (she has only
toured once, and swears she won't again) render her at once a total mystery and
Her first release in 13 years, Aerial is an audacious double album - the first disc, subtitled A Sea of Honey, is a collection of songs, while the second, A Sky of Honey, is an extended poem narrating the passage of a day and connected by the chirping of birds.
Her heavenly soprano still invokes dreamy otherworlds, and she still pens arcane, dense poetry, influenced by myth, classical allusions and romantic fancy. On the first disc she references Joan of Arc (on the sumptuous Joanni), writes a paean to her son, Bertie, ornamented in baroque orchestrations, and invokes magic on the brooding, electronic-tinged How to Be Invisible. Then there's the fascinating Pi, in which she convincingly sings out the number to multiple decimal places over a mystical, fluttering melody.
The only misstep is the drab Mrs. Bartolozzi, a directionless tale of domesticity and repressed passion performed solo at the piano.
The second disc is nearly perfect, a luscious mood piece that might confound iPod-addled listeners oriented toward singles and haphazard playlists. Bush's imagistic songs veer between erotic, psychedelic landscapes and jazzy territory. The satiny flow of An Architect's Dream ripples under its light hand-drumming and sullen chiming.
A Sky of Honey concludes in a masterful suite - the pulsating Nocturn grows commanding, with its hypnotic choral chant - "Look at the light!/And all the time it's changing/ Look at the light!/Climbing up the aerial" - and the title track, a dazzling and surprisingly hip piece of dance music that marries Bush's simmering voice, the chorus of singing birds and an explosive beat
San Francisco Bay Guardian
by Johnny Ray Huston
November 30, 2005
Vashti Bunyan and Kate Bush float back from seclusion to cast spells.
'LA LA- la-la-la, la la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."
Vashti Bunyan's "Diamond Day" just might contain the loveliest use of one of pop's favorite nonsense sounds. Singing those "la"s, Bunyan's voice follows the sonic bread crumbs of a melody already scattered by an acoustic guitar and a whistle – the overall effect is something like following a maiden over some Hobbit-style knoll into a hidden magical realm.
Released in 1970, Just Another Diamond Day (DiCristina Stair) suggested an eccentric and more interesting version of doe-eyed Marianne Faithfull. It's unsurprising, since Bunyan was another Andrew Loog Oldham protégé, but one who – unlike the then-obedient and a bit vacuous Faithfull – left the Svengali and other sinister masculine influences behind to follow her muse into the farmlands, with Joe Boyd of Fairport Convention at her command. The lullaby of Bunyan's "Lily Pond" and the floating cries of her "Iris's Song" aren't far removed from Kathleen Ferrer's a cappella "Ma Bonny Lad" reverie; elsewhere, the melancholic folk of 1967's Chelsea Girl comes to mind, though it goes without saying that Bunyan's voice skips and hops through the moors with a bit more sprightly grace than Nico's, making odd portraits of glow worms, grubs, and swallows seem like beautiful folk standards.
For 35 winters, springs, summers, and falls, Just Another Diamond Day was Bunyan's only album, but now – after a recent guest appearance on Devendra Banhart's Rejoicing in the Hands and an EP-length collaboration with the Animal Collective – comes Lookaftering (DiCristina Stair), an 11-song collection that recaptures the sound and magical air of Bunyan's debut to a degree that's uncanny. Faithfull may sound like Gollum's mom, but for Bunyan, not a second seems to have passed. It would be 1970 all over again if her music wasn't timeless – spanning the medieval and the modern – to begin with. The song that kicks off the album, "Lately," doesn't have the instant catchiness of "Diamond Day," but it's just as effective at sending a chill down one's spine. I haven't heard anything as beautiful in this whole aged year.
Bunyan's three-and-a-half-decade absence makes the 12 years that separate fellow pastoral femme Kate Bush's new album, Aerial (Columbia), from her previous one, The Red Shoes, seem short. Bush has always been more enamored of modern production touches than Bunyan, but the slick gloss of Aerial's sound and the kiss-intimate treatment of her vocals are little different from on 1985's Hounds of Love (a marvel of the CD era's early days), if not the warped prog rock madness of 1982's The Dreaming. Bush is a great deal more subdued these days – no more hee-hawing like a mule or calling out for Heathcliff, though she does address Elvis on "King of the Mountain" and imitate the sounds of laundry being washed on the still rather subdued "Mrs. Bartolozzi," the kind of tune that proves she was pounding the ivories in the midst of a true artist's crazy fantasyland long before terrible Tori Amos contrived to follow her there (frankly, Ms. Amos has never found the front door).
Bush still can't pass up a concept, dividing Aerial into two sections and discs, "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey." Stevie Nicks would be jealous of "How to Be Invisible"'s slinky spell-casting, but the first disc is at its best when stripped down to simple piano-and-voice arrangements, such as on the gorgeous "A Coral Room." A more unified – if perhaps not as strong – group of compositions, the second disc wastes no time traveling to a different type of birdland than Charlie Parker's. Throughout, Bush tosses in references and tributes to her children, from a ballad to her son ("Bertie") to the pictures of them that decorate the pages of Aerial's lyric booklet.
The mommy factor definitely unites Bush and Bunyan, who also includes a picture of two kids with her album. In fact, Bunyan's daughter Whyn Lewis plays a major role in the sleeve art of Lookaftering, contributing a series of stark, odd animal paintings – depicting a fox-strong rabbit and a few sly greyhounds – that suit the music quite well. Of course, the contributions that many people will note come from Banhart (a flourish of steel acoustic guitar during "Wayward") and Joanna Newsom (harp on "Against the Sky"), but they're small elements on an album that oh so gently suggests none of today's neo-folkies have managed to match the delicate grace of Bunyan.
Certainly the abstract gusts of sound that dominate Bunyan's inferior return with Animal Collective don't hint at the lyricism and compositional depth found on Lookaftering. Here she's no mere ingredient in a soundscape but the central creative force whom the rest of the album's instrumentalists serve, adding chamber piece codas to more than one track. Bringing back the signature recorder or whistle sound of "Diamond Day," the ballad "Hidden" is especially poignant, but just one of many instances in which she strips away the nature imagery of her debut album to dig into a more personal form of address.
Just Another Diamond Day started with a chain of "la-la"s. Lookaftering concludes with one long "hmmm" – on the track "Wayward Hum," which captures unawares Bunyan's singing and strumming midrehearsal. Back then and now, Bunyan has known – and shown – that an enchanting melody can run deeper than the heaviest word.
‘Aerial’ attacks genres
The Daily Cardinal (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
by Joe Lynch
December 6, 2005
Kate Bush is the rare artist whose music sounds entirely
otherworldly, but somehow does not push forward the boundaries of rock music.
This is through no failing on her part: Bush’s music is so idiosyncratic that it
is impossible to even think of another artist who can incorporate her styles and
ideas into their own work.
Bush’s latest album—the double-disc Aerial—is an eclectic and eccentric combination of art rock, soft rock, electronica, renaissance and choral music. It is music too odd to be mainstream, but not trendy enough to be indie. In the end, it is best described as a style that is simply all her own.
This does not mean her music is not accessible: Aerial is filled with atmospheric gems that remind the listener of beautiful sunsets, lonely afternoons and everything in between.
Most of the songs on Aerial combine the sounds of centuries past with the post-modern mixture of various genres that Bush has worked with for the last 27 years. The results are impressive and a curiosity to say the least. “Pi” combines electronic beats with acoustic guitar flourishes, and in the end somehow manages to make synthesizers sound earthy. “Joanni” similarly marries genres with its natural and urban sounds—its wispy vocals and tribal beats make it sound like club music for a rising sun.
The most successful combination of varying genres is the first track and lead single, “King of the Mountain.” It combines the Asian music experiments of Japan’s Tin Drum with the ’80s mainstream rock of Genesis, and throws in references to “Citizen Kane’s” “Rosebud” to boot. Inexplicably, the result is a moody dance number.
The most lyrically adventurous number on Aerial is the quiet “Mrs. Bartolozzi,” an effecting description of the unfulfilling tasks that fill the life of a housewife. In this song, Bush sings from the perspective of Mrs. Bartolozzi, who watches her clothes tumble about inside the washing machine. Eventually, Bartolozzi begins to imagine she is standing in the ocean with her husband, feeling the waves roll over their feet.
The reality of her loneliness takes over when Bush sings, “Out of the corner of my eye / I think I see you standing outside / But it’s just your shirt / Hanging on the washing line.” Bush’s Bartolozzi exaggerates tedious, everyday happenings into things far more exciting, and the result is a song as quiet as it is heartbreaking.
Ultimately, the entire album ends up leaving the listener with the impression that Bush is a musical hermit—someone who occasionally ventures into the modern world to observe new sounds and trends, but still spends so much time alone that whatever music she ends up making, is nothing more or less than entirely her own. And Kate Bush, like her music, remains idiosyncratic, intelligent, heartfelt and peerless.
by Michael Worshipme
December 2005 issue
"When an artist returns to the spotlight after a 12-year hiatus from the music biz, the public scrutiny is intense- particularly for a seminal artist with a fiercely devoted following like Kate Bush. “Was it worth the endless wait?” they ask. “Does Aerial match up to her previous work?” “Does she still have what it takes?” The answers are “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
This double album opens with “King of the Mountain,” a mid-tempo, reggae-style number, and closes with prog-rock epic “Aerial.” On everything in between, Kate employs psychedelic rock, baroque orchestration, world beat rhythms, and avant-pop to create a musical backdrop for her sublime storytelling on subjects like her son, nature, and domestic life. Long-time fans will appreciate the Laura-Nyro-espue piano art songs which are as intimate as early Kate tunes like “Oh, Feel It” or “In The Warm Room.”
Set against poseurs like Tori Amos, who have long infringed on Kate’s turf, Aerial shows that the pioneer is back in full force. Be afraid, Tori. Be very afraid!"
Day to Day
by Christian Bordal
November 30, 2005
Kate Bush was still a teenager when she unexpectedly burst
onto the pop music scene almost 30 years ago with the smash hit song Wuthering
Heights. Now she's put out her eighth CD. It's called Ariel, it's her first new
release in a dozen years. Music critic Christian Bordal has this review.
[Segment of "How To Be Invisible" is played]
When she first arrived at age of 19, famously discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Kate Bush was like a beautiful alien, a wild untamed musical creature. With her literate lyrics and her high-pitched wailing voice - I don't think even her label EMI expected her to be anything more than a fringe artist. But Bush's very first single, Wuthering Heights, went straight to number one on the British charts and stay there for four weeks. She never looked back.
[Segment of "Wuthering Heights" is played]
In the last 20 years, Kate Bush has grown up. Her music has become more sophisticated. It's taken on a kind of Peter Gabriel gloss of perfection. And just like Gabriel, who she's worked with on a number of occasions, she famously spends more and more time in the studio on each record getting exactly what she wants.
[Segment of "Joani" is played]
Of course, there's a tension between the wild, untamed Kate Bush of her early career and the craftsman she's become. At first listen, her latest record, "Ariel" has a muted, suppressed quality. There's a high gloss that feels like it's weighing everything down like a TV actor with not a hair out of place. And being a fan of the early Kate, I admit to at least a temporary frustration with this painstakingly crafted music
[Segment of "Pi" is played]
But if Ariel is at first blush, frustrating to old fans the album rewards subsequent and more careful listening. If you're willing to really sit down and pay attention, all kinds of the subtle beauty and inspiration will begin to unfold for you. One of my favorite songs on the record uses the mathematical symbol Pi as its title. In it, Bush describes a man who loves numbers, and she actually sings about a hundred decimal places into the famous fraction.
["3.14159..." portion of "Pi" is played]
It's been 12 years since Kate Bush's last release. But the famously reclusive artist certainly hasn't spent all that time working on this new record. She's become a mother, in fact a CD contains a rather cloying love song to her son Bertie. And she's been by her own description, living a normal life. And gentle, poetic insight into normal life is mostly what fills up the two CDs of this latest Kate Bush album
[Segment of "Somewhere In Between" is played]
Music critic Christian Bordal reviewing Kate Bush's new album, Ariel.
by Julianne Shepherd
December 2005 issue
(4 stars out of 5)
The enigmatic soprano returns after a 12-year hiatus with a self-produced double-disc set. The first half is an orchestral epic; the second is funkier and avant-garde, layering sampled birds and babies over drum machine thrum. Bush has not idled away the decade - she's still vital, breathtaking, and complex.
The Chattanooga Pulse
by Ernest Paik
December 07, 2005
Had Kate Bush begun her twelve-year musical hiatus after the
release of either 1982's The Dreaming or 1985's Hounds of Love, her two
challenging and beautiful masterpieces, her rabid fans would have died of
impatience. But her break began after 1993's The Red Shoes, an ambitious yet
uneven album, leaving some listeners with uncertainty. Bush returns with Aerial,
a double-album revealing an approach that exchanges eccentricities for
consistency and focus. And the focus of her life, at this time, is most
definitely her seven-year-old son Bertie.
Like Hounds of Love, Aerial is divided into two parts: one with stand-alone songs and one that is a concept piece. The first half, A Sea of Honey, features several character-based songs, tackling diverse individuals as Elvis Presley, Joan of Arc and yes little Bertie. On paper, "King of the Mountain" sounds like kitsch--it's a light reggae song that contemplates tabloid fodder involving Elvis--but it's actually about starting over and re-experiencing childhood, notions that undoubtedly have personal resonance with Bush.
While the first half is never unpleasant, Aerial picks up steam on the second disc, A Sky of Honey, which is like a vivid poem that ponders thoughts of Italy, art and creation, birdsongs, and the sun (which is played by Bertie). The music, is uniformly excellent, often adding floating keyboards and slithering bass lines to an irresistible rhythmic momentum, and Bush's voice is clear, expressive and as gorgeous as ever. When a long-lost friend calls, it's comforting just to hear her voice. But when she has good news, it's even better.
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds