AllMusic.com - album review
Megastar.co.uk - album review
Stylus Magazine - album review
CD Wow - album review
icScotland - album review
Drowned in Sound - album review
Pitchfork - album review
Boomkat - album review
IGN - album review
NBC5i - "Kate Bush's Double-CD 'Aerial' Paints Perfect Picture"
Between Planets - album review
Pop Matters - album review
To the Reaching Out (Reviews) Table of Contents
by Thom Jurek
November 6, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
Fierce Kate Bush fans who are expecting revelation in Aerial, her first new work since The Red Shoes in 1993, will no doubt scour lyrics and instrumental trills and interludes until they find them. For everyone else, those who purchased much of Bush's earlier catalog because of its depth, quality, and vision, Aerial will sound exactly like what it is, a new Kate Bush record: full of her obsessions, lushly romantic paeans to things mundane and cosmic, and her ability to add dimension and transfer emotion though song. The set is spread over two discs. The first, A Sea of Honey, is a collection of songs, arranged for everything from full-on rock band to solo piano. The second, A Sky of Honey, is a conceptual suite. It was produced by Bush with engineering and mixing by longtime collaborator Del Palmer.
A Sea of Honey is a deeply interior look at domesticity, with the exception of its opening track, "King of the Mountain," the first single and video. Bush does an acceptable impersonation of Elvis Presley in which she examines the singer's past life on earth and his present incarnation as spectral enigma. Juxtaposing the Elvis myth, Wagnerian mystery, and the image of Rosebud, the sled from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, Bush's synthesizer, sequencer, and voice weigh in ethereally from the margins before a full-on rock band playing edgy and funky reggae enters on the second verse. Wind whispers and then howls across the cut's backdrop as she searches for the rainbow body of the disappeared one through his clothes and the tabloid tales of his apocryphal sightings, looking for a certain resurrection of his physical body. The rest of the disc focuses on more interior and domestic matters, but it's no less startling. A tune called "Pi" looks at a mathematician's poetic and romantic love of numbers. "Bertie" is a hymn to her son orchestrated by piano, Renaissance guitar, percussion, and viols.
But disc one's strangest and most lovely moment is in "Mrs. Bartolozzi," scored for piano and voice. It revives Bush's obsessive eroticism through an ordinary woman's ecstatic experience of cleaning after a rainstorm, and placing the clothing of her beloved and her own into the washing machine and observing in rapt sexual attention. She sings "My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers/Oh the waves are going out/My skirt floating up around your waist...Washing machine/Washing machine." Then there's "How to Be Invisible," and the mysticism of domestic life as the interior reaches out into the universe and touches its magic: "Hem of anorak/Stem of a wall flower/Hair of doormat?/Is that autumn leaf falling?/Or is that you walking home?/Is that a storm in the swimming pool?"
A Sky of Honey is 42 minutes in length. It's lushly romantic as it meditates on the passing of 24 hours. Its prelude is a short deeply atmospheric piece with the sounds of birds singing, and her son (who is "the Sun" according to the credits) intones, "Mummy...Daddy/The day is full of birds/Sounds like they're saying words." And "Prologue" begins with her piano, a chanted viol, and Bush crooning to romantic love, the joy of marriage and nature communing, and the deep romance of everyday life. There's drama, stillness, joy, and quiet as its goes on, but it's all held within, as in "An Architect's Dream," where the protagonist encounters a working street painter going about his work in changing light: "The flick of a wrist/Twisting down to the hips/So the lovers begin with a kiss...." Loops, Eberhard Weber's fretless bass, drifting keyboards, and a relaxed delivery create an erotic tension, in beauty and in casual voyeurism.
"Sunset" has Bush approaching jazz, but it doesn't swing so much as it engages the form. Her voice digging into her piano alternates between lower-register enunciation and a near falsetto in the choruses. There is a sense of utter fascination with the world as it moves toward darkness, and the singer is enthralled as the sun climbs into bed, before it streams into "Sunset," a gorgeous flamenco guitar and percussion-driven call-and-response choral piece — it's literally enthralling. It is followed by a piece of evening called "Somewhere Between," in which lovers take in the beginning of night. As "Nocturne" commences, shadows, stars, the beach, and the ocean accompany two lovers who dive down deep into one another and the surf. Rhythms assert themselves as the divers go deeper and the band kicks up: funky electric guitars pulse along with the layers of keyboards, journeying until just before sunup. But it is on the title track that Bush gives listeners her greatest surprise. Dawn is breaking and she greets the day with a vengeance. Manic, crunchy guitars play power chords as sequencers and synths make the dynamics shift and swirl. In her higher register, Bush shouts, croons, and trills against and above the band's force.
Nothing much happens on Aerial except the passing of a day, as noted by the
one who engages it in the process of being witnessed, yet it reveals much about
the interior and natural worlds and expresses spiritual gratitude for everyday
life. Musically, this is what listeners have come to expect from Bush at her
best — a finely constructed set of songs that engage without regard for anything
else happening in the world of pop music. There's no pushing of the envelope
because there doesn't need to be. Aerial is rooted in Kate Bush's oeuvre, with
grace, flair, elegance, and an obsessive, stubborn attention to detail. What
gets created for the listener is an ordinary world, full of magic; it lies
inside one's dwelling in overlooked and inhabited spaces, and outside, from the
backyard and out through the gate into wonder.
by Phil Kemp
November 7, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
There she is, unmistakable: big-hair, bog-eyes, contemporary dance moves,
octave gymnastics, the faintest whiff of Tolkein-ish fantasy...
Sock it to 'em, KB!
So it began, 27 years ago, when Kate Bush, an unknown chanteuse and songwriter from sarf London, blitzed the charts and knocked Abba off their (then) perch with the inimitable, (Wuthering...Wuthering...) Wuthering Heights.
Iffy use of leotards notwithstanding, her legend was assured even then.
But to say she's prolific in terms of churning out albums, well...that'd be plain old wrong. Kate makes Pink Floyd look like The Fall when it comes to whacking out (not so) fast product.
It's as if the words "long-awaited" were designed specifically for her - then, in a studio, over several decades, tweaked and twizzled by a team of producers at Abbey flipping Road, no doubt.
"I have been genuinely touched by the sense of anticipation," burbles Kate on pre-release press guff.
And touched she should be (no, we're not still wet-dreaming about that Baboushka video - Google it, kiddas). To coin a cliche this most singular of songstresses would never entertain, this double-helping is well worth the (12-year) wait.
Two discs? Well, she's had enough time on her hands to fill the beggars up, that's for sure.
Disc One and Disc Two present recognisable but differing strands of Kate's musical genius.
King Of The Mountain, on the opening CD (A Sea Of Honey), is a superb sonic scene-setter. A Coral Room is impressionistic, Pi's a bit of an electro-plodder, while for our money Joanni's the biggest grower on Disc One, Kate's immaculately sensual voice coming strongly to the fore.
Disc Two (the spacey, conceptual A Sky Of Honey - for our money the more enjoyable of the two) has much common lineage with Pink Floyd's iconic Dark Side Of The Moon, while Rolf Harris - yes, the very same - takes a welcome break from nursing squiffy hamsters and silly paint sploshing to add his didgeridoo-dles to Kate's latest complicated masterwork.
As ever, a true one-off, and worthy of many listens, particularly the sublime Sunset and Somewhere In Between on the second helping.
It's great when you're Kate.
by Nick Southall
November 8, 2005
ate Bush has been changing the world since before I was born. I am now 26 and Kate is comfortably in her 40s; logic, sense and precedence decree that she should no longer be relevant, that her record releases, like those of The Rolling Stones—hell, like those of U2 and REM—should be treated with a muted fanfare by the industry and certain sections of the press and with glum bathos by everyone else as returns steadily diminish and distant peaks are listlessly recreated in Xeroxed monochrome.
But this is Kate Bush.
It has been 27 years since “Wuthering Heights,” since a 19-year-old girl in leggings danced like a white witch on Top Of The Pops. 12 years since The Red Shoes. It is 20 years since I saw her on Wogan, performing “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God),” since Hounds Of Love. Aerial comes in two parts—A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey. The former is 7 songs over 38 minutes, a paean to domestic bliss, to chores and children and Citizen Kane and Joan of Arc and Elvis. The latter is 9 songs over 42 minutes (with some editing, and I’m talking seconds removed, the two could be combined), a day in the life of light from dawn through afternoon and dusk to the monochrome glaze of moonlight. A double song-cycle about bliss mundane and ecstatic, familial and artistic.
Sonically Aerial is a Kate Bush record in the style of The Dreaming and The Hounds Of Love: luscious, experimental, romantic (of course). The palette may be a touch dated in this post-Timbaland, post-Fennesz age, but it is still beautiful. There are huge expanses of piano—the oceanic, mournful swoon of “Mrs. Bartolozzi”—and strange, post-ambient pop grooves for dancing to alone as if immersed in a pagan ritual (“King Of The Mountain”). There is birdsong, and lots of it; there are guitars, dubby basslines, Latinised rhythms, strange and unidentifiable spirals and planes of sound summoned perhaps from synthesizers. And most of all, of course, there is Kate’s voice, a thousand instruments unto itself, delivering words both sublime and ridiculous.
There will be doubts, because Kate Bush’s genius and muse is a female genius and muse and thus utterly different to what we expect from… Mark Hollis? Michael Jackson? Stevie Wonder? Thom Yorke? (Don’t make me laugh.) Jimi Hendrix? David Bowie? Any man, ever. None of them could get away with enunciating words like “Slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy / Get that dirty shirt clean”; none of them would even dare. Well, maybe Bowie would. We seem to think genius is a male trait. We’re wrong. The candour and honesty with which Kate delivers the lines “You bring me so much joy / And then you bring me / More joy” on “Bertie,” an unashamedly sentimental song about her love for her son, are a broadside to anyone who’s ever shied away from emotion, from love, from the things that make us human and remarkable and which convinced us we must have come from the clouds such is our potential for beauty.
She duets with birds, invites Rolf Harris once again to play didgeridoo (23 years after he first did on The Dreaming), juxtaposes Michael Kamen’s ethereal, modernist strings with bluesy rock guitars and unhurried disco beats, sings of washing machines, mathematics, sex, the sea and spiritual transcendence. She is still relevant because she doesn’t seek relevance—Kate Bush has always been external to trends, to the fluctuating verisimilitudes of popular culture. She has always operated within a world of her own creation, and that is why she will always be enticing, enlivening, fascinating.
Frankly it’s an honour to be on the same planet as her. Because, even after 12 years of laundry and washing the dishes and making fairy cakes and raising a child, she is still absolutely visionary, a creative talent and empathy untrammelled by conceit or time or self-consciousness; she is a genius. Aerial isn’t perfect, but it is magnificent.
Album of the Week
by Neil Chase
November 8, 2005
There are very few credible – or incredible – artists who could swoon so
majestically about mopping the kitchen floor, or the various cycles of the
humble washing machine, but Kate Bush can. And does. Then there is the matter of
describing the accuracy of Pi to goodness knows how many decimal points, and
heartily laughing with (not at) the birds. Who could get away with such
tomfoolery without being scoff-stripped of any musical respectability? But
operatic gesticulation, weird streaks, and lyrical twists have always been a
rait of her total integrity and complete uniqueness. Finally it’s time to
rediscover why she has never been out of critical respect, even if she has been
hidden away for far too long.
You are hooked by immediate beauty from the first minute. It’s obviously Kate, but the musical complexities that accompany her voice makes it an immediately welcoming, updated return. Her piano work is exquisite throughout. “Mrs Bartolozzi” (also known as the washing machine song) is a superb filigree of delicate keyboards. Hints of “Wow” before, but better. And don’t be put off by the initial chords that hint of “Against All Odds” either. Self-indulgence comes in the form of four minutes of deeply strung, brightly paced, highly jollified appreciation of her beloved son “Bertie”, who was seemingly named a few years ahead of this track.
“Joanni” (we presume ‘of Arc’) manages to be nicely chugging and is accompanied by some splendidly silly Bush growl moments too. The final “A Coral Room” track on the first CD is jaw-droppingly, gut wrenchingly, tear-jerkingly beautiful. Even the added male vocals don’t take anything away from her own underpowering subtlety. Gorgeous.
It is definitely a work in two parts, with the lazy warmth of a quintessential English summer emphasising disc II. Oh, and birds. Lots of them. Talking, singing, laughing birds that she audibly animates. Bertie makes another appearance too. A little Italian seasoning (in words anyway) on “Prologue”, and a beautifully easy tom-tom beat through “The Architect’s Dream”. Accompanied by a relaxed depth – and more birds. The warmly piano drenched “Sunset” has a deep jazzy bass feel, through winsome Latin flavours, and even the odd quirky Bush-ism doesn’t take away from its abject beauty.
She probably laboured long and hard in the studio for “Nocturn”, but the gentle rhythms and sweeping syths make for a stunning swirling soundscape. In the wrong hands this could flop, but she keeps it finely subtle. By the end of eight minutes it even becomes toe-tapping. The engaging catchy quality spills over into the final track - complete with more laughing birds, and her own hysterics. The growing melee of strings, guitars, mandolins, and feathers proves that she can triumphantly do her own ‘Tubular Bells’. With pigeons.
She is still daft as a brush of course, and there are probably as many future reminiscences here as past ones, but her effected, overly dramatic side of old has given way to an incredibly deep level of total musicology. There are times of course when she still talks in riddles, but the complete package of intelligent words around intriguing, beautiful, absorbing tunes has never been better.
Bush has toiled over these songs for years, but as renowned perfectionist, she didn’t want to set them free lest they were less than she wanted them to be. 12 years is a long time since her last album, and many thought these pieces would never see the light of day. But if 100 minutes of sonically supreme magic like this really do only come around every dozen years then roll on 2017. Like the cheeky squirrel that she is, our Kate saved up her nuts for a long, long winter and finally it is feeding time.
Her 1977 “Wuthering Heights” debut must seem a long time ago, whilst the still superlative “Hounds Of Love” album a mere two decades past is almost impossible to better. So instead she went off at a tangent and created the perfectly-crafted highlight of a career that is the singer as she is now. For those who have grown up without knowing the arty eccentricities of a Bush named Kate, it is time to be aware that she is, simply, a national treasure.
by Stephen McKenna
November 8, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
Finally Aerial, the brand new album from Kate Bush has arrived!
The double album opens with the recent top ten hit King of the Mountain, one of only a few radio-friendly song on the album. The seven track first disc - called A Sea of Honey - then enchants us with a head-scratcher of a song by the name of PI, as in the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle!
Now back in school days most of us were quite happy to refer to PI as 3.14 and leave it at that. Kate Bush, in her infinite wisdom and ever increasing desire to be frankly quite weird, decides that it would be a good idea to sing the exact representation of PI to about 70 decimal places! Sorry Kate but not even with your beautiful, other-worldly voice can you get away with singing '823066470938446095' without sounding pretentious!
Track three Bertie, is written about Kate's son and takes on the sound of a song from a medieval muse in the grand courtyard of the King. The song has charm and innocent magic about it though it does get a bit tedious towards the end when she repeats unconvincingly 'You bring me so much joy and then you bring me more joy'
The theme of domestic family life continues in Mrs. Bartolozzi, which has a Joni Mitchell sound to it. This is a stripped down song with Kate's vocal and some dark, staccato piano playing. Lyrics full of sexual tension are woven into this song; giving us an incite into what Kate Bush has been up to in the past 12 years; doing the washing!
'I watched them going 'round and 'round. My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers' it is a gorgeous song with some striking melodies but it's ruined somewhat by the chorus 'Washing machine, washing machine, washing machine'!
Things start getting a whole lot better on How to Be Invisible (the title reminds me of the Radiohead track How To Disappear Completely). The song has a much fresher sound with a spattering of jagged guitars and electronic noises on a flatbed of Kate's unyielding keyboard playing and not a cringe worthy lyric in sight; I could see this being another single!
Joanni is apparently written about Joan of Arc.
'Joanni, Joanni wears a golden cross. And she looks so beautiful in her armour. Joanni, Joanni blows a kiss to God. And she never wears a ring on her finger.'
This is another song that sounds suitably modern and not too kooky! Well that is unless you consider Kate's 'humming' towards the end of the song, kooky? Just a tad!
Coral Room brings A Sea of Honey to a close. This is a very personal song about Kate's mother and her little brown jug. Again this has a sparse arrangement of just Kate's voice and piano; a stirring, plaintive end to part one of Kate Bush's two part story that is Aerial.
Part two of the album is titled A Sky of Honey and follows the concept of the passing of 24 hours from the bird tweeting Prelude of Kate's son's early morning wakeup call to the grandeur or the title track Aerial.
A Sky of Honey sounds like a Pink Floyd concept album full of imaginative highs and lows that comprise 24 hours in the life of Kate Bush.
Prologue continues where Prelude left off with some birds tweeting, giving way to gently pulsating synth noises and Kate's soothing piano lines. Kate then moves fluently into a verse in Italian before the drums come in and the chorus informs us what a lovely afternoon it is.
An Architect's Dream throws a surprise in our path in the form of Rolf Harris with his brief introduction to the song; narrating as he did while painting on the kids TV show Rolf's Cartoon Club! Rolf also plays Didgeridoo on the album. The song has some wonderfully delicate percussion by Bosco D'Oliveira and warm strings by the late Michael Kamen.
Painter's Link features Rolf again, half singing in a very low voice, sounding like similar moments in Pink Floyd's The Wall album.
Sunset leaves Rolf behind as Kate reassumes lead vocal. The outcome is a very bright, jazzy song complemented by perfectly tweaked drums and excellent bass work. Just when you feel that the song has shown all it has to offer, it then goes all flamenco on us with castanets and acoustic guitars!
Kate dips her toe back into the weird pool again for a minute with Aerial Tal; a short bridging track with more bird noises and Kate's vocal pitched and skewed into the sound of birds tweeting.
Somewhere in Between finds Kate back in her natural voice in an ambient sounding track more akin to Future Sound of London than Kate Bush.
The ambience and warm swelling synths continue with the penultimate track Nocturn. At over eight minutes long, it is the longest track on the album and is another well constructed, free flowing song that comes alive with Kate's rousing vocal.
As night time falls, Kate opens our eyes with final track Aerial. A couple of minutes into the song, the birds start tweeting again and Kate starts laughing a wicked evil cackle!
Sounding more and more like Wall-era Pink Floyd, with pounding drums and jagged electric guitars, Aerial builds and peaks then drops to leave more birds tweeting in our ears as the master fader is dropped and silence fills the air.
There has inevitably been a lot of pressure on Kate Bush to deliver another masterpiece with her new album. It is obvious that critics want to pick through every note and find fault but what Kate has done with Aerial is what she has done with all of her albums and that is to create music that is not a slave to current musical trends. Kate Bush is successful because she writes original songs and has an air of mystery about her, whilst keeping her feet on the ground (well just about!). With a release just in time for the Christmas market, Aerial will rekindle the fire inside millions of Kate Bush fans whilst creating a whole legion of new ones.
Drowned in Sound
by Jordan Dowling
November 8, 2005
It's over twelve years since Kate Bush's last album, 1993's 'The Red Shoes' and oh how things have changed. The world lives in fear of terror and natural disasters, the French have learned to fight, and musically the most successful British bands are coming from the Midlands instead of unmarked factories in southern London.
So Kate Bush's extreme isolation from the outer world is all too apparent in her 'comeback' album Aerial, and I for one couldn't be happier.
At times it may feel clogged and sound more than a little predictable but Aerial is the complete antithesis to the current music scene.
She chooses minimalism and introspection over the clogged, packed sound preferred by today's crop of artists. Current single 'King of the Mountain' introduces the album, and its probably the closest she gets to a straightforward 'hit'. Most tracks offer little in the sense of direction but Bush manages to fill every second with ethereal magic. Fans of Bjork will surely appreciate tracks like 'Somewhere in Between' and the haunting, sonorous orchestration of 'Prelude' and parts of the title track wouldn't sound out of place on the first Silver Mt Zion album.
Some may argue that the album's lack of change from previous material represents a lack of effort but Aerial is timeless. It doesn't dwell in a certain space of the timeline of music, it nestles in a perpendicular direction, possibly in a separate dimension constructed in isolation on the fringe of insanity. Maybe some questions shouldn't be asked, or at least answered.
Kate Bush's Double-CD 'Aerial' Paints Perfect
NBC Affiliate - Fort Worth, Texas
by Bill Young
November 8, 2005
Album Reflects New Era For Pop/Rock Songstress
Kate Bush has crafted the album many of her dedicated fans wanted her to make. Not that she needed to: She had already written and produced 1985's "Hounds of Love," an album split into two titles including "The Ninth Wave," a concept piece dealing with a woman who spends a night alone at sea. "Hounds" received critical and commercial success, made it onto Top 100 album lists, and has been considered by many to be her masterpiece.
Now comes "Aerial," a double-CD and amazing achievement that rivals "Hounds." The new work from arguably the UK's most cherished female artist consists of two discs: "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey." The album brings together piano-and-voice songs reminiscent of Bush's earliest work with new musical elements including jazz, and the lyrics reflect a new era for Bush, who became a mother in 1998.
"Aerial" features some of Bush's best songs to date. "King of the Mountain," the first single and already a Top 5 hit in the UK, references Elvis Presley and "Citizen Kane." In "Pi," the eccentricities in Bush reach infinity as she sings the value of pi well beyond that decimal point. "Bertie" is a heart-felt song for Bush's son and features elements of classical music. "Mrs. Bartolozzi" provides a perfect example of how Bush can turn something as mundane as gazing into a washing machine into an incredible story and listening experience. "How to be Invisible" is an infectious pop-rock song and is followed by a catchy song about Joan of Arc.
The first set concludes with "A Coral Room," a piano-and-voice ballad in which Bush sings about her mother, who passed away shortly before her last album, "The Red Shoes," was released in 1993. The closer brings feelings as heavy as an ocean and can only be described as brilliant, lyrically and musically.
The same can be said for "A Sky of Honey," a conceptual set of songs that cycle through time from day to night and back to day with birds chirping throughout. In "Prologue," the listener is invited to the musical landscape Bush is painting, which includes jazz in the summery beauty of "Sunset"; the atmospheric and spell-binding tale of moonlit love in "Nocturn"; and, as dawn arrives, the intense title track, which tops the album off with Bush's laughter and incredible vocal range.
"Aerial" is Bush's first album in 12 years and her eighth studio release since 1978, when -- after being discovered by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd -- she took England, and much of the world, by storm at the age of 19 with "Wuthering Heights," the first single from her debut album, "The Kick Inside." After a rigorous schedule in the public eye and a lone tour in 1979, Bush chose to focus on music over promotion and built her own in-house studio shortly after her first self-produced, and some say best, album "The Dreaming" in 1982.
Aside from the U.S. Top 30 hit "Running Up That Hill" in 1985, Bush cracked the American Top 10 with Peter Gabriel on 1986's "Don't Give Up." Two years later, her moving ballad "This Woman's Work" was featured in the movie "She's Having A Baby" and later surfaced on her 1989 album "The Sensual World."
Bush has earned a deep respect from a diverse group of artists in the music world, including Tori Amos, John Lydon (the former Sex Pistols frontman, aka Johnny Rotten), and Big Boi of the hip-hop group Outkast.
by Dominique Leone
November 10, 2005
Non-shocker: I was disappointed the first few times I listened
to Kate Bush's first new record in 12 years. Having spent some time recently
wondering if the woman responsible for so much haunted, supernatural music might
be producing some beacon of artistic integrity that would shine through layers
of anticipation and cynicism, it was difficult to not be let down by the mundane
discovery that, in fact, she's merely being herself here, writing more about
everyday epiphanies than great cosmic truths. It's a pretty Zen lesson in
expectation when I think about it, teaching me a thing or two about the pitfalls
of hanging onto anything other than gradual enlightenment and a zero-sum world.
Aerial, a double album separated into chapters of A Sea of Honey and A Sky of Honey, is Bush's answer to a world outside expecting fireworks. That is, Aerial is no answer at all except to illuminate her love for her son, her life, and various distractions (everything from Elvis, to the joy of washing clothes, to the digits in pi). Musically, this is reflected in a uniformly low-key backdrop of piano, pastel rhythm section, and, of course, her own lush palette of vocal textures. Initially, many of the songs seem muted, passive, dated-- hardly reminiscent of Bush's previous adventures in hi-fi. Digging deeper, while the arrangements are hardly explosive-- a Renaissance string arrangement for "Bertie", birdsong in "Aerial Tal", subtle electronic touches in "Joanni"-- they're not so much dated as understated, as efficiently tied to their creator's idiosyncrasies as any in Bush's canon. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean they will leap out and grab unconverted listeners as the best moments on Hounds of Love or The Dreaming did, but then I wonder how many unconverted listeners are still following Bush's sensual trail these days.
Aerial's first disc (A Sea of Honey) begins in nondescript fashion with a torch song to Elvis (!) and a molasses-laden backing of big fat 80s rock drums, wispy synth cluster, electronic gamelan ping, and the driest rhythm guitar skank I've heard in 20 years. Still, there's a mysterious air about the song, especially as Bush cries, "the wind is whistling, the wind is whistling through the house." This song was chosen as a single, for what reasons I can't really imagine, but is a nice setup for the more interesting character study of the man with the "obsessive nature and deep fascination for numbers" on "ŁS". In fact, it's Bush's reading off the digits of the number that most interest me, stretching out some, crowding others into rapidly sung groups, all with some of the most expressive singing on the record. Likewise, on the piano-led ballad "Mrs. Bartoluzzi", she manages to sound fascinating while simply repeating the phrase "washing machine," and backing herself with superficially silly things like "slooshy sloshy, slooshy sloshy." I can't say I'm as taken with "Bertie" (about Bush's son) or "Joanni" (for Joan of Arc), both of which seem totally sincere, but overrun in pleasant, "tasteful" arrangements that never quite compel me enough to go back for repeated listens.
The second disc (A Sky of Honey) seems a bit more adventurous, which is fitting given that it's a song-cycle on the natural ebb and flow of life and the seasons. Beginning with a "Prelude" and "Prologue", Bush eases into her most subtly symphonic music on record, backing herself with only piano and soft, modulating synth pulse. Her teasing lines, "it's gonna be so good," referring to the passing of summer into fall, are both poetic and playful, and fit perfectly the sense of effortless euphoria throughout the disc. Still, I might have wished for a bit more spark: "An Architect's Dream", "Sunset", and "Nocturn", despite maintaining the narrative of her concept, are a bit too steeped in uber-light adult contemporary sheen for my tastes. By the time of the closing title track, my ears are lightly glazed over, and its frail "rock" section does little justice to lines like "I want to be up on the roof, I feel I gotta get up on the roof!" At one point, Bush trades cackles with a bird's song, suggesting she's quite happy with her simple life as a mother and artist. Far be it from me to criticize happy endings, but in musical terms, a comfortable, even-keeled existence sometimes comes out as isolated and ordinary art.
November 10, 2005
There's not a great deal you can say about Kate Bush that hasn't already been littered with adjectives by hordes of slavering fan-boys and zealous journalists; but yes she's great and yes it was about time she dragged herself from Delia domestication to get 'Aerial' finished... and now she has, even beating Guns 'n' Roses back onto the shelf! A double album which features a conventional set of songs on the first record and a concept piece on the second (it's got Rolf Harris on!), 'Aerial' is as gratifyingly odd and utterly engaging as you'd hope; opening with a song about Elvis, getting soppy about her son 'Bertie' and even managing to convert the mundane act of laundry ("slooshy, slooshy, slooshy, get that dirty shirt clean" into a piano-led classic ('Mrs Bartolozzi'). But you know all that, cos it's Kate Bush. It's KATE BUSH!
by David Adams
November 14, 2005
(7.6 rating out of 10)
Kate Bush used to be a scary woman. Even on her most popular
record, 1985's masterful Hounds of Love, the singles loaded into the first half
are balanced by a creepy, smart, and explosive song-cycle on the second side,
where Kate shifts from malevolent growl to a shimmering, life-affirming climax.
It ain't boring.
The singular British singer had already established her weirdo genius cred (Hounds of Love was relatively mainstream in comparison). Freak hit single "Wuthering Heights" from her debut record threw down the gilded gauntlet early, and 1982's The Dreaming arguably out-did pal Peter Gabriel in art-rock audacity. That Kate Bush was a woman crafting singular music in a man's world, and doing it on her own terms, was even more laudable.
Aerial comes after twelve years of professional silence, and a good 20 years (at least) since the Kate heyday. The woman who would as soon sing in Southeast Asian lilts as cockney dancehall has been laying low, keeping a house and raising her son, and her double-album return reflects the everyday joys of a mother. If mom is a feisty art-rock pixie-sorceress, that is.
Like Hounds of Love, Aerial is divided into two halves (though this time, across two discs), the first consisting of self-contained songs, and the second a conceptual suite tracing 24 hours from dawn to dawn. The two discs ("A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey," respectively) are connected by shared themes of domesticity and the hushed beauty of the day-to-day.
If it sounds a little dull, a little too much a trap for a legend now in her forties, it's to Kate Bush's credit that she pulls the whole thing off with very little embarrassment. While she does get silly here and there -- the "slooshy sloshy slooshy sloshy" bit in the otherwise sensual "Washing Machine," or her singing along with birdsong on "Aerial Tal" -- for the most part the music is lovely. Long-time fans will find Kate's eccentricities alive and biting -- she expressively sings the number pi, for instance -- but the bite is never as electrifying as the howls and flights of The Dreaming or Hounds of Love. This is domesticity, and being dreamy means it's also a little sleepy.
A few tracks rise above half-awake. First single "King of the Mountain" opens the record with an easy gallop as Kate chews celebrity via Elvis and Citizen Kane. "Sunset" slides from jazz shuffle to a straight-up Spanish dance, both cradling delicious melodies. "How to be Invisible" makes pop out of both the singer's reclusion and her witchy image among some fans. The chorus is an incantation making light of her reputation: "Eye of Braille / Hem of anorak / Stem of wallflower / Hair of doormat." She's making a home, but she's still mixing something wicked out of it.
The trouble here is Kate never gets that wicked. Aerial is elegant and erudite, slightly out-of-fashion without being sappy or falling into adult-contemporary pap, and Kate's voice holds up well even if it isn't as flamboyant as it once was. But Aerial's success is mostly that it isn't anywhere as bad as it might have been -- that it's a nice 80 minutes spent with Kate Bush. But if we didn't already know her, this record wouldn't make waves. Nothing here grabs the throat -- or the heart -- like Hounds of Love or The Dreaming did. There's some hint of the old Kate in "Nocturn" and "Aerial," the two-song climax to the second disc, as she opens melodically to "stand in the Atlantic" and "become panoramic" before crying "I wanna get up on the roof" in an ecstasy of sunrise. The rollicking comes late in the long program, though, leaving the dissatisfaction of wanting more -- and reason to think the crazy gal has spunk left for her next record.
Let's hope that next album comes sooner than 12 years from now, because while Aerial may not be canonical, it's good evidence that Kate Bush is still gutsy and smart, and still well worth listening to.
1. King of the Mountain
2. How the be Invisible
November 14, 2005
One of pop music's most successful recluses releases an album
almost out of the blue, there is little that can provide a guide as to what to
expect - except to hope that the lavish drama, sweetly soaring vocals and her
off kilter approach to music has flourished during her absence. 'Aerial' comes
as a two disk set and it was with burning curiosity and high expectations that I
set about listening.
Starting with 'A Sea Of Honey', as the first disk is titled, I am eased into 'King Of The Mountain'. I am pleased that the theatricality and rich production remain, there is a gentle rocking beat and reggae guitars that accompany Kate as she purrs and cries deliciously. There is a curious tempo to 'Pi' there is plenty of space around to begin with, slowly filled by gently strummed guitars, vocal styles and keyboards devoted to a man at home with numbers. It, I have to say, gets a bit strange around the chorus which is Pi sang to thirty decimal places. In 'Bertie' we travel back in time as the song appears to be based around a medieval theme and instruments. There is a simplicity here, in keeping with the music, lends a simple purity to the track that is refreshing. We are back on more familiar, and recent, ground for 'Mrs Bartolozzi' although the awkward analogy of household chores, romantic beach encounters and the repeated refrain of 'Washing Machine, Washing Machine' is strangely unsettling. As a result, the upward change in tempo and reassuringly light rock of 'How To Be Invisible' is very welcome. This track, blending electronic sounding guitars, a metronomic beat and a catchy lyrical flow is a delicious reminder of her past works without being a carbon copy. There is a flavour of Ibiza chillout on the next number, 'Joanni', as Kate sings with a wavering intensity and euphoric upward sweeps. To end, 'A Coral Room' leads in with delicate and evocative piano beneath frail and saddened words reminiscent of Tori Amos. A beautiful closure to this half of 'Aerial'.
The second CD, 'A Sky Of Honey', begins with a prelude of Virginia Astley style pastoral sounds (which feature all through this disk) and a child's voice before a tense pulse leads us to Kate Bush's fabulous voice again in 'Prologue'. The balance of an expectant tone in the vocals, the sweet piano and bass with the grandness of the production builds up unexpectedly to a feeling of serenity. 'An Architect's Dream' begins with (fantastically) the great Rolf Harris describing and painting before leading into another classic Kate Bush song, only rendered more gently. 'The Painter's Link', again featuring Rolf (singing this time), acts as a brief and sweet interlude that runs directly into 'Sunset'. 'Sunset' rolls along with a light guitar jazz and the occasional unusual emphasis that catches the ear very effectively. The closing section of 'Sunset' takes a Spanish turn and becomes intricate with the interplay of all the instruments but avoids becoming busy or messy perfectly. There is another brief excursion in the strange sounds of 'Aerial Tal' before 'Somewhere In Between' launches into a tale of wonder at nature's beauty, continuing the theme of 'Sunset'. As night is upon is, 'Nocturn' has an appropriate feel of mystery as it displays a reverence for the midsummer moon with grand intensity and a dark undertone. The seamless move into the album's title track leads to a ever growing intensity, a relentless throbbing bass and guitars, bringing 'Aerial' to a close triumphantly.
Where ' A Sea Of Honey' is a album of moments and is troubled at times there is always 'A Sky Of Honey' to turn to and relax. 'Aerial' is a wonderfully balanced album that is a delight to hear.
by Andrew Gilstrap
November 17, 2005
Twelve years is a long time between records, but we Kate Bush fans weren't going anywhere. Lying dormant like musical Manchurian Candidates, we awoke with a start at the news of a new Kate Bush single, and then an album -- a double album! -- and finally a release date. So what if 1993's The Red Shoes had been a bit disappointing? Her track record is otherwise stellar, and it's been far too long since we've heard from the lady who, since 1978, has shown such an uncanny talent for balancing artistic daring and pop craft.
Aerial is worth the wait, but not for the reasons many might expect. It doesn't find Kate Bush launching off for wild, uncharted waters (no strife laid bare like The Dreaming's "Get Out of My House" here), nor does it find Bush repeating herself. It's undeniably a Kate Bush record -- there's no mistaking that voice, after all, or that totally unselfconscious dedication to her art -- but one that takes leisurely steps forward, as if Bush were merely strolling along the stepping stones of some secluded garden. Some listeners may even be disappointed by its unassuming nature. Aerial is, after all is said and done, a quiet, content, and comfortable record, reflecting Bush's years away from the spotlight during which she had a child and, according to her recent interviews, reveled in the mundane pleasures of everyday life.
It's no surprise, then, that one of Aerial's strongest tracks is "Mrs. Bartolozzi", which finds a widow, her husband's clothes tumbling in her new washing machine, lost in visions both erotic ("I watched them going 'round and 'round / My blouse wrapping itself around your trousers / Oh the waves are going out / My skirt floating up around my waist") and poignant ("I think I see you standing outside / But it's just your shirt / Hanging on the washing line / Waving its arm as the wind blows by / And it looks so alive"). Similarly, "Pi" is about a "sweet and gentle and sensitive man / With an obsessive nature and deep fascination / For numbers / And a complete infatuation with the calculation / Of Pi". But Bush goes past this simple character study to underscore the mysteries of mathematics simply by reciting the numbers of Pi between slight variations of the chorus. You wouldn't think that would be very exciting, but by the time Bush is through stretching out some numbers and varying her rhythm and tempo with others, you're half convinced that Pi is really some sort of sensual spell, that to find the end of it is to unlock some vital secret of the universe.
Reading even more like a spell ("Take a pinch of keyhole / And fold yourself up") is "How to be Invisible", which rides a propulsive rhythm that's underscored by ghostly background vocals. And although it's a relatively minor track, it exemplifies the level of nuance that Bush brings to Aerial. There aren't any songs that strike you as instant masterpieces like "Hounds of Love", "This Woman's Work", or "Wuthering Heights", but nearly every song is solid. Even Bush's ode to her son, "Bertie", fares better than it should (has there ever been a more perilous listening experience than songs to artists' own children?) due to a Renaissance-influenced arrangement and Bush's trilling vocal approach.
Disc 2, titled "A Sky of Honey", is a conceptual suite tied together with birdsong, images of creation, and a narrative path that traces the hours between afternoon and the following morning. "Prologue", "The Architect's Dream", and "The Painter's Link" flow together with painting imagery as they capture the day descending into sunset. Sunset lingers, though, even after the sun is gone, as songs like "Sunset", "Aerial Tal" (which finds Bush impersonating birds with her own voice), and "Somewhere in Between" explore the fine gradations in mood and light that any evening can hold. Each of the songs found in "A Sky of Honey" easily stands as its own piece, but the disc is especially rewarding when heard from start to finish. As the disc progresses, its celebratory tone only grows, so that by the time "Nocturn" and "Aerial" close out the disc, as the dreamers are awakening and standing on the roofs, you can practically feel dawn's rejuvenating powers.
Aerial is an exceedingly warm record, with a cozy, sun-bathed Sunday morning quality. Continuing with the lush style that she so quickly perfected on albums like Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, Bush shows that the twelve years she's been away haven't been filled with crises of identity, loss of the muse, or the lure of musical fads. Instead, Aerial shows that Kate Bush has been doing the same thing as the rest of us: just going about life, building on personal lessons a little bit each day. Even if Aerial doesn't set the world on fire, it's good to hear Kate Bush again, and to hear a record that sounds so organic and grounded.
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds