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International Online Music
by Colin Lynch
November 8, 2005
When I heard Kate Bush was releasing her new album 'Aerial' in November, her first since The Red Shoes was released twelve years ago, I was excited, delighted, and relieved that the empty void that had filled a huge part of me for twelve years was about to be filled with an abundance of what I expected to be everything I love and admire about Kate Bush! Then, on 7th November, the 14 track double CD arrived and I knew then that everything else would have to be put aside, shelved, put on hold, until every note had been absorbed.. I had waited twelve years for this.. but I still had no real idea at that point that from the moment I would press the play button, I was going to heaven for a while.. at least until the last track faded out and ended those years of anticipation.. years of wonder!
Aerial is packaged as a lovely and inventive gatefold with the photography of John Carder Bush and Randy Olson, a painting by James Southall (Fisherman), a portrait of Kate by Trevor Leighton, and some additional drawings by Bertie Bush (Kate's son). I mention the design and packaging because, it's a long time since I have been this drawn-in by CD artwork, in fact, it takes me back to the days when album covers really really mattered and this CD art matters! The two CDs, Disc one (Sea of Honey) and Disc Two (Sky of Honey) are an intrinsic part of the John Carder Bush washing line photography.. it's inspired art folks and I love it!
So... on to the music. Now what would she sound like these days? She's the same age as me, give or take a month, she's from England, she is an Ivor Novello awarded consummate artist of the first division.. an inspirer of Tori Amos, Bjork, and just about every other female artist/singer with similar interests and influences and inspirations. The first few tracks would, surely, be something to behold... and oh deary deary me are they something to behold indeed!
Disc One - Sea of Honey
King of the Mountain is the UK single released a few weeks ago which is currently sitting at the Number 4 position, and which was written and composed with Elvis in mind but in a way that looks at the late great performer with hints of curiosity, warmth, and remembrance. It's a unique vision transformed by Kate in her own inimitable style. The result is more like a painting on new canvas and employing a variety of media. The musical acrylics are keyboard dominated, the vocals are like the purest of watercolours, and the arrangement is a delicate and vibrant blend of oils. One of the things that Kate knows very well is how to use percussion and vocal harmonies to amazing effect.. always with the originality that flows throughout everything she produces and which so many other artists find so inspiring.
Pi is one of the most interesting of Kate's compositions to date. Who else could get away with singing about numbers related to Pythagoras in a way which is at once captivating and quite awe inspiring. The opening keyboard elements remind me of Supertramp and 10cc in some places and the percussion that follows against some fine acoustic guitar work is absolutely outstanding. Kate's vocal articulation in emphasizing the numbers that make up 'Pi' is excellent and intriguing... what a fine and delightfully innovative production job all round.
Bertie is of course the name of Kate's son who is also the subject of this wonderfully warm mother to son song that Kate has managed to produce quite masterfully in her obvious intent to share the joy of motherhood with the rest of us. The string arrangement courtesy of Michael Kamen is outstanding but what's more amazing is the sheer delight that Kate expresses in her voice and in her lyrics. It's a bit like she's captured what made some of the songs in films like 'Mary Poppins' so magical. This is a very magical song on all kinds of levels.. musically, thematically, and in the way it takes the listener from wherever they are all the way into an English Counties living room shared by mother and son.. Kate and Bertie Bush.
Mrs. Bartolozzi is a beautifully rendered and performed solo piano and vocal song that reminds us that Kate is still very much 'needed for the symphony' she sung about back on her second album 'Lionheart' from 1978. The lyrics look somewhat abstractly at a washing machine and the clothes being washed that relate to their owners in ways that I don't think have ever been explored in anything like this way before. It's very poetic... very artistic and very Kate at her best.
How to be Invisible is a fantastic piece of work for it's originality, arrangement, and production. At once bright and dynamic in it's mid tempo flirtings and meanderings, the song features so many innovations in it's musical direction that each of the musicians perform exceptionally with emphasis in their particular corner of the canvas and you realize very early on that what you have here is an epitaph of brilliance and flawless artistic integrity. Well done Kate... it's just brilliant!
Joanni views Joan of Arc in a similar way to the way in which Elvis was viewed in King of the Mountain. Again, my observation is that the warmth, remembrance, and hints of curiosity are just as abundant here. The music is absolutely first class and I particularly love the percussion and sweeping pads that create the landscape for this particular portrait. What's especially striking is the way Kate uses her voice here.. the effect is amazing and I wanna go out and buy a complete surround sound job to swim and enjoy the sensual audio surroundings in. A Coral Room meanwhile, is six minutes of sensual delight. Reminiscent of the piano work on 'This Woman's Work' from the Sensual World album, and of the lyrical style set in 'Moments of Pleasure' from the Red Shoes album, this incredible song firmly establishes Kate Bush as a very worthy contender for any Ivor Novello award the commitee cares to bestow. I can imagine a spellbound audience should this fine song ever make it to the stage.. spellbound and enchanted.
Disc Two - Sky of Honey
With leanings to the kind of work we were introduced to in 'The Ninth Wave' from Kate's Hounds of Love album, this second CD opens with Prelude - a soundscape complete with birdsong that I recognize as belonging to Blackbirds and wood pigeons especially. The child inserts of 'Mummy' 'Daddy' 'the day is full of birds' 'Sounds like they're saying words' are truly beautiful and uplifting but the piano following the bird song is particularly imaginative. Prologue follows with Kate's bright and colourful vocals covering her optimistic and enigmatic lyrics and it's all set against escalating piano phrases with warmth and passion.
An Architect's Dream appears with Rolf Harris sharing his inspirations in painting... the kind of thing I was exposed to when Rolf would do this kind of things for millions of children everywhere in his TV shows in the Sixties and Seventies in particular. Rolf Harris taught me to turn the paper to get a better grasp of angles... I learned but never really used it much because my love of music was much more dominant! It's a wonderful song this... wonderful musically and quite captivating lyrics bind your attention all the way to the last second in the performance. Kate Bush has a habit of making this artistic phenomenon possible and she's made it possible for us all to be enveloped in here. Painter's Link returns with whisps of birdsong and Rolf's gripping vocal before Kate's harmonic vocal orchestra reaches right into your heart and sense of well being. They should keep this kind of magic on prescription at Health Services the world over! Sunset emerges with some superb upright bass playing that's comforted and accompanied by Kate's piano and vocals. Sunset is one of the most beautifully written and produced songs I have ever heard in my life... jazzy... smooth jazzy... colourful and amazingly vivid across the Sky of Honey landscape.
Somewhere in Between has some of the most striking string and vocal arrangements that are somewhat reminiscent of what we saw in 'The Sensual World' album but in a much more richly produced fashion and which so much more virtuosity and brilliance. Little bits of reflections of Bjork come to mind now and then and the sheer magnitude of the joy of life seems to effortlessly pour out of every featured musician and instrument. A superb achievement on any scale between nine and ten! Watch out for the "Goodnight Sun' bits followed by Bertie's 'Goodnight Mum'... a little blessing in there!
Nocturn highlights Kate's vocal presence and maturity wonderfully. I particularly love how the bass and percussion blend perfectly below the sweeping strings and the how they emphasize the engaging lyrics. It's a very very nice track with Gary Brooker's Hammond Organ work making perfect use of the entry points in all the right places. I love Gary!
Aerial is an eight minute long excursion across the ultimate realms of audio and sensual wonder for every beat and every note made visible and tangible in Kate's hands. It's the perfect conclusion to this magnificent album with some fine collaborations between human and bird song and laughter... I mean... what a girl!!! Keeps us waiting all these years and proves to be just as executive in her command of her art as ever... as ever the consummate artist Kate Bush always has been and it shows much more than we could ever anticipated in this incredible piece of work called Aerial.
Dear Kate... thank you so much.
November 19, 2005
(9 stars out of 10)
Aerial is a work of immense power, passion and content. All of
which are missing from so much of our contemporary music. The importance of Kate
Bush's return can only be measured in this her first album for twelve years. It
is a collection of carefully and thoughtfully created music but with a natural
flow that exudes beauty, warmth and unpretentious brilliance.
At times we swim in Debussy-esque piano, at times repetitive Nyman, at times madrigal, with viol and tabor. To really experience the journey of this album and in part Bush's life is to listen to the double album in its entirety. And in one go. You'll be thankful, believe you me!
It's not schoolboy fantasy or memories of the beautiful and exotic Kate Bush in some contemporary dance pose on Top of The Pops but a need, a desire for good music. Her voice is and always will be one of the voices that are so distinct that even someone with a little more than a slight interest in music would recognize.
Aerial does not pretend to be anything more or indeed less than music itself. There is no pretension in trying to be in a certain style or to keep up with trends. This just happens to be what Kate Bush does.
Melody and harmony come naturally. You are never far away from swirling yet gentle strings, dulcimers and interesting percussion. The arrangements evoke so much and to top it all Kate Bush' voice is sublime. The range she possesses seems to have been pushed to newer and grander depths. We all know of her high notes and ability to play with intervals in an acrobatic way. There is less of that and more depth more tonal beauty. Lyrically the songs paint pictures and they are pictures that are being painted in a parallel world with the music. It is a perfect match that entwines seamlessly. Family life, numbers, cities, the country, adventure, sorrow... each songs paints a picture through both music and words.
We are treated to two CDs - "A Sea of Honey" and "A Sky of Honey". Yet it's never enough.
What you notice in particular is the superb vocal arrangements and performance. But it doesn't just stop with performance. It is the vocal positioning in the mix. The reverbs used. Where it sits in the track, the depth, the closeness. Bush has discovered the best of her voice and the best in her production techniques.
The piano playing is beautiful. Touch and feel is gentle but powerful when needed. It is a breath of fresh air.
The recent single " King of the Mountain" was a polite introduction to the new work. Not sure if the guitar is meant to be slightly out of tune. Perhaps it's art. Not that it really matters. It's a dreamy, repetitive and wholly memorable. "Pi" is beautiful in its obscurity. Vocals utilizing the numbers of P1! This is where you start to hear the great vocal positioning and simple harmonic structures that are scattered carefully throughout the album. "Bertie" is a madrigal with troubadours and jesters jostling for attention. A gem.
"Mrs. Bartolozzi" speaks of cleaning! It's the vision of Ms Bush as Mrs. Mop. Only she could get away with singing about a mundane experience and make it sound exotic. The lyrics "Washing machine, washing machine...". She sings of watching the washing go round and round and then talks of waves coming in, fish swimming between her legs, her blouse wrapping around his trousers. It's highly charged, suggestive and it's about washing! But as a bizarre juxtaposition there are parts with sublime vocals that sound as if they could have come from a Gilbert and Sullivan musical.
"How To Be Invisible" is a perfect slice of songwriting, performed with no electronica in sight - guitars, bass, drums, bit of Rhodes piano and some great controlled vocals. Lyrically strong and oh... there's a bit of whistling!
The first CD "A Sea of Honey" finishes with the magical "Coral Room". What I like about Bush's writing and her approach with this record is its accessibility and timelessness. Whether preconceived or not it doesn't really matter. A wide audience will flock to this should they get the chance to hear it. Simplicity, stillness and above all beauty.
The second CD starts with the piano laden 'Prelude', gentle, caressing and pure. A child's spoken voice, birds chirping. We are in the Garden of Eden. The birds sing with the piano in unison. 'Prologue' with its pulsating guitars creates a gentle menace as spacious chords allow Bush's voice to paint the picture. Impressionistic piano lilts - there is a feeling of apprehension, of controlled restrain. The root note drone holds the piece down. Never allowing it to get away. Vocal harmonies appear and vanish. Kate sings of a "Kind of Magic". This is it. Fretless bass builds below as seagulls come and go. Almost 5 minutes in and drums enter, more harmonies, swirling strings. It doesn't get much better than this.
'An Architect's Dream' starts with Rolf Harris talking. Yes I know strange but wonderful. Gentle percussion and dulcimer, fretless bass, strings and voice drift beautifully along. Bush's voice is at its best. "The Painters Link" takes us into "Sunset". She plays with clever timing of the melody and her voice sounds so damn good. There really is excellent control and dynamics at all times. Great bass playing, piano and kit give the track an almost jazz quartet feel. Toward the end it erupts into a flamenco meets “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius”!
“Somewhere in Between” and “Nocturn” are in themselves epic works. In the latter of the two tracks Gary Brooker’s Hammond organ is superb. The harmonies are wide and deep. Great acoustic guitar, slowly building strings. Bush’s vocals build; the harmonies become bigger and more dynamic. You feel that although the journey has not finished. Where could it go after this?
As the final track prepares to bring the journey for Kate Bush and the long wait for her fans to a close the title track kicks in and continues unabated for another 7 odd minutes. The track builds in intensity. Floyd-esque guitar. Always strong thematically, lyrically and vocally.
At the end it leaves you breathless. I felt I needed either more of Kate Bush or a rest. Actually I opted for then listening to Kraftwerk live – at some volume level I must add! A bit of a roller coaster of a nights listening.
Even If you are not a great fan of Kate Bush this is an important album and one of the best for many years. There is a maturity and a sense of overwhelming beauty but at the same time an innocence and fragility.
review from web retailer of dubious legality
Kate Bush returns after a twelve-year absence with
Kate Bush returns after a twelve-year absence with Aerial. It's often said that a musician's debut represents the culmination of a lifetime's worth of experiences, but their sophomore effort is usually derived from just the intervening year. By waiting 12 years between The Red Shoes and her new album Kate Bush has tried to regain that lifetime. It's a remarkably coherent recording, reflecting the unique world of sound and spirit Bush has inhabited since her debut. The album runs only a hair over eighty minutes long, but is split more conceptually – it comes in two parts, A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey. The former is 7 songs, a paean to domestic bliss, to chores and children and Citizen Kane and Joan of Arc and Elvis. The latter is 9 songs and is a reflection on the passage of a day. Previous Bush’s albums have been filled with songs in which the extraordinary happened. Aerial, however, is packed with songs that make commonplace events sound extraordinary. It fits right in with her classic sound: rich, lush soundscapes enriched by Ms. Bush’s distinctive voice. The album was produced by Kate with engineering and mixing by longtime collaborator Del Palmer.
A Sea Of Honey and A Sky Of Honey
Certainly the material on the first part covers a lot of ground – Bush seems to pretty much pick up where she left off, although her arrangements show a downright stunning depth as instruments swirl in and out of the mix. Opener and leadoff single King of the Mountain is a good example both of this and of the best sort of Kate Bush pop song – it opens with electronic percussion and synths and eventually live drums joining to create a mid-tempo loping beat until the second verse where an electric guitar shows up and take the focus. The remainder of the disc proves amazingly diverse, treading through a resonator (steel) guitar-driven ballad about her son (the achingly sentimental Bertie), a driven, passionate piano piece about a house cleaner (Mrs. Bartolozzi), a funky pop song (How to Be Invisible) and a lovely, subdued piano ballad (A Coral Room), among others. That it maintains a high level of quality throughout is a testament to its creator. The second half of the album is definitely feels like a suite – the music is all very relaxed, with rolling piano lines, lush strings, and hand drums playing in and out. The piece is constructed with several songs and some briefer tracks that establish continuity of the pieces, and while musically it's less diverse than the first half, there are no fewer powerful moments from the delicate chords on the opening Prelude to the utterly superb Sunset, which opens as a jazz-tinged ballad before moving into a frantic Spanish guitar section complete with castanets to the simply fantastic Somewhere in Between.
A deeply personal album and a return from one of pop music's icons and vocal wonders
Kate 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. 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. Embracing Kate’s relatively new motherhood, as well as the death of her mother, Aerial is a deeply personal album, and a welcome return from one of pop music's true icons and vocal wonders. Slow cooked and eagerly anticipated Aerial, a song-cycle about bliss mundane and ecstatic, familial and artistic, is a refuge for Kate’s fans. Her new music is mature and invigorating. Aerial is a magical, nostalgic musical ride that pushes the boundaries of songwriting and arrangement in the most rewarding fashion. Hopefully Kate is returning to the game, and we will hear more from her again.
by Peter Bochan
November 7th, 2005
(4 stars out of 5)
Opening up the mail and finding a new release from Kate Bush was like getting a letter from an old friend, a letter that was lost in the mail and delivered 12 years later. It was well worth the wait. The double-disc collection is one of the years best and from the opening notes of "King of the Mountain", her ode to Elvis and Rosebud, which opens " A Sea of Honey" (disc one) to the last bird chirps on "A Sky of Honey" (disc two) you'll be thoroughly enchanted by "Aerial" and Kate Bush. The cover features what looks like my SADiE digital work station's visual soundwave screen, ready for an edit or adjustment---only, don't touch that mouse, just sit back and let these waves rush right over you.
A timeless flight, a welcome return.
What's going on in that "washing machine"?
If We Could Talk to the Animals...
The Bottom Line
A sonic double-dose of "honey" to help you through life's day to day....whatever. "Aerial" brings tales of simple daily chores and life's interactions to such ethereal levels that you'll wonder why you've forgotten the excitement a trip to the laundry can be. This is what Kate does best and it totally wins you over. A timeless record from a truly unique voice and individual, well worth the wait and containing countless more "moments of pleasure"!
(longer "Guide" review)
Kate Bush has returned after a twelve-year hiatus with another timeless classic, a marvelous new double-disc collection called "Aerial" that recalls much of her best work. Even though this is her first release since 1993's "The Red Shoes", while listening to the first disc, "A Sea Of Honey", my mind drifted back even further to "The Sensual World" and Kate's earlier songs of "This Woman's Work". The textures and descriptions of that same woman's work are at the heart of the tracks "Bertie" and "Mrs. Bartolozzi". "Bertie" is a joyful song, that features some traditional, early English sounding instrumentation, and some "lovely, sweet, sweet kisses" from a mother to her son. Beginning with a literal view of dealing with her "muddy" laundry, "Mrs. Bartolozzi" moves from describing the clothes themselves to a very sensual vision of what goes on there in her "washing machine". Taking these tales of simple daily chores and interactions to such ethereal levels is what Kate does best and it totally wins you over. The rest of "Sea of Honey" include songs about Elvis, lessons on "How To Be Invisible", and obsessions with numbers---and is followed by disc two's "A Sky of Honey" which has the more "Aerial" view, a conceptual piece that has Kate conversing with various birds as only she could as we move through a single day. All in all it's an enchanting record that was well worth the wait.
by China Bialos
December 8, 2005
(3.5 stars out of 5)
The best part about Kate Bush is that she knows how make her
naturally feminine voice work for her. A mother for the past seven years of her
twelve-year recording hiatus, the forty-seven-year-old Bush’s Aerial — her first
and long-awaited album since 1993’s The Red Shoes — incorporates a bit more of
her personal life than previous records but retains the strong soprano voice and
dramatic delivery that made her famous. More literal with lyrics and
straightforward in the ballads, Aerial may be a bit less imaginative than some
of her earlier work, which separated her from her peers twenty years ago, but it
confirms Bush’s success and longevity.
First signed to EMI at 16, the Kent, England-born singer has collected a number of honors and a few number one records over her extensive career. But it wasn’t until 1985’s home-recorded Hounds of Love that she finally made it onto the U.S. Billboard charts, where she remained through the release of 1993’s The Red Shoes (the mediocre album that was predicted to be her last). Her catalogue ranges from heavy David Bowie influences to tunes suitable for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But her best and most accessible album (particularly now, with the Futureheads recently covering the title track) is 1985’s Hounds of Love. And twenty years later, her comeback release is similar to that record in that it is a double-disc album divided by a diverse group of pop songs and a less accessible concept half.
A Sea of Honey, the modern counterpart to Hounds of Love’s A-side, offers a mixed range of songs. First single “King of the Mountain” finds Bush approaching and questioning Elvis Presley. Subject matter aside, what makes it sound outdated is, ironically, the use of a full band instead of the keyboard that made previous albums so distinctly her. Alternately, the song on this disc that skeptics should find the corniest — an ode to her son, “Bertie” — is beautiful for its simplicity and is as close to “Cloudbusting” as can be. Concluding A Sea of Honey is “A Coral Room,” a simple piano ballad about the death of Bush’s mother that was almost too personal for her to include on the record. After an erratic beginning, the first disc finishes on an assuring note that says, Yes, this is, in fact, a fantastic record.
The second disc, A Sky of Honey, updates The Ninth Wave (Hounds of Love’s second half), though it does not include tracks as haunting or Labryinth-ready as “Under Ice” or “Waking the Witch.” What it does offer, however, is a mini concept album that follows the narrator from day to night and through to the next morning. We’re given the accidental transformation of a painter’s creation, bird calls (by Bush herself) and, most important, the acknowledgement of day and night being referred to as the dichotomy between a “sea of honey” and a “sky of honey.”
By the time the record is over, we get the feeling that Bush has indeed matured and has a bit more of a new-age quality than she did as a combination of “literate goth” and “dramatic actress type” years ago. Even without the quirky, theatrical pop she offered in the 1980s, she has held up beautifully after her long hiatus from recording, creating a record that is very much her own. That’s more than can be asked of most whose careers have spanned three decades. If only she’d go on a second tour.
"The pull and the push of it all..." - Kate Bush
Marvick - Hill
Willker - Mapes
Grepel - Love-Hounds