Kate Bush - one of the most eclectic singer-musicians of the past century, with an oeuvre of work that includes some of the best loved, biggest hits, and most critically praised music. One of England's most successful solo female performers having sold over 20 million records, Kate Bush stands as an iconic musician. After having given us the haunting "Wuthering Heights" (The Kick Inside) and Hounds of Love, "the 3rd greatest album of all time by a female artist" by Q Magazine - Kate took a long eleven years break, like an eccentric recluse away from the public and media gaze. It later transpired she wanted to raise her son as normally as she could, away from the media madness. Kudos to her to pull it off despite the vicious British tabloids.
November 2005 was a momentous month; as Bush released her eighth studio album, Aerial. The cover is a beautiful bird-song waveform dipped in a splash of honey-colored radiance. Aerial - a rumination on bird song, sunsets, deaths and new life is a modern masterpiece.
The first single off the album is the shiver-inducing "King of the Mountain". The song makes allusions to Elvis Presley and Citizen Kane, and has Bush singing in the same style Presley was famous for. Kate Bush deconstructs the Elvis phenomenon; a multimillionaire and his home "filled with priceless junk", women claiming bearing his baby, stories of him being alive long after his death - the entire industry of Elvis Presley. Presley, like Kane, ultimately finds happiness after death. He becomes King of the Mountain. "Elvis are you out there somewhere/ Looking like a happy man?/ In the snow with Rosebud/ And king of the mountain". King of the Mountain is classic Bush - an exceptionally modulated voice that flows with the music, synth-pads and electro pulses.
"Bertie" is a wonderful almost-classical track sung by Bush, an ode to her son. Charming, and almost madly-devotional, Bush sings over harpsichord tunes, sometimes driven into raptures of delight with the music. Another song that reminds us why Kate Bush is Kate Bush. Her music and singing possesses a mad joy, she lacks the affectation that can plague many singers, and sings with an almost childlike sincerity; reveling in her beautiful music.
Grand and evocative is "Joanni" - Bush's paean to Joan of Arc. Bush transcends the typical descriptions of Joan of Arc- the heroism, the sainthood - and carefully remodels her as a beautiful woman in the battle. "Joanni, Joanni wears a golden cross/ And she looks so beautiful in her armour". In the madness of war, one can almost imagine the serene facade of Joan of Arc floating among everyone; winning the wars with her faith and strength of purpose.
Undoubtedly the best song in Aerial, is the haunting and cathartic "A Coral Room". An elegy to her dead mother, and old times; the song sees Bush at her most fragile, singing over a spare piano lending music in an empty room.
In the first paragraph, Bush evokes the memory of an old town, now submerged under water; with its houses now draped in net and its rooms filled with corals. A town which was once filled with life, with hundreds of people. But now people float above the water in boats, unaware of the world beneath them.
The next para has Kate evoking the memory of her dead mother. Only songwriters like Bush can recreate so beautifully and with such simplicity, the memories of a mother. "I hear her laughing/ She is standing in the kitchen/ As we come in the back door". The last paragraph links the dead lost town with memories of her mother, both lost to time. Easily one of the most beautiful songs ever written, by anyone.
Disc 1 also includes "Mrs. Bartolozzi" - ruminations on being a housewife and household chores, "Pi" - a song dominated by guitars and electrical pulses about Pi, yes, the number, sung to the 137th place by Ms. Bush. Inexplicable? Yes. Bush? Yes.
Disc 2 of Aerial is more thematic and abstract, with lesser vocals and a greater focus on music. Gorgeous birdsong holds rhythm in "Aerial Tal" and "Prelude". Bush finds resonance with nature, and its simplicity in Disc 2, her music at times melting into the melodies of nature.
One of the highlights of this part is the spectacular "Sunset" - a song that evokes the most beautiful imagery of sunsets. "Every sleepy light/ Must say goodbye/ To the day before it dies." Evoking memories of beautiful honey-colored sunsets and blackbirds spouting melodies that melt into the summer sky; The song starts a slow start, and matures into a thumping playground of Spanish guitars and melodies. "The day writes the words right across the sky/ They go all the way up to the top of the night". A mirror image to "Sunset" is the cool and placid "Nocturn".
Rarely have I come across an artist who can create such powerful worlds with her song-writing, and bring it to vivid life with her music and singing - song after song. It takes beautiful imagination to recreate so beautifully in song the changing light of the sunset, the elemental music of birdsong, or the joys of motherhood. Kate Bush does it again and again in Aerial. A beautiful work by a beautiful artist - tender, innocent, unrestrained and joyous.