So far so very, very good – Aerial is raking up a crop of very enthusiastic reviews. The Independent in the UK have reviewed Aerial in the 21st October edition, under the headline “Finally, something for the grown-ups“…”Early next month, Kate Bush releases Aerial, her first new album since The Red Shoes back in November 1993. Even by the relaxed schedules adopted by pop’s more established artists, this is an extraordinary career hiatus – not quite the 20 years separating Steely Dan’s Gaucho and Two Against Nature, perhaps, but well on the way there. Entire pop scenes and musical movements have budded, bloomed and withered in the interim…the more pertinent concern is whether her music remains relevant in a music landscape that has seen Britpop come and go, grunge atrophy into skate-metal, hip-hop conquer the known world, and talent-contest TV reduce chart pop to a production-line of vacuity. Changes flash by ever more rapidly in the modern, computer-assisted music world, and in decoupling from its dizzy progress for a dozen years, Kate Bush runs a serious risk of getting flattened like a hedgehog crossing a motorway upon her return. Extraordinarily, she manages to traverse both carriageways with only superficial damage to a few spines: indeed, such is the idiosyncratic nature of her work that she could probably disappear for a half-century and still sustain her own unique position in the pop firmament. But then, who else would write about an obsessive-compulsive housewife or attempt a vocal duet with trilling birds, or, in the most courageous of the album’s many unusual strategies, sing huge strings of numbers, a gambit that brings new meaning to the old critic’s chestnut about being happy to listen to someone singing the telephone directory? The only track so far available from the album, the single “King Of The Mountain”, employs references to Elvis and Citizen Kane to illustrate her musings upon fame and wealth and isolation. “Why,” she wonders, “does a multi-millionaire fill up his home with priceless junk?” The rest of the album – particularly the extended song-cycle that occupies the entire second disc – seems like her own suggestion as to how to use that lofty position more profitably, in a spiritual and aesthetic manner. A reggae lilt underscored with misty synthesiser textures, ” King Of The Mountain” has the gently insistent quality that proved so effective on several of her previous singles. The picture adorning the single’s sleeve is by Bush’s young son, ” lovely, lovely Bertie”, whose presence toddles joyously through much of the new album, clearly illuminating her world. Many years ago, back near the start of her career, she regarded the domestic demands of motherhood as a dubious prospect, claiming her work was her love, and how could she do that and bring up a child at the same time? The answer, presumably, was not to work for a dozen years. Ironically, childhood – and particularly the struggle not to relinquish it – has always been one of the driving concerns of Bush’s work…it’s certainly still a factor on Aerial , both in the track “Bertie” itself and in the memories and reminiscences that cobweb some other songs. But compared to the darker corners of the mind sometimes mined in earlier songs, the new album seems a much sunnier affair: an enduring image I took away from it – not necessarily a lyric, though it might have been – was of windows flung wide open, their curtains billowing out in the breeze, a room’s long-dormant dust stirred into life again…at around an hour and a half, Aerial is unquestionably a substantial piece of work, and its manifold peculiarities and quirks offer much more interesting fare than that available from today’s AOR mainstream. It’s also a more mature undertaking than any of her previous albums, an extended meditation on art and light, fame and family, creativity and the natural world. Indeed it seems, come to think of it, like an expansion of the theme of Laura Veirs’ gorgeous “Rapture”. And since that was the finest song of last year, I’d have to say that leaves Kate Bush still operating at the cutting-edge of intelligent adult pop, every bit as relevant now as at any point in her career. Just a little bit weirder, thank heavens.” Read the full review at the Independent online edition here.
The Irish music magazine Hot Press has long revered Kate, and the new issue published today has the front cover headline “Kate Bush: A Work Of Genius”. Tara Brady has given the album the top rating, 10 out of 10. She writes: “We may never know Kate Bush, but we may know this – she’s been very happy thank you very much. Both parts ofAerial – A Sea Of Honey (the collection she calls ‘Kate songs’) and A Sky Of Honey , a concept album inspired by birdsong and in part, Rolf Harris, are infused with joy. A Sea almost functions as a brand new retrospective, a classically watery wall of sound with gorgeous pop hooks. There are millions of impossibly beautiful things about it – the hippity hoppity reggae beats across the oceanic pop of ‘King Of The Mountain’, the pretty jangling guitars of ‘Pi’, the bongo sensuality of ‘Joanni’, the Latin noodles on ‘How To Be Invisible’, the familiar Hey Nonny Nonny Ophelia groove of ‘Bertie’, an achingly sweet ode to her son (“Here comes the sunshine/Here comes that son of mine/The Most truly fantastic smile I’ve ever seen”) which suddenly sweeps into a baroque masquerade ball. There’s an arch wit to match the playful rhythms. ‘Mrs Bartolozzi’ is a brilliant inverted mock epic with thundering theatricality about a washing machine spiralling out to the sea before returning to a chorus that runs ‘Swishy Swashy’. A Sky Of Honey , though rather daunting and potentially new age on paper, is equally delightful. Decadently and pleasingly fashioned from birdsong, giggling and electronics, there’s a nice circularity in Sky ‘s bassy echoes of Dark Side Of The Moon , bringing Kate right back to Dave Gilmour where it all began. It’s apt. It’s a neat reminder that this most girlish talent – a woman who sings of posies and kisses and crushes on Heathcliff – has always, beneath the whimsy, been skilled enough in musical architecture to fit snugly into record collections built around Kraftwerk and Can. If there’s more where Aerial comes from then we’ll wait and we’ll like it.” Portrait by Jon Berkley (www.holytrousers.com) for Hot Press.
Also in Ireland, in the online Sigla magazine, Sinéad Gleeson raves about the new album: “The single…is seen as a positive precursor of what’s to come on the album. Bush presents the story of Elvis the lost genius, through swooping, sweeping strings. A wood percussion sample (marimba? xylophone?) runs through adding a playful note and with one song down, it’s so far so good. Pi reminds us that we’re in Kate Bush land, where song titles about circles and numerical rambling are delivered via Bodhrán beats and keyboards stabs. By song three, you begin to notice something. The velvet pitch of her voice not only sounds as good as expected after a 12-year hiatus, it has a deeper, bewitching resonance. Production on some of the earlier albums tended to accentuate its shrill quality, not doing justice to Bush’s capability as a vocalist. Here, every nuance is teased out, arching along the spectrum of imagination. ‘Bertie’ oozes pride and spirituality. Mandolins swirl around the line “you bring me so much joy/and then you bring me more joy”, repeated like a maternal mantra. ‘Mrs. Bartolozzi’ is a real surprise; on the surface a simple domestic tale of washing machines – “splashy sploshy… get those cuffs and collar clean” – hints at something darker. Could anyone else sing about doing laundry and make it sound so beautiful? This is in part, due to a camerilla of contributors who she has worked with consistently over the years. The musical arrangements by long-time (and sadly late) Michael Kamen echo the multi-layered orchestration of The Sensual World. Most obvious on the single and ‘Joanni’ (about Joan of Arc), strings and drums build to the kind of epic mysterious highs we’ve come to expect. ‘A Coral Room’, a reflective piano piece recalls her mother and strikes the same poignant chimes as ‘This Woman’s Work’…In ‘Prelude’, vocals mimic wood pigeons and a child cackles happily, ‘Prologue’ boasts a cello echo bouncing off strings and grand piano. Much has been made of Rolf Harris’ appearance on the album – on ‘An Architect’s Dream’ and ‘The Painter’s Link’ – but this time he’s without his didgeridoo, offering subtle vocals instead. The latter is troubled by more overbearing bass but it segues in to the chameleon ‘Sunset’. All three contain the same recurring motifs, rhythms and sounds. Kate tells us “this is a song of colour”, apt imagery for her broad canvas of moods and sounds. The tempo quickens and out of nowhere Spanish guitars usher in a mariachi skiffle. It’s obvious CD 2 is a test site of sorts for Bush’s continuing interest in non-linear musical form and eclectic instruments. ‘Aerial Tal’ continues the birdsong and the most palpable electonic flashes surface briefly. Before it all gets too vague and unhinged, Kate delivers the best track on the entire album. ‘Somewhere In Between’ consolidates the overall epic rush of Aerial, but its off kilter drums, bass-heavy beats and dreamy incongruity make this the most original piece here…the title track ‘Aerial’, is sheer hysterical abandon. Violin loops fade in and out, tribal beats steer bird tweets and mandolin. By the end, you literally can’t help yourself stamping your feet…these are songs of the imagination that transport you to a place where you want to daydream compulsively.” Read the full review here.
Classic Rock magazine has a 7/10 rated review from Hugh Fielder: “The opening, reassuringly familiar-sounding King Of The Mountain is all about whistling winds, rising storms, and ‘the snow with Rosebud’. By track four she’s up to her waist in water with ‘little fishes swimming between my legs’. Only at the end of the record, when she gets into a fit of the giggles, do you suddenly realize you are listening to the sound of middle-aged laughter. There have been other changes, of course. Most notably, Kate has become a mum; and she definitely become the woman with the child in her eyes on Bertie – ‘More joy and such joy that you bring me,’ she trills above the medieval backing. Such domesticity has also inspired Mrs. Bartolozzi where, before her encounter with the aforementioned fishes, she is fascinated by a washing machine, watching as the clothes swirl around, her skirt entwined with his trousers…elsewhere she gets intrigued by numerology and circles on Pi, the chorus recites Pi’s never-ending value. But you’re never far from finding ‘clothes on the beach and footprints leading to the sea’… after only one listen it’s hard to grasp the threads. But her patient fans will be delighted that there is honey still for tea.”
The UK gay media have been ardent Kate supporters and in this month’s Attitude magazine (Madonna cover) Patrick Strudwick gives Aerial a 5 out of 5 rating, describing the album as “the ultimate in unbridled, unself-conscious masterpiece.” Strudwick gives Aerial a glowing review: “Bush followers, who have been gnawing at their flesh for 12 excruciating years in antsy anticipation of this eighth studio album, will weep with joy. In part from relief, that after all this time Ms Bush has delivered 84 exquisitely non-commercial minutes to rival her most celebrated Hounds of Love album. But also because the music itself is glistening with such euphoria as to render anti-depressants unnecessary. Seven years ago Kate gave birth to Bertie. If ever an album conveyed a mother viewing the world with the wide-eyed wonder of youth again, then Aerial does. Debut single King of the Mountain , the opening track on the first album (entitled A Sea of Honey ), is a red herring, though. The whistling winds and haunting musings about Elvis are like the darkest hour just before dawn. Daylight doesn’t break just yet, mind. First you have funky-bassed Pi , where Kate sings the mathematical calculation to 84 decimal places. (Would love to see Jessica Simpson attempt that). Next comes Bertie , a rinky-dink paean to her son, hailing directly from the 16th century, thanks to Renaissance guitars and a three-time jig. The mood saddens with Mrs. Bartolozzi . Remembering when her now late husband returned home so muddied that she had to clean all his clothes, she watches the washing machine spin round and mourns. “Slooshy, sloshy/Slooshy sloshy/Get that dirty shirty clean.” Though seemingly uninfluenced by pop music of the last 12 years, Kate’s production, particularly on How To Be Invisible , is cutting-edge. Other-worldly electro-glitches dance around her voice as she conjures a piss-take witches’ spell: “Eye of Braille/Hem of anorak/Stem of wallflower/Hair of doormat”. Fans of This Woman’s Work will swoon at A Coral Room where Kate’s incomparably beautiful voice – now even richer – soars over sumptuous piano chords as she laments her late mother. This is the English rose of old, emotions erupting, lava-like. Day breaks on the second disc, A Sky of Honey , which is homogenized by sprinklings of sampled and imitated birdsong as Kate guides us through a perfect summer’s day in the countryside. It’s impossibly poetic. Sunset opens with a running stream of a piano accompaniment, with pizzicato double bass, you’re then transported to Spain with a flamenco dance of the utmost gay abandon. The effect is so exhilarating it’ll have you stomping your feet and flapping the ruffles of an imaginary red dress. Or perhaps that’s just me. On Somewhere in Between you’re up a mountain drinking in the vista, as rhumba-esque rhythms infuse her marvelling at the dimming light. Night has fallen now with Nocturn seeing our storyteller head to the beach. “No one is here/We stand in the Atlantic/We become panoramic.” A thumping beat climaxes as the sun comes up. “Rising and rising in a sea of honey/A sky of honey”. Aerial , the finale, finds Kate wanting to “go up onto the roof”, as a bravura electric guitar solo crackles like an aerial conducting lightning. A crash sounds, leaving the birds tweeting and fading into the distance. Worth the wait? Every. Last. Second.” Gay Times also have a 2 page article about Kate’s return by Chelsea Kelsey and Richard Smith in the November issue. The Pink Paper continues to run the “Up Queer Street” cartoon strip which often references Kate such as in this recent one >here.