What kind of language is this?
It's probably time I weighed in with my thoughts on Aerial
, though 'weigh' seems like an inappropriate word in the context of this incredibly fleet album. The source of this overwhelming sensation of lightness is not easily located; it pervades the entire record, from its elemental title, to the gusting harmonies that close 'King of the Mountain', to the swift twittering birds that bring the album to an end.
Bush's voice has obviously aged, without obtaining the richness that occasionally finds its way into vocals as the decades accumulate. This is not a weakness though on an album written quite deliberately from the perspective of an older woman - a family woman, concerned both with the everyday banalities of new children and laundry, but also a sinister understanding, evoked so painfully in Church of Me
One of the album's most remarkable achievements is to balance joy and grief - the matching pair of 'Bertie' and 'A Coral Room' spring most obviously to mind - the former a Viol-led hymn to a loved child, the latter a piano led lament for a departed mother. The occasional harshness at the back of her throat serves only to remind us of the years that have passed since her debut, and of the various moments, tragic and happy, to which we have not been privy. The once smooth surface of her voice unexpectedly catches on a splinter or rough patch, and is all the more expressive for it.
'King of the Mountain' with it's title taken from folklore, demands double vision: seeing both the winter-swept halls of the Erl-King of northern legend, but also the fan-swept home/tomb of the other King, Elvis. The video of a spritely Kate Bush, leaning forward as if against the blowing wind, unravelling the loneliness and hubris of the various Kings - Presely, Kane, the Myth - she appears puckish in the midst of the minor-key, minor-orchestrated music, smiling with the knowledge that only something higher than a King can comment on the life and loss of royalty. It's certainly one of the most arresting and unusual singles I've heard for years, and retains that shocking lack of recognition still with each listen.
In contrast to the domestic modulation of the first disc, even after several listens I find 'A Sky of Honey' difficult to pick apart (something it seems from interviews, Bush was hoping to achieve). There's no separation of tone, just a gradual wash of colour and mood that's as slow and implacable as the movement of shadow on the ground. K-Punk
's expression of the painterly composition of the second disc is spot on; the songs develop in increments both internally, and as part of the nine-part cycle. The moments between songs mingle and become inseparable, as pigments curl around each other in water to create fresh unseen hues, until finally, on 'Nocturn', with the steady bass and tinkling treble of guitars calling to mind the kind of summer storm that first mixes everything together, and then washes everything clean, we're asked to "look at the light". There's no colour, just light, a sudden end to the song; lightning hitting the ground with such force that sound is left flagging behind.
I don't think anyone could have expected Kate Bush to return with an album as revelatory as this, too many other talents have returned to the fold after much less extensive sabbaticals to dispiriting effect. Instead of losing her way and following blind alleys of 'relevance' or retreading past glories, the compounded experiences of those twelve years are vivid in the songs; unafraid and unstinting in facing down loss, unashamed in celebrating life new and matured. Few albums are as enveloping as this, or as nervelessly open. Look at the light, all the time it's a changing
Look at the light, climbing up the aerial
Bright, white coming alive jumping off the aerial
All the time it's a changing, like now…
All the time it's a changing, like then again…
All the time it's a changing
And all the dreamers are waking.