red lights


Casting spells

Kate Bush - Aerial
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 26, 2006
Kate Bush

Review by Andy Argyrakis

If it wasn't for Kate Bush, chances are female goddesses like Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and even Sarah McLachlan wouldn't have found such solid career footing. After all the enigmatic British singer/songwriter was around long before them, paving the way for ethereal acts with liberating lyrics that always pushed the envelope to additional artistic degrees with each effort. Though she's always been acclaimed in the critical and musical communities, her two main radio remembrances in America are the chestnuts "Running Up That Hill" and the Peter Gabriel partnership "Don't Give Up." And speaking of that duet partner, Bush shares one common characteristic with the art rock hero, and that's the drastic length of time in between studio albums. Just like the unbearable decade in between the former Genesis leader's Us and Up projects, this angelic chanteuse let a whole dozen years go by between The Red Shoes and November's release of Aerial. But the outpouring is not only worth the wait for the most part, but diehards will be delighted by the fact that it's a double disc outing.

Though both are captivating for various reasons, the first installment A Sea of Honey is the most accessible of the two, moving between gentle piano ballads, atmospheric reflections and even some spoken word. It leads with "King of the Mountain," a tune that's already found some favor on radio, once again spearheaded by Bush's radiant pipes and brilliant abilities to weave metaphoric imagery with beautiful examples of reality. "Mrs. Bartolozzi" shows off the singer's quivering range even more emotively as her rolling through a series of tranquil piano chords reaches almost supernatural heights. She continues casting spells throughout "How To Be Invisible" before rounding out that portion of the record with impressionistic influence of "A Coral Room."

Take two is called A Sky of Honey, which adapts what Bush calls a "semi-classical style" throughout a conceptual, nine-track journey. After the gentle, mostly instrumental minute and a half "Prelude," the "Prologue" sets up an abstract stream of visions, which trace a typical day from afternoon to nighttime to the following morning's sunrise. Though cuts like "An Architect's Dream" and "Sunset" are fleshed out with some acoustic instrumentation and even a period of thick percussion on the latter, it's by far the slower, somewhat sleepier segments on the package. Although it could serve as a cool down to a raging Saturday night or even a soundtrack to a quiet Sunday morning, A Sky of Honey is likely to be embraced much more by the loyal than the mainstream. But no matter what the audience, it's just a blessing to have Bush back in action and hopefully another prolific period will follow. While it remains highly unlikely she'll tour (especially given her general disinterest in the road and relatively recent jaunt into motherhood) this material burns bright and signals one of the most welcome returns of this century so far.

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