Kate Bush-50 Words For Snow

A new Kate Bush album signals a sense of elation in her loyal fanbase so this her second release of 2011-The Directors Cut has only been six months in existence even if its contents were considerably older- will likely send them into unequalled paroxysms of pleasure. This sense of hastened productivity is especially surprising considering Bush’s usual work rate. After her groundbreaking Hounds Of Love in 1985-a record that positioned her alongside Prince as the most influential, avant-garde and sonic daring artist during the artistic bankruptcy of the eighties- it was four years before she followed up this mighty opus with The Sensual World and then another four years again before delivering 1993’s The Red Shoes. A twelve year hiatus ensued with the silence being broken with the release of the adventurous and panoramic Aerial in 2005. Hardly prolific then but Bush has always successfully managed her career on her own singular terms.

The release of two albums this year is deceptive as The Directors Cut was really a re-examination and re-fashioning of Aerial’s two predecessors with the songs stripped back and given space to breathe in contrast to the over-cluttered production values that  swamped the fragile beauty at many of the songs’ core on their original versions. The Red Shoes, in particular, is generally considered to be the runt in the litter of Bush’s canon so to hear the songs in their new incarnations was refreshing and this years earlier album served as a palate cleanser before the release of the wholly new material of 50 Words For Snow. It was also an indication of the musical direction the album would be taking and served as the missing link between Aerial and the new album’s sonic soundscapes although, as always, Bush follows no-ones lead apart from her own including a selection of unlikely contributors and 50 Words For Snow doesn’t disappoint here with Elton John, Stephen Fry and her son Bertie all making an appearance as required by her dictates.

Opening with Snowflakes and its simplistic circular piano motif the song takes its own time in getting where it is going and is an extremely promising opener promising an extremely potent journey ahead. The second track Lake Tahoe follows on this theme with celestial choirs along for the ride drifting in and out of the mix. Up next is Misty and its tale of a love affair with a snowman which is a subject only an artist of Bush’s imagination, talent and calibre can pull off as she has a way of taking simplistic or ridiculous subject matter and turning it into something magical, mysterious, compelling and wholly believable. The song builds with swells and slips back into moments of introspection and melts like the snowman of the subject matter. Wild Man continues this theme in a more upbeat tempo-shades of both Grace Jones and Bowie in this one but needless to say still totally Bush in execution and atmospherics- with a song about an endangered  Yeti which made an unlikely but fascinating single when released a month prior to the albums release. Snowed In At Wheeler Street is the duet with Elton John and admittedly Bush has coaxed his most convincing performance out of him in years-decades?- whilst the musical backing drifts beautifully creating a backdrop that haunts and swirls in equal measure. The dialogue swoons and intertwines with tales of love affairs set in a burning Rome, Occupied France in 1942 and New York on 9/11. 50 Words for Snow up next contains exactly that with Stephen Fry listing them whilst Bush exhorts ‘come on Joe you got thirty two to go’ until each one has been delivered to her satisfaction. Among Angels the album closer rounds things off beautifully leaving the listener feeling they have been on an amazing fantastical journey of Bush’s imagination but somehow awakening their own.

50 Words for Snow is very much a winter album and is the perfect accompaniment for cocooning with in the chill of these dark, desolate months with its simultaneously warm, glacial and spatial atmospheric sonic soundscapes and imaginative lyrical subject matter. After spending several days acquainting myself with the album each listen rewards me with some new experience and discovery and that is the beauty of Bush’s best work as it holds an endless supply of experiences and relies less on initial impact than longevity. It almost makes me long for snow and after the extended and inconvenient big chills of the last two winters I never thought I would wish for that ever again.

Hear the album in its entirety mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=142133269&m=142188918

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