Give it a try if… You like subtle, nuanced music which reveals new layers with every listen.
Steer clear if… You have already had enough of this winter.
Kate Bush – the genius without which Björk, Joanna Newsom and many more would never have seen the light – is known for the excruciatingly long breaks between her records. In 2011, though, something must have clicked inside that quirky little head of hers. So much so that she put out not one, but two albums: after May’s reworks collection, “Director’s Cut”, 21 November saw the release of this 65-minute trove with 7 “songs set against the backdrop of falling snow”. Mmh, yes.
For someone like me, who first fell in love with music thanks to a generation of creative musicians like Peter Gabriel, Prince and indeed Her Royal Kateness, this haunting concept album – which has kept me so much company on French slopes these weeks – is nothing short of a miracle. Because, you see, while 2005’s “Aerial” appeared like a rapturous post-scriptum to a memorable career (if she has taken 12 years to record this, will there ever be a next one?) and some of “Director’s Cut” sounded like she might have eaten one too many butter cookies on that countryside sofa, “50 Words for Snow” is a whole different kind of statement. If 26 years after her masterpiece, “Hounds of Love” – which easily was to the 1980s what Radiohead’s “OK Computer” was to the 1990s – she has been capable of doing this… We might as well be witnessing a promising new phase of her artistic life.
A Frozen Symphony
Kate has stated in a recent interview that this album holds some elements of classical music, and it shows. These seven songs sound like movements, each setting forth a different shade of the inspired underlying whole. Notes and sounds seem to develop organically, as if each new one were blossoming from the stem of the previous to build a magnificent frozen tree.
The Comfort of Maturity
It is mostly a subdued record, a low-key opus from a woman who has reached the seamless plain of maturity and is absolutely comfortable there. While skating on a frozen lake, in 1985, she was terrified by the presence of what she felt “Under Ice”; now she makes love with a snowman in “Misty”, wakes the morning after to find “Dead leaves, bits of twisted branches and frozen garden” on her pillow… and realizing it’s still snowing, runs out on the ledge to find him. Need I say more? Take some time off, close your eyes and get ready to melt.
UPS score (Utmost Perfection Scale): 9/10 + Standing Ovation
A preview? Watch the hypnotic animation “Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe”:
A really complete unofficial website on Kate Bush, including a lively forum, can be found here.