I've been listening to "Aerial" for 4 days now - we get new releases on Friday over here in Ireland - and I can't recommend this record highly enough to anyone. It takes a couple of listens to aclimatise to the weird and wonderful world that Kate conjures up - but it's always the ones that don't sound so impressive at first that become the most enduring, timeless and addictive classics.
Aerial is all of this and more. It has a collection of songs on "A Sea Of Honey" which defy categorisation, swooping from reggae tinged rock in "King Of The Mountain" through medieval sounding (yet somehow funky!) lutes or suchlike on "Bertie" and on to the incredible piano and voice tour de force of "Mrs Bertolucci". This is one song which really sounds ridiculous at first - but get past the bizarre subject matter and the emotional intensity is all consuming. "Washing Machine" never sounded so creepy, erotic or melancholy.
"How to be Invisible" should be the next single - a funked up yet completely understated slice of tasteful rock-pop which invokes the mundanities of everyday life to create a cloak of privacy for our heroine - ironically it's more revealing about Kate Bush's state of mind than any of the more crazy tracks on the CDs... "Joanni" is an odd one, a grower though that sounds better and better every time I hear it. "A Coral Room" returns to piano and voice... perhaps the most beautiful thing ever recorded by Kate Bush, it's classical overtones and changes in tempo serve to accentuate an intensely moving, cinematic lyric involving cities covered in nets, the "little brown jug" that once belonged to and now reminds of her late mother. It's heart wrenching yet somehow uplifting and leads beautifully to the second half, "A Sky Of Honey" which begins on a musical echo of the close of the first CD.
This suite of songs and instrumental passages almost resists review on a song by song basis as the cumulative effect of the whole creates a sense of great exhilaration, the epilogue to the relaxing calm and beauty of much of the disc. "Prelude" is so beautiful I could listen to it on repeat over and over again, "Prologue"... bliss, especially as Kate slips into Italian as the languid drums assert themselves. "An Architect's Dream", though having rather ordinary musical accompaniment in comparison to some of it's company (lovely chiming synths notwithstanding), fearures some amazing vocal swoops and dives and the potentially embarassing appearance of Rolf Harris on "The Painter's Link" is handled beautifully...
From here it's all further uphill! "Sunset" combines a languid, jazzy arrangement with stunningly vivid imagery and the unforgettable enunciation by Kate of the words "A sea of honey, a sky of honey..." wherein both sea and sky are stretched to about 10 syllables each! The flamenco interlude is as surprising and dynamic a shift of focus as I have experienced in music with the gruff male voice duetting "the day writes the words right across the sky, they go all the way up to the top of the night" adding wonderful depth to a beautifully poetic notion.
"Arial Tal" sees Kate duet with a bird to wonderful effect leading us to my personal Highlight - "Somewhere In Between". Lyrically, musically and structurally perfect, potentially generic skittering drum and bass sounds are instead transformed into a vivid evocation of twilight. It's moody, erotic, mystical and beautiful. Kate bush at her best.
There is no drop from this peak. "Nocturn" drifts in on a swell of new agey synths, features a superbly controlled vocal performance which ranges from soft ethereal tones describing the dreamlike experience of surrendering to the Atlantic to the roaring chorus heralding the sunrise "climbing up the aerial" (possibly the most spine tingling moment on the album....).
And still more, the unrelenting climax of "Aerial" sweeps us up in the celebration of dawn. Kate sounds almost deranged "I gotta get up on the roof" as a pounding, almost disco beat drives us towards the utterly climactic yet tastefully understated guitar solo as Kate's voice becomes one with the birds...
This is Kate Bush's masterpiece. It has all the positives and none of the overindulgent negatives of her past output. Everything is reined in, controlled and perfected in pursuit of the ideal. It's a bloody incredible piece of work that needs to be listened to loudly and repeatedly for the sheer genius to sink in... And when it does its very difficult to think about much else...
God it's a brilliant piece of work. Well done Kate and long may you continue creating your amazing, beautiful, mind-expanding music away from the glare of publicity and the emptiness of celebrity. I'd be willing to wait another 12 years for something else as wonderful as "Aerial", but it'd be great if it arrived sooner!