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5.0 out of 5 stars Bush creates her third masterpiece - worth the wait, 16 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Aerial (Audio CD)
After the mixed reception to The Red Shoes and its companion film, "The Line The Cross & The Curve," Kate Bush decided to take time out from the treadmill of writing/recording/promotion that had dated back to 1977. She took stock, grieved for her mother, who had died during sessions for 'The Red Shoes,' and evaluated what she wanted from life.

In Under the Ivy: The Story of Kate Bush, Graeme Thomson states that Bush simply wrote and recorded when she felt like it and when it was convenient for her. The birth of her son Bertie in July 1998 slowed down the process considerably, and she recorded in short bursts. It was around 2003 that progress on the album sped up considerably, and finally 'Aerial' was released in November 2005, a dozen years after its predecessor.

It is far more focused, cohesive, and light than 'The Red Shoes.' Bush rediscovered the power of space in her music, and doesn't overload the songs with unnecessary detail. Its closest cousin from her own work is Hounds of Love, especially when you consider it's a similarly conceptual work, but on a bigger scale. This time, it's two discs as opposed to two sides, with the first disc comprising seemingly unrelated songs, subtitled 'A Sea of Honey,' and the second disc, 'A Sky of Honey,' a 42-minute suite of music tracking a day from afternoon to the following dawn, in the manner of the conceptual suite 'The Ninth Wave.'

The difference is that the pace is slower and more reflective. It's an elegant, refined, mature work. Musically it boasts some interesting, subtle new changes. "King of the Mountain," conceived as far back as 1996, is a tale of isolation brought on by fame set to a soft reggae beat; "Pi" is a strange and vaguely prog-rock list of numbers, and "How To Be Invisible" is ghostly, spooky witch-rock. 'A Sea of Honey' also includes two piano ballads. "Mrs. Bartolozzi" is one of Bush's creepiest, most enigmatic, and most intense songs, a bare voice and piano paean, often misread as a quirky ode to a washing machine. Instead, it explores loss, regret, and love in a typically oblique but unique way. "A Coral Room," meanwhile, is a ballad as fragile and delicate as porcelain, personal and moving. Bush's vocals on both these songs are not flawless, only adding to their sense of raw power.

'A Sky of Honey' is a joy to listen to. The recurrent motif is birdsong, and when Bush sings along on "Aerial Tal," the effect is surprisingly haunting and beautiful. "Prologue" is an elegant fusion of her romantic piano balladry with a classical leaning, while "An Architect's Dream" is as sensual as her finest work. It really hits the spot though on "Sunset," which develops from a vaguely forlorn jazz trio sound into a joyful flamenco breakdown. "Nocturn" and "Aerial" similarly build from hushed openings into dramatic, layered climaxes. It's a bewitching forty minutes, and Bush pulls off the concept with panache.

'Aerial' is a magnificent work from one of our key creative artists. Most artists would be fortunate to have crafted one masterpiece in a career, but Bush has made three, with 'Aerial' joining the lofty ranks of The Dreaming and 'Hounds of Love.' It's an astonishing work of depth and richness, but owing to its largely slow place, it will require repeated listening.
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