CD CHOICE: 50 Words for Snow, Fish People, ****
You wait forever for a Kate Bush album and two come along in the same year. Known for her fastidious approach to making music, Bush recorded these new songs while working on her revisionist collection ( Director’s Cut), released earlier in 2011.
Bush is a lifelong innovator and auteur, someone who marches to the beat of her own musical drum, defying classification and spitting reinvention like fire. This latest work, “set against the backdrop of falling snow”, promises another departure. There are just seven tracks over 65 minutes, epic rise-and-fall pieces that veer towards experimental song cycle and concept album.
Bush knows the power of voice-as-instrument, so there’s little surprise when a choirboy falsetto appears on the opening song, Snowflake. Except it’s not Kate, but her son Bertie (credited as Albert McIntosh), who sounds spookily like his mother. Snowflake also introduces a minimalist piano, which recurs and dominates an album that is the most economical work Bush has ever made.
From Lake Tahoe through to Among Angels, the album is hugely ambitious while sounding very interior. Poignant and reflective, it requires time and commitment: there are no radio-friendly centrepieces such as King of the Mountainor Rubberband Girl.
Stalwart collaborators Steve Gadd’s (on gorgeous brushed drums on the standout track, Misty), Danny Thompson and Dan McIntosh return, and the production is less crowded than previous work, giving the songs the space they need. With so much focus on piano, some will point to the similarity between the songs, but 50 Words for Snowsidesteps sameness, and actually binds the album into a story of overlapping themes and musical tropes.
Bush always surprises with her contributors – remember Prince and Lenny Henry on The Red Shoes?Here Andy Fairweather Low, Elton John, and Stephen Fry guest on an erotic song about a Yeti, lost love and different words for snow (“phlegm de neige”), respectively.
The voice is aging well, and its sonorous tone adds a solemnity to things. 50 Words for Snowis a sublime achievement, as uncompromisingly original as anything Bush has ever done. See katebush.com
Download Tracks:Snowflake, Misty, Among Angels