The International Writers Magazine:Review
Making Maths Meaningful
A Clare Sager review
an artist of great calibre releases an album, there is always
going to be a great to-do, especially from the music press. When
that artist has been known as one of the most exciting songwriters
of her time (even all time), that fuss can expect to be magnified
somewhat. When the artist is that thrilling and hasnt released
an album in 12 years, well, youd be right to expect what
amounts to media hysteria.
covers of every music magazine. Interviews on radio, performances on
T4 and Top of the Pops, and, of course, the being talked at on
the torturous Friday Night With Jonathan Ross.
But before we get carried away, I should point out that this is Kate
Bush. Ah yes, the woman of mystery, the recluse who, if we are to believe
the press, has had more nervous breakdowns since her last album (1993s
The Red Shoes) than Ive had cocoa-based confectionary.
In the promotional run-up to the aeon-awaited Aerial, Bush has
only given one magazine interview, a handful of radio interviews and
has said that she will make some limited television appearances.
But enough of that fame game which Bush refuses to play, and on to this
eagerly-awaited double album (which, lets face it, EMI must be
more than relieved to finally have complete and released).
one: A Sea of Honey, opens with the haunting percussion
of King of the Mountain, the first single from the album. Her
vocals are slurred as if the words are melting together, which is an
acquired taste, Ill admit, but this song is a grower. That makes
it an odd choice for a single, but it went into the charts at number
4 not bad at all for a 47-year-old mother of one!
Next we have the sexy, warm tones of pi. Yes, I did just use
the word "sexy" in the context of mathematics, but this is
classic Kate Bush; she finds the art, the inspiration in the unexpected;
she makes maths meaningful. Who else but Kate Bush could have the idea
to sing the first few dozen decimal places of ¼, let alone get away
with it? But this song isnt so much about the finer points of
equations, it is about what makes a person who they are, the enthusiasm
(sometimes for the strangest things) that makes you love them.
If ¼ was odd, then track four, Mrs Bartolozzi may be too much
for your belief in Bush. It is another track drawn from Bushs
ability to see the wonder in the mundane; a housewifes day has
never been so beautiful. Even I must admit, however, that when I heard
that one of the tracks has the refrain of "washing machine/washing
machine", I did think uh-oh, Kates lost it! But, this being
Kate Bush, she carries it off with her open-minded approach to the world
around her: there is beauty in everything, its up to you to find
it. Here, we have a little help from this simple vocals and piano track.
Never fear, your faith in Bush may be stretched to its furthest reaches
in Mrs Bartolozzi, but the following track brings you back. So
far this disc of the album has been mellow, darkly building the tempo
and audio seduction, but in How to be Invisible Kate gives us
a track of evocative rock sensibilities. The lyrics seem to take influence
from many places, including perhaps, a short story by Ian McEwan, Solid
Geometry, in which a scientist discovers a way of making matter
less than solid: "
fold yourself up/You cut along the dotted
line/You think inside out/And youre invisible". From the
mystery-lady, we get this mysterious track the stand-out song
of this disc.
Disc two: A Sky of Honey, comprises nine songs that
segue into one another to tell us the story of a day, with birdsong
as a reoccurring motif. Here we find the return of Rolf Harris singing
and playing didgeridoo (the inimitable antipodean also appeared with
Bush on 1982s The Dreaming) an apt appearance considering
this discs concern with art (in all its forms) and the artistic
process. Throughout, A Sky of Honey evokes the sensuality of
life and especially art, particularly in An Architects Dream:
"The flick of a wrist/Twisting down to the hips/So the lovers begin,
with a kiss/In a tryst". Another theme that reoccurs is that of
time. These are fitting ideas for an artist whose work is crafted so
carefully over increasingly long periods of time. We witness the creation
of art, the crafting of a day, the bounty of its experiences and, through
this, a hint of Bushs way of working and creative genius.
The importance of experience is expressed perfectly in Somewhere
in Between, about dusk and those special, still moments in life
that are between two defined instants. Bush even admits that these moments
are indefinable there arent words for what they bring us:
"Oh how we have longed for something that would/Make us feel so
and as she trails off into ellipses she invites us to discover and savour
the feeling for ourselves. The following track, Nocturn, continues
this trail of experience with a wondrous highlight to the album. It
focuses on skinny dipping in the stillness of night with no one around.
"We tire of the city/We tire of it all/We long for just that something
more" any 21st century listener can relate to that longing
for something meaningful. We tire of albums-by-numbers so prevalent,
we want meaningful, honest music that isnt by cynical suits. This
album is our escape from that.
Aerial gives us a glimpse of a serenity and mystery in this grown
up Kate Bush. She is at once otherworldly and an earthy mother now,
with a song for her Bertie, photos of him and his drawings in the sleeve
artwork. On the back, the credits read "The Sun: Bertie" (and
you cant help but think it would be cool to have Kate Bush as
your mum). This album means something, musically, emotionally and spiritually.
It is real music.
Now, if youll excuse me, Im off to write a song about the
first 50 prime numbers.
© Clare Sager November 15th 2005
Clare is a second year Creative Writing major at the University of Portsmouth
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