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Countdown to Aerial 8: Aerial

So the album is out, and European fans in particular have been all over it as a Technorati Search will reveal. But is it any good? Is it really, as some fans have gushed, Kate's best since Hounds of Love?

I've listened to it a few time and my preliminary judgement is that Aerial just about manages to be her best since The Red Shoes. I can't stress enough that this is preliminary: I've lived with her other albums for over a decade, in some cases two, and there are many tracks on them that took me a long time to learn to appreciate. But after half a dozen listens, it seems to me that the album suffers from the same problems that its 1993 predecessor did: a lack of urgency, focus and strong melodies.

What I'm hearing on both records is some very pretty, well-recorded music, influenced by jazz, electronica, reggae and latin in equal measures. The singing is often jazzy as well, especially in tracks like "Pi" from the first disk and "Sunset" from the second.

Ah, yes. It's a double CD. I think that was her first mistake. Rather than compressing all her ideas into concise, poignant songs, Kate has allowed each individual composition to stretch to the point where most of them wear out their welcome. A version of Aerial cropped to 50 or so minutes still wouldn't be my favourite Kate Bush album, but it would be a much stronger one.

The reason such a hypothetical cropped version still wouldn't be my favorite is more due to Kate's direction than anything else. It is in this area that my opinion of the album is most likely to change over time. Kate has chosen to write and sing mostly quiet, meditative material about the beauty, contentment and romance of everyday life, and right now, that's not what I want out of a Kate Bush album - or indeed any album. But who knows what I might want in a few years' time?

Even keeping that in mind, though, Aerial could have made its case more convincingly. The best art in any medium draws the observer into the creation, compelling the observer to "get it". There are few such moments on either of the two disks. "Sunset" with its steady pace, simple melody and lyrics sung so as to emphasise the dead stops at the ends of each line, comes closest. After a few tense silences, the joyous Latin section at the end provides release. For all its seeming simplicity, the song is a tour de force.
For the most part, though, the album sticks to the background, prettily washing over this one listener just like much of the previous record did. There is, on the whole, more to pique the interest in the first disk, the collection of Kate songs, than in the second, conceptual one, but in both, there simply isn't enough.
I find myself at the end of either record wondering what I just listened to.

In another few years, though, who knows?

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 7, 2005 7:49 PM.

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