on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2011 14 Nov

Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog,Gute Musik,Musik aus 2011 | TB | 3 Comments

„…we have the heavy melancholy of a New England Winter in early March, after an endless procession of blizzards, road-salt ruined highways, storm-damaged coastlis, million dollar snow removal budget overruns and the like.“ (Richard Goldin mag das Album überhaupt nicht, und schrieb diesen Satz dazu, den ich in einer 4-Sterne-Besprechung auch gerne geschrieben hätte, allerdings als Gütesiegel der Musik.)

Dass die Eskimos 50 Worte für Schnee haben, ist eine alte Mär, die wahrscheinlich ein Linguist erfunden hat, um bestimmte Beziehungen von Sprache und Wahrnehmung zu erhellen. Wunderbar, welch skurrile und anmutige Schneewörter in dem Titelsong auftauchen, z.B. „Rippucino“. Und  „Faloop’njoompoola“ ist auch sehr speziell!  In ihrer Besprechung von 50 Words for Snow sucht Ann Powers ihrerseits nach 50 Worten, um der Musik gerecht zu werden. „Powdery fantasia. Contemplative. Winter matins. Playful. Opium reverie. Grounded. Ghost story. Sensual. Artistic recalibration. Unhurried. Drummer’s holiday. Quiet. Ode to the white keys. Imaginative. Exploration of the lower register. Floating. Mother-son duet. Solitary. Snowed-in erotica. Collaborative. Joni Mitchell answer record. Inimitable. Supernatural space odyssey“.

Vor Wochen rief eine Episode, die Norbert Horst in seinem vorzüglichen Kriminalroman „Splitter im Auge“ erzählt, eigene Jugenderinnerungen an meine erste Begegnung mit Kate Bush wach: THE KICK INSIDE.  So eine Stimme hatte man zuvor in der Popwelt noch nie gehört: hell, aber nicht scharf, sang sie sich durch einen englischen Zaubergarten, und man staunte nicht schlecht, dass Pink-Floyd-Mann David Gilmour (wenn meine Erinnerung mir nun keine Streiche spielt) ihr Mentor und Produzent war. Das Album enthielt mehr  „pink“ als „floyd“, und begleitete mich durch einen Würzburger Sommer, es passte gut zu Obstwein und Flussspringen. Seltsamerweise verlor ich die Spur von Kate Bush in den Folgejahren, fand kein Album mehr sonderlich faszinierend, weder das mit dem Hit, wo sie einen Berg hinaufläuft, noch die Momente, wo der wunderbare Eberhard Weber Bass spielte.  Ihr vielgerühmter Klassiker HOUNDS OF LOVE  liess mich (aus Gründen, die ich nicht mehr weiss) kalt, und das erste Album nach ihrem Debut, das nach einiger Anlaufzeit mein Herz erwärmte, und zwar mächtig, war AERIAL (obwohl es, vom Sound her, noch ganz in den 80er Jahren beheimatet war). Und jetzt erscheint am Freitag also das neue Album:  50 WORDS FOR SNOW.  Bei kann man es seit wenigen Stunden als live stream hören. Vielleicht mag der eine oder andere zuvor das interessante Interview lesen, das ein völlig übermüdeter John Doran mit Kate Bush für „“ führte. Ich finde diese kleine  Schneemusik fesselnd! Das einzige Stück, das mir nicht so  gelungen erscheint, ist das Duett mit Elton John, der einfach zuviel kulturelles Kitschgepäck mit sich schleppt, und hier, im einzigen „romantic overkill“ des Albums, auch nicht gerade an seine frühen guten Alben anknüpft (ja, die gibt es!).  Da wäre mir die Stimme von Robert Wyatt viel, viel lieber gewesen. Dennoch: ein betörendes Werk, ein „Joni Mitchell Antwort-Album“!

Kate Bush: das neue Album

This entry was posted on Montag, 14. November 2011 and is filed under "Blog, Gute Musik, Musik aus 2011". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Alex Petridis, winner of the Manafonistas November Review of the Month, writes, in a 5-star-review:

    There are many peculiar things about Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow. If it’s not strictly speaking a Christmas album, it’s certainly a seasonal one, and the seasonal album is these days more associated with Justin Bieber than critically acclaimed singer-songwriters following their own wildly idiosyncratic path. It devotes nearly 14 impossibly beautiful minutes to Misty, a song on which Bush imagines first building a snowman and then, well, humping him, with predictably unhappy consequences: „He is
    dissolving before me,“ she sings sadly, not the first lady in history to complain about an evening of passion coming to a premature conclusion. It features a title track that turns out to be more prosaically named than you might expect. Over pattering drums and an almost acid house synth line, Stephen Fry (perhaps possessed by the spirit of his hero Vivian Stanshall’s cameo appearance on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells) enunciates 50 largely made-up synonyms for snow with fruity relish, while Bush offers encouragement from the sidelines: „Come on, man, you’ve got 44 to go.“ The first words are beautiful, but become increasingly Pythonesque – you go from blackbird braille and Wenceslas air to schnamistaflopf and
    boomerangablanga. And, on Wild Man – on which Bush sings about the Yeti in a voice that suggests she’d definitely consider giving him a seeing-to as well – we find Andy Fairweather Low pretending to be a Nepalese mountain dweller: „While crossing the Lhapka-La, something jumped down from the rocks,“ sings the veteran sessioneer.
    But in one sense, these peculiarities aren’t really that peculiar, given that this is an album by Bush. She has form in releasing Christmas records, thanks to 1980’s December Will Be Magic Again, on which she imagined herself falling softly from the sky on a winter’s evening. She does it again here on opener Snowflake, although anyone looking for evidence of her artistic development might note that 30 years ago she employed her bug-eyed Heeeath-CLIFF! voice and plonking lyrical references to Bing Crosby and „old St Nicholas up the chimney“ to conjure the requisite sense of wonder. Today, she gets there far more successfully using only a gently insistent piano figure, soft flurries of strings and percussion and the voice of her son Bertie.

    Meanwhile, Fry’s is merely the latest unlikely guest appearance – Bush has previously employed Lenny Henry, Rolf Harris (twice) and the late animal imitator Percy Edwards, the latter to make sheep noises on the title track of 1982’s The Dreaming. Equally, Fairweather Low is not the first person called upon to pretend to be someone else on a Bush album, although she usually takes that upon herself, doing impersonations to prove the point: Elvis on Ariel’s King of the Mountain, a gorblimey bank robber on There Goes a Tenner. Finally, in song at least, Bush has always displayed a remarkably omnivorous sexual appetite: long before the Yeti and old Snow Balls showed up, her lustful gaze had variously fixed on Adolf Hitler, a baby and Harry Houdini.

    No, the really peculiar thing is that 50 Words for Snow is the second album in little over six months from a woman who took six years to make its predecessor and 12 to make the one before that. If it’s perhaps stretching it to say you can tell it’s been made quickly – no one is ever going to call an album that features Lake Tahoe’s operatic duet between a tenor and a counter-tenor a rough-and-ready lo-fi experience – it certainly feels more intuitive than, say, Ariel, on which a lot of time and effort had clearly been expended in the pursuit of effortlessness. For all the subtle beauty of the orchestrations, there’s an organic, live feel, the sense of musicians huddled together in a room, not something that’s happened on a Bush album before.

    That aside, 50 Words for Snow is extraordinary business as usual for Bush, meaning it’s packed with the kind of ideas you can’t imagine anyone else in rock having. Taking notions that look entirely daft on paper and rendering them into astonishing music is very much Bush’s signature move. There’s something utterly inscrutable and unknowable about how she does it that has nothing to do with her famous aversion to publicity. Better not to worry, to just listen to an album that, like the weather it celebrates, gets under your skin and into your bones.

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    And A. Lukowski writes another very interesting review in DROWNED IN SOUND:

    So yeah: maybe when Kate Bush said the 12 year gap between The Red Shoes and Aerial was down to her wanting to work on being a mum for a while – and not because she’d had a mental breakdown/become morbidly obese/was a dope fiend/sundy other conspiracy theories that flew around – she was, y’know, telling the truth. Here, six years after Aerial and just six months after Director’s Cut comes 50 Words for Snow. It’s Bush’s third album since 2005, which technically puts her up on The Strokes, The Shins or Modest Mouse.

    And jolly spectacular it is too, which is never a guarantee: Aerial was a masterpiece; The Red Shoes, The Sensual World and the diversionary Director’s Cut were not. Bush has always been best at her most focussed, and here she delves monomaniacally into snow and the winter – its mythology, its romance, its darkness, its rhythmic frenzy and glacial creep. 50 Words for Snow is artic and hoare frost and robin red breast, sleepy snowscapes and death on the mountain, drifts in the Home Counties and gales through Alaska.

    But it is mostly, I think, a record about how the fleeting elusiveness of snow mirrors that of love; and if I’m off the mark there, then certainly as a work of music one can view it as a sort of frozen negative to Aerial’s A Sky of Honey, the transcendent 42 minute suite about a summer’s day that took up the album’s second half. Whatever the case, 50 Words…demands to be listened to as a whole: the days of Bush as a singles-orientated artist are long gone on a long, sometimes difficult record on which the shortest track clocks in at a shade under seven minutes.

    The first three songs clock in at over half an hour and comprise the starkest, most difficult and in some ways most beautiful passage of music in Bush’s career. Based on minimal, faltering piano and great yawning chasms of silence, these tracks mirror the eerie calm of soft, implacable snowfall and winter’s dark. On the opening ‘Snowflake’ she shares vocal duties with her young son Albert, whose pure falsetto blends into her lower register. Vaguely suggestive of carol singing, his tones are also clear and elemental, without the shackles of adult emotion as he keens “I am ice and dust and light. I am sky and here.” over his mother’s spare, hard keys. ‘Lake Tahoe’ is the real challenge here: a crawling ghost story about a drowned woman, gilded with cold choral washes, its diamond keys crystallize into being a note at a time. Its 11 minutes are roughly as far away from ‘Babooshka’ as it’s possible to get. Yet as Steve Gadd’s soft, jazzy drums gather in pace and intricacy, life and movement enters this crepsular musical tundra, the album’s low key opening sequence swelling to a soft crescendo with final part ‘Misty’. A bleakly sensual love story that, er, appears to be about a doomed affair with a snowman, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Spirit of Eden-era Talk Talk as its 13-minute expanse periodically blooms into gorgeously tangled blossoms of bucolic guitar.

    Single ‘Wild Man’ sees a shift in gear – springy, exotic electronics, a sprightlier pace and a sense of playfulness as a husky-voiced Bush trades the last song’s impossible man for another as she dreams about the possibility of a yeti. Describing a Kate Bush track without making it sound silly can be rather trying – this is a woman whose past triumphs include several songs featuring Rolf Harris – but I guess ‘Wild Man’ works as lush, sensual dream of the possibility of the things that might existing outside humdrum human experience. It’s not just about the yeti, but the impossibly exotic place names she mutters in her verbal quest for the creature – “Kangchenjunga… Metoh-Kangmi… Lhakpa-La… Dipu Marak… Darjeeling… Tengboche… Qinghai… Himachal Pradesh” – and the vertiginously thrilling change of gear as heavily distorted guest Andy Fairweather Low roars a near indecipherable chorus. It’s also about Bush’s formidable production skills, her precise, nagging synths and total mastery of studio as instrument.

    Those synths imbue ‘Snowed in at Wheeler Street’ with a sense of frazzled foreboding that negates the potential cheesiness of Elton John’s throaty turn on a duet that casts him and Bush as a pair of lovers spread across time, doomed to separate at key points in history, wishing that could return to one mundane, snow bound day spent together. And a bed of electronics whip up a quietly hypnotic tumult on the astonishing title song. Here – and again Kate Bush songs can be a job to not make sound ridiculous – Bush counts to 50 in a hushed monotone as Stephen Fry (oh yes) recites a list of names for snow, real and imagined: “blackbird braille… stella tundra… vanilla swarm… avalanche”, occasionally punctured by an eerily muted chorus in which Bush frenzied urges him to continue the list. On the one hand, it continues ‘Wild Man’s revelry in the intoxicating power of human language. On the other, it’s the album’s least human track, its churning, chiming electronics and alien words mirroring the quiet chaos and leaden intensity of a snowstorm, its final minutes a headlong descent into oblivion and whiteout. It is astonishing, immense, bizarre and perfectly realized: only Kate Bush could conceive of this song, and nobody else will make anything like it again.

    As the cooing over Director’s Cut demonstrated, even Bush on diversionary form is enough to tease gushy spurts of adjectives from the soberest of souls; hitting a true peak again, there is the temptation to drone on about how important she is, how she dwarfs most of her peers artistically, let alone the braying yahs and rahs of today who cite her as an influence. But let’s keep it in perspective: in the 26 years since Hounds of Love, Aerial and 50 Words for Snow have been her only truly fully realised albums. Kate Bush is more than fallible; but at peak she is incomparable.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    The album opens with ‚Snowflake‘, an exercise in personification in which Bush adds a chorus to a spoken-word piece – told from the perspective of falling snow – delivered by her son Albert. A barely-varying piano figure is, with the exception of some unintrusive electronics, the only accompaniment to the vocals throughout the ten-minute track, and the outcome recalls the waning phrasing of Michael Nyman or Eno circa Music for Airports. Impressively, this is followed up by a piece which exceeds it in strangeness. On ‚Lake Tahoe‘ birds caw, barely audibly, in the tundra left by the receding piano, a pair of choristers occasionally make aptly religious-sounding contributions, and Bush provides a meandering, striking vocal. The comparison might seem incongruous, but – with the arguable exception of PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake – there hasn’t been a pop record this intriguingly abstract since Scott Walker’s The Drift.CKET

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