There is no other recording artist in the world today quite like Kate Bush. In the course of her twenty-seven year career, since her dramatic arrival at nineteen years of age in 1978 with the hauntingly beautiful and instantly classic ‘Wuthering Heights’, Bush has built a reputation that remains unrivalled in terms of musical ambition, pioneering sonics, stirring emotional content and sheer originality. The fact that the world has been waiting for the release of her eighth album, ‘Aerial’, for more than a decade has, if anything, only added to the air of mystique surrounding her.
“I have been genuinely touched by the sense of anticipation I’ve felt from people,” says Bush. “I feel really privileged that people have been waiting.”
On the evidence of ‘Aerial’, her first album since 1993’s ‘The Red Shoes’, it may have been a long wait, but ultimately it has been a very rewarding one. A characteristically bold and expansive work brimming with atmosphere, mystery, passion and complex aural detail, the twin-disc ‘Aerial’ has already been declared a masterpiece by all who have heard it.
Realising that the amount of material she had accumulated in her time away was unlikely to fit onto a single CD, Bush made the decision to split the results in two, resulting in her first double album. Disc One, entitled ‘A Sea Of Honey’, comprises seven songs, ranging from the evocative lead-off single ‘King Of The Mountain’ through to the emotive reading of a lengthy section of the infinite series of numbers in ‘?’, to the playful, spell-like ‘How To Be Invisible’ and the moving, impressionistic conclusion ‘A Coral Room’. Disc Two, ‘A Sky Of Honey’, is a conceptual piece in nine parts, built around recurring motifs of light and birdsong, following a day from afternoon through dusk and night and on to sunrise.
“What is quite nice for me doing the two discs,” ‘Aerial’s creator explains, “is it allows me to play with the semi-classical style which I like – space and acoustic music – but also the band-based stuff with lots of drums.”
Bush has spent her twelve years out of the public gaze dividing her time between preparing the songs for ‘Aerial’ and looking after her son, Bertie, born in 1998. “I was having to work in really short little bursts,” she says of her prolonged absence, “and I’d never done that before. The way I’d always worked was to just stay in the studio for fourteen hours a day. I didn’t have that luxury to use the time in the same way. So there were lots of periods where really nothing much was happening. But in some ways I’d say it was very good for me to have had those kinds of restrictions. It was continually forcing me into a situation where I had to stand back from it.”
Brought to the attention of EMI Records at the age of sixteen by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour – as a prolific schoolgirl prodigy with already around two hundred of her own compositions – Kate Bush famously enjoyed a three year period of artistic development before being launched upon an unsuspecting world. Having released two albums in 1978 – ‘The Kick Inside’ and ‘Lionheart’ – and staged the mould-breaking theatrics of the Europe-wide ‘Tour Of Life’ the following year, Kate Bush began to assume control of her music with her co-production of ‘Never For Ever’ in 1980, yielding three startling, story-compacting singles in the form of ‘Breathing’, ‘Babooshka’ and ‘Army Dreamers’.
Her next step, into self-production, saw the creation of ‘The Dreaming’, released in 1982, a year in the making and still hailed by many as her best album, showcasing an almost filmic approach to her recording craft. Three years later followed ‘Hounds Of Love’, a stunning set of angular, rhythm-driven pop songs – including the strident ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ and the majestic ‘Cloudbusting’ – backed with the side-long suite ‘The Ninth Wave’. In 1989 ‘The Sensual World’ followed (including musical contributions from David Gilmour, Nigel Kennedy and The Trio Bulgarka) and in 1993, ‘The Red Shoes’, featuring collaborations with Eric Clapton and Prince.
Over the years, Kate Bush has collected two Ivor Novello awards – in 1979 for Outstanding British Lyric (‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’) and for Outstanding Contribution To British Music As A Songwriter in 2002 – while in 1987 she scooped Best British Female Artist at the Brits. Appearing at the Q Awards in 2001, she received a spontaneous standing ovation from an audience including former Sex Pistol John Lydon, Brian Eno, Radiohead and Elvis Costello, when accepting the Classic Songwriter gong.
And then, silence, until ‘Aerial’. The musicians credit list for Bush’s eighth album reveals new collaborations with drummers Steve Sanger and Peter Erskine and percussionist Bosco D’Oliveira, along with more familiar names such as Gary Brooker (founder of Procol Harum, providing Hammond organ), guitarist Dan McIntosh, drummer Stuart Elliott (who has appeared on every one of her albums), bassists Eberhard Weber and John Giblin and recording engineer/bassist Del Palmer. As such, over the years, Bush has gathered around her something resembling a close-knit musical family.
“There was a sense of being at play as well as at work,” Bush notes of the sessions for ‘Aerial’. “I think that’s very important because it is so hard and so frustrating sometimes trying to get an idea to materialise. It’s not an easy process. I really like working with people who are old friends, it’s lovely.”
Poignantly, ‘Aerial’ also features some of the last work of orchestral arranger Michael Kamen, who had scored for every Bush album since ‘Hounds Of Love’ and who passed away only weeks after his contributions to the album were completed at Abbey Road studios in October 2003. “What was great about Michael was his stuff was very visual,” says Bush. “He did such a fantastic job. It’s very hard to believe he’s not around any more.”
Now, in November 2005, with the release of ‘Aerial’, Kate Bush is following in the grand tradition of groundbreaking double albums. “I used to really like the double albums I bought of artists that I loved,” she states. “It wasn’t in a way so directly connected with you spending money on an object. It was somehow more of an artistic statement. It said, ‘Here’s my music’.”