[MUSIC: Album Review] Kate Bush- 50 Words For Snow
There are only a few people kicking around with the time, money, skill, guts or inclination to pull off an album like 50 Words For Snow. It’s that rare thing: a musically and thematically unified song cycle. Tori Amos has given it a stab (somewhat wide of the mark) a few times in the last decade, Björk pulled it off recently with her striking Biophilia, and Kate Bush has managed something of similar ambition, the seven tracks presented here unravelling with pristine and unhurried beauty.
It begins in isolate, Bush half-whispering, half-crooning a snowflake’s descent, falling helplessly through the void over a static piano ostinato. The listener is immediately plunged into an otherworldly, almost cinematic, space – a filmic preoccupation suggested by last year’s Director’s Cut. The music summons a peculiarly northern hemisphere idea of winter, Bush spinning yarns around the fire while outside the ice tumbles on the still, frozen world.
Wilder and far less mannered than 2005’s Aerial, Bush has brought her uncompromising talents to bear on cathedral-size canvases, bringing to the foreground a wonder at the missing, the intangible. Whether it be the girl on ‘Misty’ waking to find her snowman lover vanished, leaving nothing but “dead leaves, bits of twisted branches”, or the Shepherds and Sherpas who find no trace of the ‘Wild Man’ but “footprints in the snow”, everywhere there is an aching pain at a vanished presence. For confirmation see the surprisingly palatable duet with Elton John, ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’, in which immortal lovers are destined to forever cross paths that one moment too late.
The work of a perfectionist awed by the miracle of something coming from nothing, “born in a cloud”, dazzling and impermanent.