art-rock

Kate Bush "50 Words for Snow"

Kate Bush

50 Words for Snow is all new, her first such venture since 2005's Aerial. The are only seven songs here, but the album clocks in at an hour. Despite the length of the songs, and perhaps because of them, it is easily the most spacious, sparsely recorded offering in her catalogue. Its most prominent sounds are Bush's voice, her acoustic piano, and Steve Gadd's gorgeous drumming -- though other instruments appear (as do some minimal classical orchestrations).

With songs centred on winter, 50 Words for Snow engages the natural world and myth -- both Eastern and Western -- and fantasy. It is abstract, without being the least bit difficult to embrace. It commences with "Snowflake" (featured here), with lead vocals handled by her son Bertie. Bush's piano, crystalline and shimmering in the lower middle register, establishes a harmonic pattern to carry the narrative: the journey of a snowflake from the heavens to a single human being's hand, and in its refrain (sung by Bush), the equal anticipation of the receiver.

50 Words for Snow is such a strange pop record, it's all but impossible to find peers. While it shares sheer ambition with Scott Walker's "The Drift" and PJ Harvey's "Let England Shake", it sounds like neither; Bush's album is equally startling because its will toward the mysterious and elliptical is balanced by its beguiling accessibility.

Tool - Lateralus

Tool - Lateralus

Can you believe this album was released in 2001 and I've only just gotten around to listening to it? Disgraceful really considering ├ćnima was one of my most overplayed albums of 1997. I'm not really sure why I let it happen. Silly.

Of course it's good. It's Tool. These guys are like the nuclear physicists of metal. Disassemble the music, understand the music, put it back together to create new things nobody ever thought possible. Their rhythms are always so interesting, wonderful hypnotic patterns set in differing time-signatures for every instrument ensure that the emphasis is constantly shifting. Then after much suspense everything slots back into place with a thud (half way through Triad we see the effect executed perfectly).

God, I'm so far behind the times. I have another Tool album to catch up on now - at least Lateralus provides something of an assurance that it's bound to be good.

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