Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (Fish People / Anti- Records)
Kate Bush is truly an enigma. Her tenth studio album, ‘50 Words For Snow’, consists of just 7 songs but clocks in at 65 minutes; a journey that is rich in fantasy, rich in mood and rich in atmosphere; basically all the usual reasons that makes Kate such an enthralling artist.
A concept album of sorts based around the theme of snow, the album’s opening song, ‘Snowflake’ is moody and atmospheric, built around only a piano and vocal. Barely shifting during its 9:47 instead unraveling slowly; the pace and the key remain the same throughout but never risking losing the listener’s attention. The mood is one that evokes nostalgia and as with most of the material on this album, the space between the notes is equally as important as the notes themselves allowing the atmosphere to seep through.
From the opening track we can hear definite parallels to Kate’s 1984 classic ‘Hounds of Love’ album.
Her voice is simply gorgeous and although parts of ‘Snowflake’ indicate that she has lost some of her range in the falsetto region, she has gained a sexier, smokier and more sultry tone in the process.
‘Lake Tahoe’ seamlessly alternates between two states over the course of its 11:08; a lavishly produced hymn featuring a haunting male and female dual vocal, and a mesmerizing jazz section led by Kate’s sexy and smoky voice.
With the addition of brush beats, ‘Misty’ continues with the jazz influence shown in the previous track, traveling along smoothly and like ‘Snowflakes’, barely shifts course over its 13:32. The production work is sublime with its deep, rich piano sounds, lush strings and intimate, crystal clear vocals.
‘Wild Man’ certainly leaps out from the album; filling in all the atmospheric spaces, picking up the pace and changing the mood completely. A “pop-rock” song characterized by quirky organ sounds and a very peculiar chorus consisting of a heavily effected dual vocal and shimmering keys, ‘Wild Man’ sounds like David Bowie circa ‘Labyrinth’.
Things are restored on what is for me the album’s highlight; the dark and haunting ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’. Minimalist in instrumentation, here Kate exchanges vocal verses with none other than Sir Elton John and together they share the album’s climaxing moment as they sing the words “I don’t want to lose you”.
The title track is a rather odd, up-tempo piece that too would be very much at home in David Bowie’s ‘Labyrinth’. Stephen Fry, sounding rather like Vincent Price, joins Kate in a spoken word as the two of them dream up fifty word associations for snow, starting from one and working their way up.
Combining the album’s jazz influence and the ever crucial ambience that exists between the notes, the album’s final track, ‘Among Angels’, allows Kate’s voice to shine ever more, soaring to even greater heights.
‘50 Words For Snow’ is a brilliant journey that reinforces why Kate Bush has been one of the most interesting and eccentric artists of the past three decades and what an influence her work has been for artists today including ‘Florence and The Machine’ and ‘Bat For Lashes’.