Album Review: Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow

(Written for ELECTRIC BANANA, November 2011)

“I was born in a cloud, now I am falling” sings Kate Bush. For ten minutes, she spends the opening track taking on the role of snowflake as it falls. That is as normal as this album gets…

The title track is true to its name, featuring treasured eccentric Stephen Fry listing fifty words for the titular white stuff, so bizarre that they even sound out of place coming from his mouth. It’s a safe bet that the weather forecast won’t be warning the nation about Zhivagodamarbletash drifts, leaving neighbourhoods shimmerglisstened-in behind walls of phlegm de neige. Having spent an entire track on her 2005 album Aerial reciting 116 digits of π, Kate returns to her fixation with numbers and hassles him by counting the words with him. “Come on Joe, there’s just 32 more to go.”

Despite the grandiose lengths of the tracks, from seven to thirteen minutes, the scale of the sound itself doesn’t follow – there are no buildups to spectacular orchestral finales, and for that reason, it is perfect. She portrays brilliantly the monochrome of endless forests of snow with a sparse sound, yet with countless different sounds coming from all directions, like a blizzard. A couple of percussive clicks here, a pulse of strings there, and a few exhalations as if Kate is trying to see her breath in the cold can be heard, but after just a few seconds, they never return.

She hasn’t lost any of her weird, and definitely not her wonderful.

Score: 9/10

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