Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

Album Review by Sam Wiseman | 21 Nov 2011
Album title: 50 Words for Snow
Artist: Kate Bush
Label: Fish People
Release date: 21 Nov

Could anyone except Kate Bush create a concept album about snow, incorporating a duet with Elton John, featuring a title track that sees Stephen Fry reciting a list of increasingly surreal words to describe the substance – and expect to be taken seriously? Bush, of course, has never troubled herself with such concerns, working as she does in an imaginative realm that seems wholly insulated from critical or commercial expectations. As on 2005’s Aerial, it’s 50 Words for Snow’s improbable fusion of drama, magic and absurdity that makes it so compelling. Musically, the uncannily soft, blurry edges of that record return, underpinning Bush's mysterious ability to create atmospheres simultaneously sublime and understated.

The first three songs are among her most captivatingly otherworldly creations; time seems to stretch out over their dreamily inflected piano tones, which are increasingly augmented with strings and percussion as the album progresses. On Snowflake, the familiarly rich, breathy textures of Bush’s vocals are juxtaposed with the angelic cries of her 12-year-old son Albert: “I was born in a cloud”, he murmurs portentously; “look up and you’ll see me”. Such personifications are a conceit which can feel either banal, preposterous, or both; throughout 50 Words, however, Bush’s audaciously imaginative approach sees her effortlessly circumvent such pitfalls.