50 Words for Snow
A new Kate Bush album is always an event. The 53-year-old queen of ethereal English folk-pop may have spent much of the past two decades in reclusive semi-retirement, but the mystique around her has only deepened.
Her slumbering muse has clearly been revitalised recently by her archive makeover project Director's Cut, because this is her second album release this year, a lyrically opaque but musically rich meditation on the theme of snow and its attendant folk myths.
Bush's last original album, the 2005 release Aerial, seemed weighed down by midlife maturity. Thankfully, 50 Words for Snow is a more supple and contemporary affair, with a lightly experimental sound that could sit comfortably alongside recent work by PJ Harvey or Radiohead.
Once shrill and piercing, Bush's midlife voice has grown more rounded and husky, from the dreamy half-whisper on the leisurely undulations of Snowflake to the hypnotic Laurie Anderson-style chant on the lush abominable snowman fable Wildman.
A rambling and eccentric folly, 50 Words for Snow may not satisfy fans of Bush's early, concise, melodramatic art-pop. But this is still a largely successful experiment, and heartening proof that the creative juices are flowing again.