On the opening track of Kate Bush’s first album of new material in six years she casts herself as a snowflake gently drifting to earth. “I see horses wading through snow drifts” she sings as her son Bertie keens in a falsetto that would bring an extra blush to Aled Jones’ cheek.
It’s a sweeping and panoramic entre to this exquisite suite of glacial piano songs which uses the cold, white stuff as its central theme. Snowflake, like Cloudbusting before it, continues Bush’s fascination with all things metrological and it certainly means she’s got that Christmas market sewn up.
Recorded at the same time as The Director’s Cut, last May’s reupholstering of classic tracks, 50 Words for Snow is a sonorous collection of mood music which pushes the gentle caress of Bush’s voice to the fore over gorgeous stately strings and twinkling night time vistas. Sonically it does indeed have the stillness a snow-bound vastness and musically the temperature rarely flickers above room level.
Her playfulness is evident on Misty on which she builds a snowman and then ends up in bed with him (cue more blushing from Master Jones) and Andy Fairweather Low guests to the relatively rumbustious Wild Man. However, the show stoppers are Snowed in at Wheeler Street, a duet with Elton John about a love story that crosses the ages and builds to a stark climax, and the title track which stars Stephen Fry intoning with learned poise 50 poetic expressions penned by Kate for snow (“black bird Braille”, “stellartundra”, “hunter’s dream”, “phlegm de neige”) with Bush shouting encouragement like some excitable ice queen.
It’s a magical and compelling moment of wonder on an album that may prove the perfect comedown after another aural pummelling from Florence Welch. It also captures the serenity and quietude of a landscape blanketed with snow with calm and wonder.
Proof once again that Kate Bush is as unique and individual as a snowflake.