I feel a little SAD to be at the end of this journey now. Though to be honest I wasn’t exactly overjoyed to have another disc of Aerial to go. Not that I disliked A Sea Of Honey, but it just felt a little too sparse and aside from a few tracks I didn’t have a lot to get my teeth into. I was pleasantly surprised to start on this disc though. For once I completely understand why it had to be a double CD, this just makes perfect sense on its own. Of course you still need a single to go with it, and King of the Mountain served this function but has no place on A Sky of Honey.
10 Prelude: Very simple intro track, but it totally made me smile and go a bit misty… birdsong is the big motif in this disc, and those unmistakable pigeons just brought back so much. I really miss that sound, it reminds me of home. I know a lot of people hate pigeons but I have a very special place for my heart for those retarded little things. Then of course she starts talking like one … oh KATE. So yes, I’m fully expectant that nobody will ‘get’ why I love this mini-track so much, but I hope you can understand the feeling.
07 Prologue: Normally I would be a little weary of such long tracks, in effect there are only really 6 tracks tied together with 3 links. However this particular one doesn’t do a LOT for me. The piano that is used for most of the album is really lovely, as much as I often foam at the clunge about the use of strings in songs. A bit sleepy really but quite pleasant.
07 An Architect’s Dream: Oh it’s ROLF! After missing hs contribution on didgeridoo duties on “The Dreaming” there is NO mistaking him now. Some percussion now too, and that twanging thing (harpsichord?) it’s a nice mix really. It almost seems a little wrong to judge each track one-by-one as this album really works as a whole piece, but I suppose I can still have my favourite sections. To be honest the lyrics aren’t really doing much, but the feel of the song is very restful. Almost reminds me a little of the more chilled out bits of Ray of Light, with more bongos.
08 The Painter’s link: Oh poor Rolf, painting in the rain? ROOKIE MISTAKE. It’s easy to mock the use of him on the album, but don’t forget that he has had a No.1 in his own right (a Christmas one, no less), and nearly as many Top 10 hits as Kate herself! I’m sure if I had an English degree I could decode this a little better, but I guess this is about the buildup to sunset (though of course she does SAY that, and it is the track before Sunset, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN).
09 Sunset: NOW we are getting into it, suddenly it makes sense. The sea/sky of honey is her interpretation of a sunset, reflected in water (I seem to recall her house in Devon being on the shore of a big river when we drove past it). This is depicted in the cover art too, with the impression of scenery reflected in the water, but really it’s the waveform of birdsong 😮 (I even got that without reading on Wikipedia). I just get this sense of how much thought has gone into it, wonderful! The track itself is good, though a bit repetitive, I don’t really get on with that dust/rust thing. BUT THEN it suddenly turns into a climactic sunset of FLAMENCO! Incredible. After a rather sleepy first half, this sounds like the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard, but still. INSPIRED.
10 Aerial Tal: So now the sun has set, and mad old Kate is wheeling out her birds again. I find it such a beautiful sound anyway, but then she JOINS IN(!!) If you are just casually reading PLEASE listen to this track, it’s the best one minute you’ll spend this weekend. Even my beloved pigeons make an encore, chanting the CD names, AMAZING!
08 Somewhere in between: A nice little tempo simmering underneath this, and probably the closest you will find to a single on this disc, even if it does have “Failed to chart” written all over it. I find her vocals somehow Bjorky in places, I’m not sure quite why, I think it’s when she hangs on to some of the notes that reminds me of moments from Vespertine. Yeah I like this too, a little spun out for 5 minutes, but I’ve heard a lot worse.
09 Nocturn: So we move from dusk to night-time. I did feel a bit unsure about an 8:30 epic, but she somehow pulls it off with some lovely atmospherics at the start to set the scene. After 2 minutes it gets a little more rich, with a great chillout vibe (what a terrible phrase I can’t improve on) as it really breaks into some soaring sections. I love some of the phrases she uses too, so gorgeous and really gives me something to imagine (and I do HAVE a good imagination, even if I use phrases like “chillout vibe”). It just builds during the course of the track, which is of course the key to stop your 8:30 epics going terminal. That acoustic guitar joining the mix at the 6-minute mark really is wonderful, and this sense of something takes over, urgency? panic? not sure.. but all good things come to an end, and as much as you are skinny-dipping in the sea, the sun will always rise. The parallels between sunrise and sunset is reflected in the return of the “Sky/Sea of honey” phrasing. But then the sun breaks through, illuminating things, like… an aerial? Maybe I missed something there in the aerial’s significance. But it builds to a big CRESCENDO. Gorgeous.
08 Aerial: Who knows, mad old Kate probably took the name for the album from her washing powder when she was doing her “washing machiiiine” song. Anyway we start in a bit of a dizzy panic now the sun is out, with a frenzy as Kate wants to BASK on the roof. It calms down, and the birds come back. Oh dear, I think batshit crazy old Kate is off her MEDS. Either that or she has learnt how to speak blackbird and her new feathered friend has got some really FILTHY jokes. Still, at least she’s happy, and it’s nice to know she is happy and has enough money to get the help she needs. “All of the birds are laughing!” *writhes around in straitjacket*. I probably wouldn’t let her on that roof. Anyway I love the pulsing tempo to this, and even a bit of electic guitar. It does rather go on for a bit and she starts cackling again, but finally the sedative kicks in and it fades out (for like a minute).
And that’s that! I’m done with the studio albums, and it feels like I went out on a high. While I thought A Sea of Honey was rather uninteresting, this really does just WORK for me. In these days of iPods and Wi-Fi bluetooth Twitter feeds and microwaveable hamburgers, I don’t really put whole albums on my iPod but I think this really DOES work better as a whole. However since I usually have it on shuffle I will make a few EDITS. But anyway I really love how there is a theme to the whole thing, it’s almost a concept album. Certainly a marked improvement on The Red Shoes. But I suppose it better be if the lazy bitch is going to take 12 years to make a follow-up.
Keepers for the iPod: I ended up keeping the whole LOT, hooray!