22 December 2011

Snow & Memory: Here, Boy

Aah. The log fire is burning. Monkey the cat is starting to get that look of deep bliss on her usually supercilious face. Kate Bush is singing about snow, and memory, on the stereo. I have been reading quite a lot of Spanish author Julio Llamazares' books, especially Luna de Lobos (Wolf Moon), his novel about memory and the Spanish Civil War, and his poetry La Memoria de la Nieve (The Memory of Snow). Llamazares sees snow as the embodiment of memory - fleeting, intangible, imbued with mystery. Spanish cultural memory is often represented by intangibles, especially ghosts, the spectres of trauma; Llamazares' poetic landscape of snow and ice, full of fleeting ghosts and strange codes and symbols, seems the perfect, if somewhat obtuse, reflection for Kate Bush's recent album 50 Words for Snow.

   Much has been made of another 'return to form' for Kate Bush. But she has been slowly and organically evolving unlike most artists of her age. She has noticed the change in her voice, and adjusted her register accordingly. Instead of the ebullient and wilfully weird lyrics of her earlier songs, Kate Bush has become more poetic (or rather, less obvious) over the years. I especially love the new album for that ambiguous link it makes between snow and memory. She revisits earlier themes. In 'Lake Tahoe' she imagines a reflective surface (the lake) that holds the image of a woman, and the song becomes an elegy for the woman's relationship with her dog, but also her relationship with time (I especially like the subdued dog noises at the end, a nod perhaps to the frenzied barking of Hounds of Love). The people in Bush's new album are able to transcend temporal boundaries. Her duet with Elton John imagines a relationship that spans hundreds of years. Whereas previously Bush has written intensely personal songs,or songs veiled with strange imagery, here she unites the two with a thrilling concept. Snow is time. The human experience is eternal. 'Here, boy - you've come home!' she sings over the tinkling of falling snow. I may be biased. Any song that is a paean to a fine hound lost in time is a winner with me. 

   Like Llamazares, Bush deals in ambiguities, silences, and questions the progress of time as linear. It's easy to wax lyrical about Bush  - especially as I am a lifelong fan, and the fan sites and reviews and musings are numerous - but this album is a pleasing milestone along the progression of a singer who realises that she must grow old, that time must pass, and that change is a given. I rather like that simple truth on this album.
   Anyway, that to me would be a more pleasing attitude at this time of year. Not the fanfare of capitalism, but the quiet and inexorable passing through life of individuals. The question would be - what to do in that short space of time? I've got it wrong so many times and can offer no answers here... but will continue to listen to 50 Words for Snow and try and eke out some meaning:

Her eyes are open but no-one's home
The clock has stopped
So long she's gone
No-one's home
Her old dog is sleeping
His legs are frail now
But when he dreams, 
He runs... 

('Lake Tahoe')

I'll hopefully have some news in the New Year. Submitted lots of new work to various competitions and magazines, and applied for my doctorate, so out of all those sent pieces of paper something should come back.

It's been a beautiful year, sometimes harsh, sometimes silly, sometimes scary, sometimes shaming, sometimes joyful. I learnt shit-loads. Show yer face, 2012.