Kate Bush

I hesitated between posting this question in the Music forum rather than Analog, but since the question regards the quality of the vinyl pressing and sound rather than the quality of the music, I decided the question was more fitting in the Analog forum.

I own all of Kate's records with the exception of "Aerial," and all of her albums are exceptionally good sounding, even the recent reissues of "The Hounds of Love" and "The Sensual World." Her last release before "50 Words for Snow" was "Director's Cut," which she released under her own label Fish People. The quality is beyond reproach. I just purchased "50 Words for Snow" and cleaned it with the AIVS 3-step formulas before first play. I had to stop a few minutes into the first song as the sounds was being marred by the loud crackling noise every several seconds. Same with the second song. It pretty much continued throughout the entire two-record album. The album was mastered by Doug Sax and James Guthrie and the CD sounds spectacular so I know it's not the recording but the quality of the pressing. Does anyone who owns this release share my experience? As much as I'd want it to be the case, I find it hard to believe I just happened to buy a bad isolated pressing. I'm so bummed as the music is heavenly.
I have it and am not sure I played it all the way through. Not because of the pressing quality which appears to be pristine, but because I simply don't like it. If you can't get your copy exchanged, let me know (no one else, please). Contact me off line.
My experience was similar, though perhaps not as bad as yours, with the snap, crackle, and pops not as frequent. I, too, own all of Kate Bush's records on vinyl -- and on CD, too. I've loved her from the first. Wish I'd seen her live on her brief little tour way back in the late 1970s. Wish I were a snowman!
I noticed intermittent crackling on the first two cuts but clean thereafter. The situation improved slightly after a good wash. I have not had a chance to revisit.
My copy is fine. I played at CES/THE Show as a demo.
I brought the album back to my local record store I got it from and the manager "sampled" it on his Sony turntable at home and said it sounded fine. I guess he was nice enough to offer me a brand new replacement. I thought I'd try it first without cleaning, and a few seconds into the first song, exactly the same thing: swoosh every rotation in the left speaker, then disturbing surface noise as the song progresses. Absolutely unlistenable. No problem with any other record in my collection or the few used ones I acquired since the original purchase of this album. WTF? I'm convinced it's some sort of a manufacturing quality issue with the album in general, not just my copies, that is evident with a more resolving system. I'm very annoyed as I'm now stuck with a brand new double album of amazing music I cannot listen to.
Does this new disc show the same problems at exactly the same places, Actus? Is the disc drilled dead centre? MRA is often the root of all evil in situations like this but it looks like you accounted for that with your cleaning regime.

To finally nail the problem, take it down to your local hifi dealer and ask him to play it. If it exhibits the same symptoms then it's the disk. If not, it's mechanical.
Hope this helps...
I had a similar? problem with a Lucinda Williams LP.

With carefull adjustment of azimuth and anti-skate I was able to get rid of my 'left channel 'hiss''. I am not sure if you are having the same type of problem.

The other side of the album played perfect regardless of tonearm adjustments. Yes I am/was baffled.
Dear Actusreus: As Atmesphere my copy is just fine. Yes it is pity that this fine KB recording you can't enjoy it.

What worried a little is that your dealer play your copy with out trouble. If this is absolutely true by his part then IMHO you are in " trouble " because that LP is showing " something " in your cartridge/tonearm set up. The Lp is not so deamnding for your cartridge fail to track it in good shape.

So, the trouble is on both LPs samples that you already try it.
In the past I had a similar problem with an LP and with two samples and was with the third that problem gone.
Seems to me that " there " is a problem ob not very good quality control pressing and your dealer or the manufacturer must solve that problem given you a right LP sample.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Moonglum: The first copy I got had one of the the labels off center, but other than that it appeared ok on visual inspection. I cannot say for sure the noise occurs in exactly the same spot as it was just pretty much every few seconds throughout the first side. It did seem to get a tad batter into the record, but still unlistenable and unacceptable for a brand new pressing.
The store has a Stanton or one of those DJ turntables that they use to play records with and some vintage speakers on the floor so I'm not sure how determinative it would be if the records sounded "fine." The manager said he had a "nice" Sony turntable at home so again I'm not sure how convincing his test was.

Raul: I too thought that the record revealed some deficiency or misalignment in my system, but all other records, both new and used, play without any problems.

Here is my take on this after a closer look: The first record released by Kate's record company, Fish People (aka Noble & Brittle), was "Director's Cut." The record was pressed in Europe. It sounds terrific. "50 Words for Snow," even though on the same label, was licensed to Anti, Inc. in the US. I'm convinced this is where the problem lies. They most likely did not pay enough attention to the quality of the vinyl pressing and botched the job. I don't know where Raul's and Atmasphere's copies came from, but I bet the copies manufactured in Europe sound fine.
Dear Actusreus: I bought mine from Elusive Disc.

Raul: Does your copy have a big ANTI- logo next to the FISH People logo on the bottom of the back cover? And does it say under the logos, "2011 Noble & Brittle Ltd. trading as Fish People, under exclusive license to Anti, Inc. (LA address)"?
Dear Actusreus: Yes, that exactly what I'm reading right now.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Mine has that too.

I got it at Cheapo in St. Paul, MN.
Then I am at a loss to understand. I took the second album to the store today to listen to it on their Stanton turntable. Even with the background noise and the low-end equipment, the same defects were immediately audible. They acknowledged that the noise was too excessive for a brand new album and gave me full credit.
Raul and Atmasphere, have you actually listened to the album closely without any distractions? I find it hard to believe that I had bad luck with two different copies in a row. The defects were way too pronounced to be just a coincidence. I don't mind clicks and pops such as when you get a used record, but this was just a straight out unlistenable record.
I intend to obtain a copy released for the European market to put this to rest.
Thank you all who tried to help and offered their feedback.
Dear Actusreus: You don't have bad luck, problem was and is the very bad quality control on that LPs. As I told you: the dealer or the manufacturer must fix that problem change it your sample for a one in good shape or money return.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Seems to me that you got two albums from the same "batch" w a similar pressing defect. Maybe a bad batch of vinyl? Or a bad stamper (not sure that the pressing runs are long enough to have that be an issue).
Is she a turntable.
Then I am at a loss to understand.

About 13 years ago I got the new Porcupine Tree LP Signify. Easily half of the pressings had defects. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens...
I got a response from the record company today. Surprisingly informative:

Three different plates were cut trying to get it right at the factory, but the noise on the recording remained present because the recordings were mastered at a low volume; the version that was released was the best that they could get without having it completely remastered. It was approved by all parties involved and thus was released.

So it's not just a few bad pressings, but all pressings due to the quality of the source material. Raul and Atmasphere, would you like to retract your responses? :)
Dear Actusreus: certainly not. That manufacturer or any other one can't check the full pressing LPs were some are better than others. My sample is really good and I'm not an " easy " guy about LP's defects.

In the other side I don't think for a minute that Atmasphere choosed that LP to show his products.

Anyway, IMHO that answer is in some way " no answer " at all.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I must have lucked out. I would not say the pressing is perfect, very few are, but it does not exhibit excessive noise on any particular track (including side 1); instead there a few random minor ticks and pops throughout- no loud crackling noises at all!
I just ordered a copy from the UK. It will be interesting to compare. I will report on the results once I receive it.
The original pressings are very good in most cases
I suppose both can be considered "original" pressings since they were released at the same time on both continents. For, what I assume, was a business reason, the American pressings were simply manufactured under license to an American company. I guess one could argue the European release is original since it's on the artist's label. What I'm very curious about is to see whether the source material used was the same and the European release is as noisy as the American one, as it should be, if the source material was indeed somehow compromised by the mastering process. I just find it very hard to believe that Doug Sax and James Guthrie would messed up a recording. These guys are icons in the industry.
I also have Kate Bush '50 Words For Snow'. It is a 180 Gram double LP that includes the CD and a 20 Page booklet.

I received it from a friend (Jazdoc) who visited in early December. The LP plays quietly and there are no issues in terms of noise that is out of the norm.

The one constant, Actusreus, i see is the copies you purchased were from the same Store and therefore most likely the same batch. This may be why you are experiencing the same issue with both pressings.

Dear Dre: Agree, same bad batch.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Actus....you owe it to yourself to buy Aerial. I'm convinced this is the best thing she's ever done.

At first play I thought the album too "sanitised" compared to her earlier work such as "The Dreaming". A judgement I regretted after the second play (200 since then). It's long and complex but an immensely rewarding listen.
It's so intimately presented that sometimes there is a sense that you are actually inside the composer's head and you feel honoured that she allowed us to hear this Work.

Kate is possibly the only composer I can think of who could write a song about a washing machine and make it profoundly listenable.
The principal guest stars on this album are the legendary Rolf Harris, and of course Kate's young son, Bertie. Rolf illustrates his artistic skills and even gets the chance to sing a verse. As a child I remember marvelling at how Rolf could create an impression of the Outback using a full sized decorators paintbrush. Kate's album is a fitting tribute to the man.
Some of the songs are so quirky (e.g. "Pi", where she sings the value of Pi to over 120 decimals) that your brain may struggle to absorb them at first.
Disregard your preconceptions and recognise true genius which achieves it's full expression here.
To those unfamiliar with Kate's work, if you dare "put your hand over the side of the boat" she will own your heart...

I didn't intend a makeshift review-come-thread-hijack so apologies for that.... :)
Thank you for this wonderful post; please do not apologize! I am so happy to know that there are others on this forum who appreciate Kate as much as I do. I've been a big fan of hers since the 80s when I was still in my teens. I rekindled my deep appreciation for her work as I got back into vinyl a few years ago. What an artist.

I had tears coming down my face when I put on "This Woman's Work" on vinyl many years after hearing this song for the first time. Not many artists can make a grown man cry as he listens to his turntable...

I discovered "Aerial" a few months ago and I am absolutely enchanted by this album. I feel exactly the same way you do about it. It's not an album; it's an experience. How ridiculous is it that I only know it through youtube? I've tried to get it on vinyl but it commands a rather steep price of upwards of $130 every time it comes up for an action. I have been unable to find it anywhere else.

It's so amazing that this woman can experiment to such a degree and still create most unbelievable music. Yes, to me she could probably sing the phone book and it would sound great, but what she has done is so artistically unique and beautiful, she has no equal among female artists, in my opinion.

I don't want to turn this post into an ode, but I simply must say that "Sunset" from "Aerial" is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. It's simply perfection. It humbles me realizing that someone can be so talented as to create something so sublime.
Actus...you are not alone by any means my friend... :0)
Your post puts the case far better than I ever could.
Reason I posted was that I listened to the entire album yesterday afternoon and was reminded of your interest. Aerial has been one of my top3 Desert Island Discs since its release and it just keeps getting better. Despite being an analog diehard I can say that all the emotion is available even from the CD and the digital production is so good that I don't feel cheated. Listening to it on a pair of electrostats every nuance of the voice is conveyed.

You read my mind on Sunset.
Every time I hear it, its sheer urgency makes you feel like climbing the aerial yourself to catch that last glimpse of sunset fire....
Best Regards...
Something you may be interested in Actus : getting back to the technical details for a moment I must say that Kate's vinyl productions are among the most lavish, no expense spared examples I've seen. This is one artist who really takes Analogue seriously.
I'd pre-ordered the "Director's Cut" and "50 Words.." last year abd was blown away by the production values on the D/Cut. The attention to detail was almost unprecented.... anti-static poly lined paper sleeves, properly de-burred immaculately clean and properly finished records, a generously sized book of notes...
Sumptuous and perfect-looking is the only way to describe it.
There were criticisms about the analogue sound on DC by some...
Here is Kate's take (on Analogue) and the logic behind the D/Cut in a rare BBC Radio4 interview :

I was referring to her earlier work. I have a copy of Ariel and although it is a fantastic album, my vinyl is terrible. I listen to the CD which is pretty good
Dear Moonglum: I never heard the Aeriel one but the three LPs reissius I own are just great by the in deep content of Kate composition and the music it self.

It is almost impossible hear those recordings and not been moved with.

I will buy that Aeriel CD because what you and other posted here and because I already been " touched " by Kate.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Raul...many thanks for your confidence in our critiques.
That you already know Kate from the past is a sure guarantee of success, but I really hope you like it.

Prior to Aerial, Kate disappeared "off the radar" for 12 yrs. When Aerial's release was announced there was a stampede(!) to pre-order.

Best regards...
Thank you for the link to the BBC interview with Kate; it was great to hear her speak about her music, creative process, and touring. It amazes me that her huge popularity in the UK and Europe for decades has not seemed to affect her in any negative way.

I read somewhere that she was a fan of the analog sound and was dissatisfied with the recording quality of some of her newer albums. It must have been in the context of "Director's Cut." I own most of her albums, with the exception of "The Red Shoes" and "Aerial" and they sound amazing. The sound is full, rich, and organic. Perfectly analog.

I know "DC" is quite controversial and a lot of her die-hard fans outright reject it. Some were even angry that she dared to remake "This Woman's Work." I'm in the smaller camp that fully embraced the album. I think it's terrific. She managed to make the songs sound as great as the originals, but also different. To me they do sound like new songs so I completely agree with her that statement that she considers it a new album.

I'm now hoping that "Aerial" will be reissued at some point, just like "Hounds of Love" and "Sensual World." I'm baffled as to what happened with that album that it commands such ridiculous price. Almost all of her albums are rather easy to find used for less than $10. I have two copies of each I own, but "Aerial" is just impossible to find used, even on eBay.
Dear Actus...I strongly agree regarding the D/Cut. I was delighted with it and felt at the very least it provides an alternative viewpoint.
When I googled the R4 interview (which I'd not previously heard) I was actually looking for a more recent one on "50 Words" that was recorded weeks ago, but this one was especially interesting.
In the way that Kate says she is never satisfied and constantly feels a desire to rework the material, she is fast becoming the new Gustav Mahler (:-)
(Meant in a kindly way to both Mahler & Kate...)

I don't think the composer would be offended if you went for the CD version. The only note of caution is that there may be remastering differences between the 2005 and 2011 versions. Kate took a loooong time thinking about the 2005 version, so, to me at least, Aerial is a finished masterpiece(?) and it worries me that they may have have tinkered with Disc 2.
Websites appear to show the tracklisting on CD2 with a single title "An Endless Sky of Honey".
The original had 2 main titles :
CD1 = A sea of Honey
CD2 = A sky of Honey
The following are the original titles of each "movement" on CD2 in their correct order :

An Architect's Dream
The Painter's Link
Somewhere in Between

Hope this helps...
I have the vinyl pressing of Aerial and it's terrific.

She's an incredibly interesting artist.
Me too I'm a fun. Looking back at Lion Heart was phenomenal in it's thirst for exploration, a breath of confidence and power delivery upon the challenge of life. Later comes the Hounds Of Love the second side of which was a deep sinking into some unknown masterful consolation ways. Now the Aerial's maturity offers the transition to the detached view from within the stoical psyche of the swan Duchess. The distillation of awareness and the acceptance of the permanent sensuality upon the most little, humble and ordinary. The miracle inside everything. A cognitive guide in the quest and identification of beauty. I was allways quick when she releases her work and I have the original first copy of all and the EMI 100years ('97) really great reissue of Hounds Of Love ('85) from which "Mother stands for comfort" used to impress every guest back in '80s when I have had a Tandberg integrated amp, Kef 105.2, Denon DP80/SME IV/Grado. So much intense memories and personal life experiences related to her. I consider my self very lucky that every time she develops her inquiries and makes an LP, she manages to target and heels with the most sophisticated kind of upheaval. Μore close to my aesthetic concerns and mental procedure than some other loves of mine (Joni Mitchell, Laurie Anderson) keeps holding my heart in her handful and essence.
My favorite Kate Bush album is called The Dreaming.
I bought my copy of 50 Words... from Sunrise Records on Yonge St/Toronto, a European pressing (although not clear where exactly from, being "Made in EU") and it is perfectly clean.
I'm still waiting for mine I bought last week from the UK, but it sounds promising based on your experience.
Got the record today from the UK and just finished listening. Not the quietest vinyl in my collection, but far superior to the two American pressings I tried. Aside from some ticks and pops here and there, the records sound great; I was finally able to enjoy the subtlety and intimacy of Kate's arrangements. Just as I expected so I feel vindicated, but it cost me twice the price, unfortunately...