From the eerie suspended strings in It's Raining Today (1969), before the Walker Brothers - the Electrician (1978) where the cool young crooner recognized late with his odd slow tempos and sophisticated orchestrations already sounds in touch with his other and true self, which is still instead the ultimate romantic bi-polar / borderline personality persona song ever written in comparison to what comes in 1983's Climate of Hunter, a lo-key album of beautiful sound textures where Walker's eyes express about all the fear in the world that we can imagine and the music is already much closer to 1998's Tilt than we think (Tilt did scared Brian Eno away though) and at a time when it was so difficult to create anything in a studio without getting stuck in sound standards, to the legendary gap between the enigmatic music on Tilt (1995) and Drift (2006) to the ears of the most connected music listeners, Walker is still writing songs, but has largely modulated all the aspects, until the melodies are now more suggested than heard, the chorus and verses absent (often the case in 2012) and the arrangements away from any music composer or songwriter original ideas lifted out for his songs. It is hard to imagine a songwriter getting further away from his past. There are still references of course, no man can deny everything, but they are now musically present in sound details like an ironic tambourine following a cryptic cadence and a soul dance nobody possibly know how to dance (Epizootics!). Even the main element, his amazing low cool voice, developed steadily through the decades a microtonal insistence on a few tones instead of keeping the melodic croon intact.
When it comes to singing with urgency though, Bish Bosch has an intensity that I don't remember feeling with Drift playing. One of the most welcome features on Bish Bosch are the ghost voices that appear on different ranges for short moments. These are some of the most evocative I remember listening to in music. They don't sound like they are out of a studio at all, but rather from passing visitors who just happened to be recorded perfectly. The same could be said of all the sound elements in Bish Bosch, even more than in Drift I would say where the music was recorded in slight saturation sometimes and often in big blocks of sound with less place for dynamics to change.
You never feel alone with technology when listening to Bish Bosch, an adventure through sound landscapes and rock of the complete unknown and pure imagination like the hell from Middle Age hermit painter Hieronymus Bosch, to which the album is dedicated in sort. And Walker takes even more of a risk by using frequently some of his richest instrumentation and best ideas on only one isolated part, avoiding a verse / chorus logic that was still dominant before. Nothing either quiet or loud either, even with so much passing-by nasty guitars in front of the mix.
It is almost the expression of rock music by a microtonal music composer who has only heard once that it was made out of a few chords played on each instrument.
Walker goes through all kinds of experiments, this time with electroacoustic technologies, in this world dominant with the same minimalism than the electronic guitars and heavy drums that appear to amplify the sounds picked by Walker. Acoustical noise inventions are not the focus like on Drift, but instead amazing electronic frequencies that often shine in our mind with a symbolic imagery, never blended in a continuous mass of Max / MSP like it is now done by so many in 2012.
it is almost the opposite, a lot of expression comes of short segments of thin but striking piercing sounds soon dismissed for something else. It is all about the context. Once Walker got what he wanted from a sound, he let go of it forever. Only a few songs (most feel like parts of one composition) have the insistence that made <strong>Drift</strong> what it is, the Górecki and Penderecki factor I would say for the strings parts or the industrial Suicide on See You Don't Bump His Head, painfully insistent as an anti-intro and sound metaphor with a short poem. The masterpiece SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter) does get to more than 21 minutes and stays less long on any part than all the other songs with probably the best and most active singing Scott Walker could hope for. A few luminaries like Toby Driver solo album on Tzadik has some of this deeply dark atmosphere and rich textured metal, but it falls flat when it comes to original composition and singing. Even the use of the word darkness (maybe not always needed in terms of pure poetry) appears faultless, like a signature that Walker copyrighted to remind us that it is just a game and that he is in fact enjoying himself with this music.
The ending, The Day the "Conducator" Died (An Xmas Song) is not unlike the finale for Drift, but it is a longer intimate affair with an addictive echo of a misanthropic death metal guitar sound. To me, it is Scott Walker's most personal song to date even in his constant contradiction of all the feelings he is singing about.
Most first fans of the young crooner with sophisticated arrangements are gone by now ("If you are listening to this, you must have survived !" sings Walker in an ironic way), but the listeners still there will get it. The shorter six years gap does not mean Walker has evolved less. This work is so unified and well composed in an instantly recognized personal method that does not sound like anything else. It is hard to notice when a piece started and another ended. And there is no need to. What define songs ?
Vincent Berger Rond [2012.11.23]
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