Friday, December 21, 2012
Scott Walker - Bish Bosch (2012)
Country: Hamilton, Ohio
Scott Walker is easily one of my favorite songwriters (ever). The way his career has changed from his early art/baroque pop into this strange avant-garde composition he's been working with on his last couple of releases is awe-inspiring. I was really surprised when I first heard this album was going to be released this year since anyone who's followed his release schedule recently knows that his last three albums have all had ten-plus year gaps in between them.
As soon as I knew about this album, it pretty much rose to the top of my "must listen to immediately" list. Scott Walker has released two of my favorite albums of all time with Scott 3 and Climate of The Hunter (a record I think was one of the best to come out of the 80s) and so I hold him in very high regard. There is no other artist out there quite like him, and it seems that with every record he releases, his mind just goes more and more bonkers. In an interview talking about this album, he said that he tries to match the music behind him with whatever he has painted in his lyrics. What that means, for those who have yet to hear this or either of his last two full-lengths, is that you'll get his baritone croon atop some of the most absurd combinations of sounds you might ever hear. Listen to this record for the first time took me back to the first time I listened to groups like Mr. Bungle and Maudlin of The Well. When I first began listening to the record from those bands, and this one, I just started laughing because of how weird and foreign it sounds. It's not straight sounding music by any means.
I can't think of another artist who could make the sound of, what appears to be, an arm-fart sound somewhat coherent in a song. In addition to that you have swords slashing against one another, metallic guitar riffs, free-jazz inspired drumming, pulsating electronic beats, breaks into samba rhythms, among many other ideas. It's worth pointing out that these sounds may overlap but more often than not are separate from each other, making the entire thing very disjointed. In addition to how laughably absurd some of this is, it can also be just plain jarring. Where Walker's last two full-lengths were, to a certain extent, based in the world of orchestration and symphonic music, in which it pushed and tested the boundaries of that style, this new album actually doesn't stick with a singular sonic pallet. The album's longest piece, SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter), is easily one of the strangest pieces of music I've heard in a long time. Being twenty-one minutes long is no easy task of sitting through, but Walker manages to put together an assembly of sounds that range from being dark and dissonant to being downright scary. It's also, in my opinion, the catchiest song on the entire album, as if in some sort middle finger to the listeners. It's the sort of song that could be called progressive in some sense, but if you're coming into this expecting anything coherent, you're going to be sorely disappointed. The track is so all over the place that if I tried to describe everything that happens in it, even with its length, it would sound like a mess.
By now, I'm sure most people with an interest in experimental music have heard the album's anti-single, Epizootics!. While that track may as well be the easiest point of entry into the record, it's still by no means easy listening. It's the type of track that contains some of the most melodic lines, instrumentally anyway, from the entire album, with a synthesized horn section that's pretty much the most memorable thing from the entire album. In regards to the whole album, I do think that it is a bit front loaded, with the first five tracks really being among the strangest and most out-there stuff Walker has ever done, and while the last four tracks are still well done and strange, it isn't quite as intense. At least in my case, I think it resulted from my ear growing accustomed to the sort of sounds he was working with, within a reasonable extent of course, that it just loses a bit of that unwieldy quality.
As much as I love the likes of mad geniuses like Mike Patton, Devin Townsend, and Steven Wilson, none of them can hold a candle to Scott Walker. For as often as this record is head scratchingly absurdist and over-the-top, it's also elegant and bold in all the wrong ways. It's one of those records that doesn't make sense in the slightest, but works in spite of that. Listen to Scott Walker, listen to this record, and prepare for one of the strangest listening experience you will likely ever have.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight(?)