AMN Reviews: Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused (2014; 4AD)

22344_c_w_300_h_300By Vincent Bergeron

I am not sure if Scott is starting this one with a tribute to Marlon Brando, but here is something I wanted to do for years. I can never compose music about actors, it doesn’t work, probably because my music never settles for a specific character all the way through a composition.

In Sunn O))), who first approached him for a collaboration, Walker finds a sound that settles so much, you can treat it like the constant drone heard in some oriental instruments, a sonic bridge (working, in this case, on the lower edge of sound) that gives a lot of freedom if it fits your method enough. That is certainly the case here.

That is a new set of musicians for quite possibly the most inventive crooner of all times, someone that really slowly became a complete music composer with a constantly evolving musical language, at rapid paste this last decade after so many years wandering in his mind. Perhaps this man is getting younger instead of older. If David Bowie is still listening, he must be wondering why he is suddenly so nostalgic of his past. What about Eno, that was once pissed from going nowhere with the never satisfied Walker in studio? Even Robert Wyatt is not surprising anybody now by getting back to his traditional jazz roots. That is telling me that only music composers and improvisers with a priority aiming for new sounds are aging gracefully, while trying to reach a middle ground audience is killing the soul with the years, it might take a while for us to notice, but the process is always taking place.

In any case, we can`t even remotely compare the amazing music that Walker is doing now to what the other songwriters of his generation end up with in 2014. Even his singing, the very core of his soul seems to be entirely different now that what he used to sound like. You listen to every album since Climate of Hunter (1984) and every time, his voice is carrying a different energy and several new tones surprise you out of nowhere. He is taking more and more risks with his voice dramatically. That is no attitude for an old man.

Here, it is not exactly like a new album by Scott Walker, the instrumentation is not nearly as expensive (no full string orchestra), the sound is more roughly compressed and a lot of space is reserved for the known low guitars and bass drones of Sunn O))) (most obviously, on the second half of Bull), kings of drone metal. Even if you are not a fan of this band, you should listen to Soused right now, for Walker, because the most dramatic tones of the music here are all his world, ghost trumpet chords, scrap metal, power electronics and many parts you wonder how it is being done, whatever your listening habits. Although, I find it difficult to follow the words on this collaboration, even with the help of the intense vocal recording and mixing (more effects than before), his lyrics are not rushed for this collaboration, instead they appear often more diversified and written, even though a bit more simpler like on Driftverse/chorus, than on the more goofy irony on himself found on Bosch Bosch, where it was a little bit under written lyrically, I was thinking with repeated listening (if you absolutely want to be critical, you do like me).

It is a well balanced collaboration, it doesn’t feel like one is carrying the other, but instead that both feed each other. If you prefer one or the other, you will tend to notice more what sounds like their parts (I wonder if Sunn O))) is about drama so much than the definition of an hopeless absence of it). There are moments like these, on all pieces, but most of the time sounds like the meeting of both. Although Sunn O))) had their quality side projects oriented on unusual percussions, it sounds like Walker took care of this part. On many levels, industrial music is an important sonic part of both worlds. Sunn O))) is closer to the apathy and anti-climatic attitude of the industrial, while pretty much through doom metal basics of sustained low chords, something Walker has been obsessed with through instruments found in an orchestra, a little bit like Ligeti. Using more and more industrial music sound technics, Walker makes the bridge between philosophies that go well together, Sunn O))) appears like another level in this work.

I am always highly impressed and excited by Scott Walker music, this collaboration brings new possibilities to his ever ambitious and passionate ideas. Many listens expected…

Vincent Berger Rond [2014.09.12]

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2 thoughts on “AMN Reviews: Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused (2014; 4AD)

  1. I’ve been listening to this recording for a few days now and I’m always left breathless. Walker lives and works in his own world, oblivious of what the music industry is about—and that’s a good thing for us. His music is timeless, yet somehow appropriate for when we listen to it. I could throw out all sorts of accolades that would be meaningless, because there is no point of reference for what Scott does. He’s his own man, on his own terms, and we can take him or leave him. For me, the ‘Scott Walker experience’ is always compelling and thought provoking. This is surely my album of the year…

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