In recent years the release of a new Scott Walker album has polarised or perhaps horrified as many as have fallen at his feet. Soused is no exception and when one sees the less than two minute promo (an excerpt from Bull partly sung in Latin) it might be seen more as a warning than as encouragement to buy the record. Although this album is a collaboration with Seattle experimental, drone metal band Sunn O)))), it continues on the same path as Bisch Bosch and The Drift in its desire to avoid songs as much as possible. It’s more like sound with vocals added, not exactly random but you would be forgiven for mistaking the verse for the chorus and vice versa – this of course isn’t the point!
It sounds to me like a medieval gaol transported in a UFO to the other side of the universe. There, on landing on a very dark planet, giant doors open to reveal not monsters but feelings manifested as energy pouring out of jagged craters and lava scorched fissures – emotions as thick black smoke or metallic ore. It’s trauma visualised, it’s an investigation into the complexity of human chaos, acted out in the only place where answers might be found – nowhere! It’s a paradox, a fruitless task and at the same time a fascinating yet deeply pointless meaningful journey where no one’s going to make any friends and in the end it will be totally worth it.
It’s not just challenging or even confrontational, it’s truly avant-garde. It makes Einsturzende Neubauten or Nick Cave sound like variety show acts. Its biggest success is how it has bridged experimental, modern classical and rock music, shaken it up and poured it out onto the stage at The Old Vic Theatre in London. It’s an experimental play dealing with all kinds of philosophies, examining itself as well as examing you, the Janitor Of Lunacy and the history of literature all at the same time. It’s Kurt Veil and Bertolt Brecht doing Shakespeare. It’s death in a coal mine, it’s Death Of A Salesman, it’s stark, cold and caring and exploratory, it’s beautifully sung with resonant commanding tones, it’s fire and brimstone, it’s brave, carefree, uncompromising, it’s monochrome, it’s ragged clothes in disused shipyards, it’s history falling apart in the future.
The album is produced as all Walker’s experimental records have been by Peter Walsh and this collaboration adds new dimensions to his ideas and sonic contribution. The band are perfect, their sounds dug up from under ruined cities make mood and disease throughout the tracks. There are five titles, Brando, Herod 2014, Bull, Fetish and Lullaby, each piece approximately ten minutes long. They scream and wail, drag you by the hair through gravel pits and poisoned quarries and then caress you under the cold stars till your next encounter with the demon inside of you. It’s a nursery rhyme made of thorns, a nettle ice cream tempting you and stinging your tongue till it tears the truth out of you. And what’s most uncomfortable about it is that one moment you are alone freezing, blistered, scraping your soul off the burning ice and the next you are all tucked up in bed, soft candles flickering shadows across the ceiling, the distant hum of security and comfort from the light that glows under your bedroom door and then a déjà vu, an inkling that something is wrong. The mood changes, the atmosphere becomes thick, the light goes out, the candles extinguish themselves and the room begins to shake as you are spread-eagled naked in a cage, rusty bars, the smell of rotting wood and a blackness that is darker than the corner of fear that holds you tight in its unfailing grip.
It’s truly invigorating.