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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2014 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 8, 2006 | 4AD

There were intermittent soundtrack and score contributions of varying magnitudes, as well as a couple other low-key projects, but The Drift is Scott Walker's proper follow-up to 1995's Tilt, an album that also happened to trail its predecessor by 11 years. If 1984's Climate of Hunter put the MOR in morose, Tilt avoided the road completely and went straight toward the fractured, fraught images inside Walker's nightmares. It was entirely removed from anything that could've been classified as contemporary. The Drift isn't an equally severe leap from Tilt, but it is darker, less arranged, alternately more and less dense, and ultimately more frightening. Maybe it'll make your body temperature drop a few degrees. Working with what Walker has referred to as "blocks of sound," only a few of the album's 68 minutes have any connection to rock music, and many of those minutes are part of a harrowing 9/11 song that also obliquely references "Jailhouse Rock" as Elvis Presley cries out ("I'm the only one left alive!") to his stillborn twin brother. The songs swing from hovering drones to crushing jolts. The blocks that make them, then, differ tremendously in weight, from one that could be pushed by an index finger to one that could only be hauled by a forklift. Whenever a vast shaft of space opens up, it is eventually stuffed with drastic, horrific dissonance. While a song might contain a constant element or two, they're all in a constant state of unease and flux. Walker's voice matches the activity levels of the sounds, providing a kind of paranoid croon one minute and then, during another, casting almost demonic projections that are nearly as rattling as the accompaniment. From the outset, the album seems impossibly insular and impenetrable, especially if you've been led to believe that Scott Walker's name is synonymous with recluse, but it has everything to do with real lives (or, more accurately, real deaths). Walker is acutely aware of what's going on with the world outside his supposed candle-lit bunker; he's only finding very unique (OK, bloody minded) ways to bring them up. Any mystique behind the recordings is laid to waste by one scene from a documentary, titled 30 Century Man, which shows Walker -- a baseball hat-wearing sixty-something man from Ohio -- instructing another man on how to thump a slab of meat. It looks and sounds absurd, of course (the participants seem to be aware of this), but then again, the results are used in a song inspired by the public executions of Benito Mussolini and his mistress. Broken spells aside, how much more bleak could this album be? None more bleak. ~ Andy Kellman
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 3, 2012 | 4AD

Bish Bosch is, according to Scott Walker, the final recording in the trilogy that began with 1995’s Tilt and continued in 2006’s The Drift. Its title combines urban slang for the word "bitch" and the last name of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Like its predecessors, Bish Bosch is not an easy listen initially. It's utterly strange, yet alluring. Musically, Walker is as rangy and cagey as ever. His players have worked with him since Tilt; they know exactly what he wants and how to get it. A string orchestra arranged and conducted by keyboardist Mark Warman, and a full symphony on three cuts are also employed. The lyrics on Bish Bosch are full of obscure historical, philosophical, medical, geographical and cultural allusions. For instance, subatomic science, a dwarf jester in Attila the Hun’s court, St. Simeon, and an early 20th century fad all appear in "SDSS14+3B (Zircon, A Flagpole Sitter)." Elsewhere, Nicolai Ceausescu, Nikita Khrushchev, the Ku Klux Klan, and God himself show up. While Bish Bosch is another exercise in artful pretension, it is the most accessible entry in this trilogy and well worth the effort to get at it. Themes of decay are woven throughout these songs -- of empire, of the body, of language and religion -- yet they are often complemented and illustrated by wry, pun-like, and even scatological humor. Walker's pessismism is akin to Samuel Beckett's and like the author, he holds space for a sliver of hope. On "Corps de Blah," a chorus of farts answers an a cappella lullaby whose lyrics are grotesque. Before it's over, Walker reaches operatic heights vocally, singing about bodily functions, surgery ("Nothing clears out a room/like removing a brain"), speculative philosophy, and romantic betrayal, all while accompanied by thrumming, wailing strings, metallic guitar riffs, a flailing drum kit, and layers of electronics and ambience. "Epizootics!" uses a “tubax” -- part baritone sax, part tuba -- that introduces an infectious, fingerpopping drum chant before Walker employs bop-era vocal phrasing to climb to a careening crescendo before his version of a Hawaiian folk song closes it. "Tar’s" power electronics shriek is brought to earth by a rhythmic strategy that involves machetes frantically clashing against one another. Despite its 21-plus-minute monolithic length, "SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)" is almost welcoming. Layered ambient and looped textures, bombastic rock dynamics, metal guitars, soundtrack effects, and Walker's theatrical baritone allow the listener inside the maelstrom of his soundworld. Here, as in many other places on Bish Bosch, traces, hints, and suggestions of melody are given small but pronounced spaces that momentarily relieve the listener's sense of dislocation and tension before building them up again. His voice too, is freer to float and engage something approaching lyricism. With Bish Bosch, Walker creates a kind of Möbius Strip: by virtue of creating a less physically demanding sonic landscape, he provides a way into his iconic trilogy on his way out of it. ~ Thom Jurek
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Film Soundtracks - Released August 19, 2016 | 4AD

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Film Soundtracks - Released August 19, 2016 | 4AD

Heard in the context of director Brady Corbet's provocative, feature-length debut film, Scott Walker's original score for The Childhood of a Leader is so successful, it's inseparable from the images but adds brutality. (It was deliberately mixed five-percent above the Dolby standard to be intrusive.) The film's narrative is loosely based on a Jean-Paul Sartre short story of the same title published in 1939. Corbet's depiction is of a nine-year-old boy in 1918, forced to live in France while his dad helps negotiate the Treaty of Versailles for President Woodrow Wilson. Set in acts -- known as "tantrums" -- these are the formative years of a fascist dictator. Walker's musical engagement with the topic of fascism dates back to 1978's "The Electrician," from the Walker Brothers 1978 reunion album Nite Flights; it expressionistically detailed the nature of power exchanged in sadomasochistic relationships. This is Walker's first exercise in the medium since scoring Leo Carax's Pola X in 1999. For music fans who haven't seen the film, the question as to whether or not the soundtrack holds as a standalone document is pertinent. Co-produced by Walker and Peter Walsh, the half-hour-long score was performed by a 62-piece orchestra of strings, winds, reeds, brass, and percussion, and conducted by longtime collaborator Mark Warman. After a brief, humorous "Orchestral Tuning Up," the listener is jarred to attention by rumbling cellos and violas in a repetitive, almost vampish pattern. Violins enter, adding another harmonic layer hovering on the edges of dissonance in minor-key drama. Brass and sawed middle-register violins expand the palette until everything swirls and bleeds in a Bernard Hermann-esque chase scene score. Walker's serial cues are equally satisfying. Listen to the trilled exchanges of violins and piccolos in "Down the Stairs" and the striated Ligeti-esque dissonances in "Up the Stairs." In the latter, strings increase the tension until it crescendos in an unsettling finale. In "Boy, Mirror, Car Arriving," cellos seethe and smolder, threatening to erupt and/or collapse at any moment. The droning brass introducing "Third Tantrum" recalls Komeda, but is offset by strings in shifting time signatures and keys. "On the Way to the Meeting" is introduced by cellos playing a frenetic circular pattern answered by military snares and middle- and high-register violins before being resolved by horns and tubas in long, single foreboding notes. "The Meeting" offers a restricted, brooding dynamic with a deceptively large timbral palette that would have been at home on any Walker solo album. The "Finale," with its bleating, fat, low brass (à la Scelsi) prepares the ground for an all-out aural assault of drums and percussion, noise, dissonant siren-like horns, and squalling strings, all of which erase notions of anything but war. The mood is lightened, for only a moment, in the concluding "New Dawn," but the composer can't resist: the dramatic movement overcomes perceived tranquility in the final notes, making this a dark, turbulent, and welcome entry in Walker's catalog. ~ Thom Jurek
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 20, 2014 | 4AD

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 1, 2007 | 4AD

A companion piece of sorts to Scott Walker's challenging 2006 album, THE DRIFT, the 25-minute AND WHO SHALL GO TO THE BALL? presents four instrumental pieces composed by the British-based avant-pop icon. Commissioned by a London modern dance company, these tracks are far from accessible, often building up to an anxious frenzy, as on the string-laden "2nd Movement" and the cacophonous "4th Movement." Lacking Walker's signature deep croon, BALL can be most directly linked to John Zorn's classical/experimental work, and may perplex fans of Walker's eccentric yet pop-savvy 1960s outings, making it an offering primarily geared towards his diehard followers.

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  • Sohn who?
    Sohn who? British Electro Soul... Tremors is the new album from Sohn released at 4AD earlier this week and frankly, we love it.