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Listen at your own risk

Scott Walker's latest soundscape is equal parts tantalising and troubling, writes Bernard Zuel.

When Scott Walker released his most recent album, The Drift, in 2006, I began and ended my review by warning potential listeners to seriously consider whether they really wanted to enter here. And I wasn't joking.

It was a grim, almost misanthropic catalogue of human bastardry and ugliness, which at times wallowed in a stygian morass and at others lanced the atmosphere with the sharpness of the abattoir knives and machines featured on the title track.

Yes, it was astonishing; and one of the artistic statements of the year. But it was neither easy nor easily recommended.

Bish Bosch is not quite as loaded with loathing and even has a very dry and very black joke or two. There's a wider range of instruments and sounds (the brass actually sounds like brass and not like a squealing animal; something that could well be a ukulele; some extra vocals unaffectedly attractive) and there are rhythms that charge and hint at some kind of dance.

But that doesn't mean this album will be comfortable enough for anyone but the hardy adventurer, not when Tar offers both sounds and imagery that raise the hairs on your arm, even as Walker's voice is at its warmest baritone, and See You Don't Bump His Head is one long, high-intensity chase scene, with heavily prodding guitars and drums in pursuit. Or when Corps De Blah is like walking into a Dario Argento horror film soundtracked by an opera deviant.

Or, indeed, when Zercon, a Flagpole Sitter, takes you on a 21-minute journey through trembling trees and rumbling bodies, past shadowed buildings of thick concrete and into corners where thinly dressed men curl up into the smallest targets.


This track, in particular, can be brutal and yet strangely, compellingly beautiful in a way that is hard to explain except to say that Walker hasn't lost any of the alluring pull in his voice from the days when he was in thrall to the songs of Jacques Brel - the golden years of Scott Walker, it must be said.

Remember, too, that there are at least hints of humour - that's my explanation for the frequent references to gonads, bollocks and other variations of the same dangling bits. Not to mention sphincters and organs plucked, crushed and smooshed.

And there are those translatable rhythms, most clearly in Epizootics, where we leap from tribal to terminal to danceable and back again in a way nightclubs might recognise. Fascinating stuff. Troubling and tantalising.


Bish Bosch

(Remote Control)