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Thread: Scott Walker

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    Default Scott Walker



    I note we are missing a Scott thread.
    So here is the space where people can, if they like, argue the cases of winsome-walker bros Scott vs Bergman Scott vs Alcoholic Country Scott vs Nite Flights/post-punk Scott vs 'torture chamber music' Scott. And more to the point where people can discuss the new record in order to induce in me Pavlovian salivating.

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    I've been waiting for one of these to start! (thought perhaps Scott was too Genius vs the Scenius that most here appreciate...)

    Its all good, especially all the stuff post nite-flights... He's probably my single favourite musician, mainly for the way he interrogates the idea of "Song" and "lyric" so rigorously-- reading "Rip It Up & Start Again" the stuff on Scritti about deconstructed self-interrogating lyrics with "aporia" and the like reminded me a lot of late-era Scott stuff, but to my mind Walker does it better and investigates more interesting areas... His late era work is almost like attempts to write songs about things that cannot be effectively written about (ie- vast inhuman events and political protest- but done in a way which isn't cringeworthy or so overly obvious that they become laughable...)

    Tilt is probably his best album, as the balance between "songfulness" and obscure noise-making is kept quite masterfully, with "Patriot (A Single)" the obvious standout (allegedly about the iraq war, altho the only clue really is that it begins and ends with the fragmented date January 17, 1991, the date on which the bombing of Iraq began... but the delicate almost Mahler like string harmonies contrast well with the carefully veiled lyric of horror... quite an informative reading of Tilt can be found here... http://www.chrisconnelly.com/interac...opic.php?t=161 I don't agree with all of it, but a lot of it certainly gives good backgrounds to some of the more obscure references...

    The new album "The Drift" is out on Monday (I think) I managed to track down a leak about a month ago...

    If people thought Tilt was hard stuff, this is built out of the same ideas (vast expanses of abyss with just that voice to guide you through then short bursts of bellowing rupture) but far more offensive and aggressive and absurd than before.
    On Tilt and Climate of Hunter and the Niteflites tracks there was at least some hint of the easy listening merchant of before, but twisted in a Lynchian way so that it became subverted in its new terrain, but here there is basically none of that, all transformed into noise rock, Penderaki like queasy stasis, and insane tableaux. Even on Tilt there was "The Patriot" and "Farmer in the City" lush songlike songs, albeit of a bizzaro hue.

    Differences from Tilt--- less songy, more operatic, less heterogenous from song to song, the vocabulary remains the same across the album--- baritone guitars/atonal acoustic guitars, string dischords and Iannis Xenakis like glissandi, with lots of musique concrete/improv like disturbing sound effects- is that really a donkey braying or some kind of brass instrument on "Jolson and Jones"...? On Psoriatic is that a giant pee rolling around? Is that sawing of wood in the middle 8? There's far less tonal and chordal segments as well, rather stretches of effects and obscure instruments beating out regular rhythms...

    Singing remarkably for a 63 yr old as effortlessly as ever- genuinely impressive...sounds just as good vocally as 11 years ago...

    The comments that it was his rockingest album are accurate, not to the extent that he uses lots of guitars or verse/chorus structures... rather that its aggressive and pounding in parts in a way that his stuff hasn't been in the past... but really it sounds like a single piece in movements, almost a diseased cabaret or an ultra-avant garde opera of modern cruelty. It immediately renders all Goth/Industrial as frightening as a care-bears
    annual sing-along...

    Its immense and incredibly truculent- a libretto/lyric sheet really feels ESSENTIAL in order to make any headway with some of the pieces... makes even plainer the idea that he's often singing in different characters within the same song, different angles on the thing described..some lyrics already stick out .... "anthrax Jesus, sack of feet", "nose holes caked in black cocaine..." "don't think it hasn't been fun, cos it hasn't..." "polish the fork and stick the fork in him", "waddles into the afternoon, look into its eyes, it will look into your eyes......", "and everything within reach." And the little tv news sample at the beginning of Buzzers... "Caligula proclaimed his horse senator, but his horse never took his seat"
    Last edited by gek-opel; 07-05-2006 at 02:07 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by owen

    I note we are missing a Scott thread.
    Not so: http://www.dissensus.com/showthread.php?t=3063

    I've got a copy of the new LP but frankly havn't listened too it much - it's just to unnerving/uncanny. Will have to give it some time

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    Full text of a Q&A between Scott Walker and Rob Young, editor-at-large of The Wire on the new album....

    http://www.thewire.co.uk/web/unpubli...tt_walker.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by gek-opel
    the way he interrogates the idea of "Song" and "lyric" so rigorously-- reading "Rip It Up & Start Again" the stuff on Scritti about deconstructed self-interrogating lyrics with "aporia" and the like reminded me a lot of late-era Scott stuff, but to my mind Walker does it better and investigates more interesting areas... ..some lyrics already stick out .... "anthrax Jesus, sack of feet", "nose holes caked in black cocaine..." "don't think it hasn't been fun, cos it hasn't..." "polish the fork and stick the fork in him", "waddles into the afternoon, look into its eyes, it will look into your eyes......", "and everything within reach." And the little tv news sample at the beginning of Buzzers... "Caligula proclaimed his horse senator, but his horse never took his seat"
    ha! his lyrics really are remarkable, on Tilt i love the combination of what seems like cut-up bulletins of 20th century horror with hilarious non-sequiteurs like 'the good news is there is no news' and of course 'lemon bloody cola'. thanks a lot for that link. am going to look around for penman's 'on the mic' which approaches it from the hauntological angle...

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    What is that? An article, a book entry? I'm eager to read a detailed Penman-isation of Scotts stuff...

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    I found this review (and can't wait to hear it):

    Fuck me, this is terrifying! I've come by The Drift, the new Scott Walker album. Don't ask me how. It's on 4AD. I used to be on 4AD, but that's by the by the by the by. But the thing is, this isn't a pop record, it's a nightmare. It's a horror film, part Cocteau, part Jodorowsky. It's a donkey being slaughtered, it's a sudden screaming orchestra, it's Elmer Fudd jumping out from behind a pillar and turning into a cloud of bees and stinging your face with a million ghoulish obscenities!

    In fact, at the first listen that's the main thing you notice. That things jump out at you, like jump cuts in a horror film. Completely unexpected things, things you've never heard on a pop record before. Everything is ghostly, drifty, abstract, croony, brooding -- and suddenly it all erupts into noise, sheer livid horror. Here, in the words of Robert Lowell,

    One swallow makes a summer
    The moon rises, luminous with terror
    We are like a bunch of spiders, all clinging together in a corner and crying

    Don't listen to "The Escape" alone late at night! You will die! Don't listen to "Jolson and Jones" while driving! My face is still sticky with web!

    If this is a horrific record, it's also an incredibly bold and original one. The clarity of Walker's voice, the strangeness of his arrangements (he claims in this interview for BBC's The Culture Show that he doesn't do arrangements any more, just puts "blocks of sound" here and there) and the startling poetry he comes up with combine to make you think "What the fuck are the rest of us doing with this medium? Why aren't we treating it like sculpture, the way Scott is? There are no rules! Anything is possible!"

    The only points of comparison I can think of (apart from Scott's last couple of albums, but even those don't pack this punch) are David Sylvian's Blemish, if it was crossed with horror film "The Ring", or perhaps some people in the francophone tradition; early Brigitte Fontaine or late Leo Ferre, say. To hear it the same evening I saw Barney's "Drawing Restraint 9" was simultaneously perfect and way over the top."


    (if anyone is too poor to afford buying it PM me for download link - also I'm offering because I know Scott is doing OK financially - his wife buys $8,000 dresses from a friend of mine)

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    i've just heard the first tune on drift and am completely blown away. this is the first time i have ever heard scott walker, so forgive the surprise. i suppose you have to start somewhere.

    anyway, i think this warrants an order, this man needs a decent funeral.

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    the new album ia pretty bloody incredible -
    it sounds like a musical that's taken in a vital information from a whole load of now dead contemporary american composers, harry parch. george crumb etc .
    It's haunted, a massive weight of history on it's shoulders , i wonder whether the people buying best of the walker brothers in tescos will recognise him, ther is something dorian gray about it all.

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    my god.

    it is a monumental, devastating record... (a proper soundtrack to imminent collapse?)

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    The obscurity is like an attempt to focus yr attention in two ways-

    *It only makes sense if you really focus in on everything that is occurring, otherwise "The Drift" is a vaguely unpleasant listen and little more...

    *It circumvents cliche and all the obvious ways of describing things (events, emotions) that we have become so overly-accustomed to in the form of "song", the endless repetitive structures of verse-chorus-middle8-bridge, chord progressions which by now have become little more than citations of citations, the standard interrelationship between singer and subject matter etc

    Altho I sense Simon Reynolds is slightly against "The Drift" (it was in his list of things he really likes at the moment, but the impression given by his actual comments are somewhat contradictory to this) its almost the definition of the anti-pleasure "hardness" idea that he was talking about earlier. And the Stylus review (linked from Blissblog) is one of those weird bad reviews that make the thing sound reviewed great unintentionally-- what on earth is wrong with modernist art?

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    The Drift sounds like the very echo of hell...a cross between Howard Shore's Crash soundtrack played at the wrong speed...and an elderly relative wailing that they want to die.

    It's also astonishingly beautiful...

    'wind blown hair in a windowless room'

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    I was slightly disappointed to see nobody wanted to delve into this in any great depth.... Even ILM managed to work up a bit of sweat (before inevitably being shouted down for failing to deliver the requisite no. of quips per post....)

    I think its possibly Walker's least musically beautiful record, it sounds like broken teeth and death marches for a lot of the time! But similarly its not really as horrifying as many critics are making out- that seems to me to be laziness really, an unwillingness to actually get to grips with what on earth he's on about... which is turning song into a system of organised audio-symbols, and the systematic way in which they are put together means that as an intellectual work (of modernist art- yes...) it more resembles cinema, (where juxtapositions of various layers of information, be they lighting, acting, spoken words, cinematography, editing and music create the final "meaning"). For a while I laboured under the misbelief that "Tilt" was all clever sound shapes lyric-wise, but having struck upon a pretty interesting interview (which I believe he did with an Irish Newspaper back in 1995) he talked about how "The Cockfighter" was constructed, how it is an attempt to write a song about something that cannot be written about... juxtaposing extracts to enable a triangulation of some third point...

    The way you can trace his working methods from 1978 to 2006 is startling, ever refining down his basic ideas, refining how far and decentred a lyric can be (from a personalised narrative to a depersonalised set of tableaux, to just mere slivers of imagery) is extraordinary, such determined progress (despite ten years of distractions between each missive).

    I think it was Momus who compared "The Drift" to David Sylvian's "Blemish" (another essential "avant-songwriter" piece, with which it shares a "rock-lieder" approach)---if "Blemish" showed how fragments could be used to better write deeply personal songs conveying aching emotion in an age when all emotional response to a lyric driven song has been drained away due to grotesque over-familiarity, then "The Drift" (and its predecessor "Tilt") show how a similar fragmentation and collaging can be used to allow the discussion of political matters again--- in a way which isn't in any sense mawkish or over-obvious....

    Some have argued that this approach leads to music which is better appreciated by analysis than actual listening, but once you have gained some foothold on what is actually going on in these songs, they stick in yr head as firmly as any bubblegum pop song. However, instead of it being the melodies that are resonating as you go about yr food shopping and shirt ironing or whatever, it is the ideas themselves... probably the most content rich music (excluding academic classical?) I have ever heard... music that isn't "used up" in a mere handful of listens then tossed aside. The precise and diametric opposite of ipod-playlist-lifestyle-music...

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    Great writing, lots of interesting points. What you wrote about 'The Cockfighter' sounds great!

    I can't really talk about what you say about Walker, because I haven't heard 'The Drift' yet, but re: whether it's good to listen to as music, there are a whole lot of moments on David Sylvian's 'Blemish' get stuck in my head ("The game's not lost/ If I say it's not / And it's not", "Tell me what we need / Write a list or something"). For me it's definitely not just the ideas, although things like 'The Only Daughter' just slay me on that front as well...

    I've always found Sylvian quite irritating in interviews, and songs about Orpheus or whatever else make me a bit nervous for his wanker status (OK, for his desire to align himself with "worthy" artistic material, for his lack of humour, etc.). But I keep checking out what he releases and I think 'Blemish' is fantastic.

    Also, I think individual visions are to be celebrated, but probably like many on here I think catchy, analysis-adds-nothing tunes that give diminishing returns only fail if you try to judge them on those terms. Some music is all about the physical response and the smile it puts on your face and I don't think we need to limit ourselves to one approach in our listening habits. Meh, this is probably just the popist vs. rockist debate all over again... Regardless, for me it's only disappointing if something is supposedly ideas-driven but turns out to be toss.

    So is 'The Drift' beatless? And when people talk about slabs of sound, is it loud, noisy? I guess I've seen comparisons to 'Blemish' a bunch of times now and so am expecting a similar pallette.

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    Michael: Its MILES from "Blemish" sonically. Its not beatless, about as beat driven as "Tilt" say, ie- long passages of rupture with bits of pounding drums. Also unlike Blemish there isn't that kind of dichotomy between lyrics and music (ie- Sylvian sings of fractured misery about his relationship falling apart, whilst the backdrops are clean and even warm and comforting at times)-- the backdrops on "The Drift" are just as nasty if not more so than the lyrics themselves (at least on the surface).

    I agree totally with yr assessment of Sylvian tho- asides from late Japan and Blemish, his stuff leaves me cold (too woody, earthy, earnest, at times bordering on an artier version of Sting-like MOR)-- but Blemish is the shit. So many passages from it fill me with shivers of emotion... especially the title tack ("Her hearts a foreign place, I visited for a while, And although I tried to please her, she came at night and stole my visa...") and "The Only Daughter" (where the chilling lines "Do us a favour, my one and only warning, please be gone by morning" and "render the vow - its my house now" are sung with such comforting delicacy, the discrepancy between painful lyric and cushioned, gossamer music somehow works even better than a straightforward ballad at conveying the intrinsic pain of the situation...)

    Its not really the ideas with Sylvian, that much is true, its the way his cerebral approach on Blemish gives such a shock of emotion on a raw level which the pop song could not approach (or not once you are over-familiar with the pop form anyway...)-- the emotion is not obviously programmatic (mimetic?) but rather left ambiguous...

    The good news is that Sylvian is apparently working on a follow up Avant-songwriter record (after the so-so nine Horses release of last yr), where he will collaborate with Fennesz again (great stuff, very well matched) and AMM's Keith Rowe...

    I'm not hating on pop per-se (as rock, hip hop, most dance music too etc would also fall into my criticism) or even on "pop" as being disposable. Just that in being disposable, I require a greater physical quantity of it (as it is used up quickly by eager ears) and therefore has a kind of built in obsolescence which is a little irritating. Although the very very best pop works against this due to its very addictiveness, and can remain listenable for large lengths of time...
    Last edited by gek-opel; 25-05-2006 at 08:26 PM.

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