Scott Walker and Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD)
Just in time for Halloween, a new Scott Walker record. Not just Walker—a 71-year-old man who sings like he’s in a haunted house, his records full of atonal music and industrial sounds and general discomfort—but here he’s teamed up with droning avant-garde metal band Sunn O))). To some ears, it’s surely a match made in hell. Should you choose to blast it from your windows on Oct. 31, it’s guaranteed to terrify the neighbourhood children.
Yet as latter-day Scott Walker records go—he’s been on an increasingly strange trip since the 1980s, after starting out as a teen pop idol in the 1960s and a respected torch singer in the 1970s—Soused is relatively accessible. Sunn O))) are a grounding presence; even though it doesn’t sound like they’re doing much other than playing the longest, loudest guitar chords in history, they provide a valuable anchor for Walker’s melodies. They’re the railroad track that keeps you tethered as you travel through Walker’s house of horrors, where odd sounds creep out of the shadows, the light shifts subtly throughout, and Walker jumps in front of you every so often to assure you that there are “no raindrops on roses / no whiskers on kittens” and sing choruses about a woman who has “hidden her babies away” and perhaps break into an Iroquois children’s lullaby while he’s at it.
When Walker released the 2012 album Bisch Bosch, I wrote: “Walker does not make music for you to enjoy; he makes music for you to endure ... He arranges unusual sounds and aural colours in ways most musicians could never imagine, rendering every other rock artist claiming to be avant-garde exposed as a timid poseur.”
That’s still true, which is why it’s weird that Sunn O))), of all people, turned out to be the collaborators that pulled Walker back from the brink. Sometimes a few guitars is all it takes.
Download: “Herod 2014,” “Brando,” “Lullaby”