Scott Walker & Sunn o))) -‘Soused.’ (4AD)
You get the feeling that there are still people who wish that Scott Walker hadn’t deviated too far from the path that they would have chosen for him. Having first arrived in the limelight as one third of the Walker Brothers (nearly fifty years ago), the path he has trod has been increasingly leftfield. Yet it’s not just the fact that songs like ‘Clara’ (from 2006’s The Drift) featured percussive sounds including a dead pig being punched. The signs were there on those four, numbered Scott albums, not to mention the last Walker Brothers album, Nite Flights, particularly ‘The Electrician.’
Yet whilst this is still an album that will frighten those who would still have him singing the chart hits from the 1960s, there’s been a considered view that this may well be the most approachable album Walker has recorded since 1984’s Climate Of Hunter. And that’s allowing for the fact that this is a collaboration with the legendary Sunn o)). The fact is: they have evolved from the days when they were perceived as being just an Earth tribute act. And thankfully for us, their trajectory has brought them together (reportedly they wanted Walker to sing on their 2009 album Monoliths and Dimensions, but it didn’t happen).
‘Oh the wide Missouri!’ Walker sings on opening track. It’s almost a tease – sounding almost operatic before the Sunn o)) drone kicks in. Whilst none of this is singalong (did you really expect that? Seriously??), it’s a cycle which kicks in – and the thought occurs that this may be an album you can – whisper it – enjoy.
And that’s the thing: while on paper this album may seem dark and forbidding, it’s surprisingly easy to listen to time and time again. Not is a despairing ‘I have to be seen to like this’ kind of way – but far more – ‘I hear something new each time.’ Sunn o))’s sound has been described as cavernous – and that’s one of many adjectives – but it truly does fill a room, particularly ‘Bull.’ The 12 minute ‘Herod 2014’ with saxophones that sound like dying birds and the heartbreaking almost-chorus of ‘She’s taken her babies away’ doesn’t end up playing out like Lou Reed’s ‘The Kids’ but almost beautiful.
And it’s a record of two artists’ interest and exploration of the avant-garde, but if people can progress beyond the suspicion that avant garde has to equal a) unlistenable and b) pretentious, it’s a very rewarding album.
Oh, and as far as I can tell, there’s no pig-punching on this, either.
Soused is out now on 4AD.