CD: Scott Walker – Bish Bosch | New music reviews, news & interviews
CD: Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
Dictators, 15th century Dutch artists, dentist's-drill percussion and jarring inscrutability from the former Sixties icon
“If shit were music, you’d be a brass band”. Bish Bosch is no easy ride and that lyric, from its 22-minute centrepiece “SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)", is typically abstruse, emblematically challenging. Although the album has clear themes and becomes less impenetrable the more it is lived with, it’s never going to achieve the cosy familiarity that future cult items so often exude on early passes. If anything, Bish Bosch is an anti-cult album, one that seeks to jar, disorient and remain inscrutable.
Nonetheless, emotional connections can be made. There is an anger to Bish Bosch. Sudden peals of hysterical Purcell-esque brass and dentist's-drill percussion punctuate distant seas of Bernard Herrmann strings. In the accompanying notes, Walker says “the majority of my songs… end in failure”. There’s also humour, with references to Jimmy Durante and some jaunty Hawaiian guitar. Characters encountered include Zercon (Attila the Hun's jester), Simeon Stylites, Ceausescu, various leaders of Russia and the States. For this take on Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, Walker introduces his own nightmarish visions.
Musically, Bish Bosch is recognisably modern-era Scott Walker, even though he takes a quick detour to sing in Danish. Its instrumental palette and texture are more broad than its predecessor, 2006’s The Drift. Its aural peaks and troughs are less wide apart than on 1995’s Tilt though. It continues the path set by 1984’s Climate of Hunter. The voice is the tense, tremulous, almost amelodic warble that’s become familiar. Most fascinating are hints of his early solo past – the swirl of strings on “Corps De Blah” echo 1969’s "The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime)". Prélude à L'Après-Midi d'un Faune and Arne Nordheim bubble up. The closer, “The Day The 'Conducator' Died”, is beautiful. Bish Bosch might not totally surprise Walker-philes, but untangling its depths is a challenge.
Watch the video for "Epizootics!" from Scott Walker's Bish Bosch
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Brooklyn musician appears with an early Album of the Year contender
Norwegian quartet combines sublime precision with an increasingly diverse range of jazz styles
Another transglobal shift with Peter and Joe
An overwhelming overdose of Marc Bolan
Garvey and friends probe deeper into the human condition
Punk perennials veer towards the moody with mixed results
Unspectacular third effort fails to stand out from the crowd
Bastille's breakthrough gig was a well-mannered affair without a trace of bad blood
Triumphant return of Neue Slowenische Kunst
The musical undead walk amongst us in this prog-rock evocation of dark London
Cinematic Arab vistas with a rock sensibility
The superstar diva from Houston, Texas, thunders into London in epic style