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
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