22 October 2014
Scott Walker + Sunn 0))) - Soused
This is an album is a noise fan boys wet dream, the union of two worlds that seemed to be destined by the stars, a project which people around the world would talk about in slightly medicated tones that they thought would never see the light of day - but it has arrived. When this was announced in 2014, the noise world had the equivalent of a collective orgasms at the prospect of a collaboration which had been first proposed (and declined) at the time when Sunn 0))) were releasing 'Monoliths & Dimensions'. When Scott Walker came back and suggested the idea of doing an album together, you can sort of imagine the conversation afterwards. It is easy to think of a one off song, but a whole album with the man who will always be known as one of music's biggest mavericks is more difficult in many ways. Not that Sunn 0))) are not three minute punk anthem hit makers, they are one of the most challenging band's to have ever trodden this planet and they also are not shy of collaborations; previously they have released albums with Boris, Nurses With Wound and this year's mind blowing album with Ulver - the mighty 'Terrestrials' (Cleverly linked here). Now with a project of this nature, it arrives with a certain level of hype which is pretty much unmanageable; it is unlikely to meet the idea of the album you are already hearing in your mind. But this is a record by two of the biggest mind fuck pioneers of the last few decades of this planet. So how does it fare?
The first track is called "Brando" and starts off....well for want of a better word - normal. Scott Walker is singing about reference to Marlon Brando and is what can almost be related to something regarded as mainstream. But soon enough the feedback and distortion crashes around the listener, there is a bullwhip being cracked away in the background and the feeling of claustrophobia starts to grow. When I first heard this, I must have been slightly ill due to the fact it was making me dizzy and terrified. On further listens, it just turned out to be terror at the sonic attack which was delivered upon my senses. It is one of those openings which truly define the rest of the album, it has everything that you would expect from all the participants: Walker sounding like the majestic singer that he is, Anderson & O'Malley delivering the sort of soundscape that would make weaker mortals whimper in pain.
Next is "Herod 2014" which is more unsettling due to the nature of the lyrics. The song settles on a biblical theme and the reference point of the song is Walker singing "She's hidden her babies away". With a mixture of dark and damaging images, setting this on the feedback and screeching saxophones and rumbling feedback you are given a lesson in terror that would have been used to great effect in old-fashion horror films in the past. When you get to the half way mark and there is another layer of saw sounds dropped onto the abyss that has already been laid before us, the song is took to a new level; but when they remove these new layers it makes the original droning tone with Walker singing the anchor point of the song seem even more dark, as if it is a lone pray in the void wishing for the nightmare to end. But it just sinks further into the void and there is no light, hope or redemption.
"Bull" is something I was not expecting from this album; "Bull" is as close as this album comes to a true song in the traditional sense of the word. Spitting quiet a lot of the lyrics with more venom than you usually hear from Mr Walker, the aggression on this number cannot be denied and is further enhanced by the riffs that drip from Sunn 0))) throughout this song. It starts off with a little bit of fuzz and then it drops into what can be almost referred to as a punk number, every now and then they drop into some nice quiet moments where the feedback just rumbles in the background that feels like you are swimming in a relaxing sea in places compared to the harsh noise of the opening and chorus sections. The drums are particularly effective on this number; the number is imaginative and changes the direction of the album once again.
"Fetish" is the fourth of the five tracks on offer for this collaboration; it is another dose of sinister noises, lyrical horror and avant-garde noise attacks on the senses. The first three minutes feel like the background music to a new version of the film Eraserhead, the words of Scott Walker are like darts to the soul; then it goes nuts. I mean it goes off the wall bonkers in a way that I have been waiting for this record to descend into, I wanted more of this. I wanted the full on harsh variations of their joint sounds. But once the feedback comes and it almost becomes a normal song, my interest in the number wanes slightly. It does go back to the earlier crazy noise and feedback, but it is the only track on the album which does not live up to the earlier promise of the song.
End the collaboration is "Lullaby", with patience and slow building this track is constructed very slowly. But then it turns into what can only be described as the song for all of my sinister nightmares, it is just sounds like nails and rusty kettle a-la Salad Fingers. If you do not know what Salad Fingers is, here is a link to the Wikipedia article - warning, this is one of the weirdest, sickest things on the internet. But this song is the audio equivalent of that internet cartoon, it just goes for the jugular and does not let go. It has all the elements of Scott Walker's later day adventures and Sunn 0))) play their part well during this song; bring this collaboration to a devastating and harrowing conclusion.
The project is the stuff of nightmare - I mean that it is one of those projects that are designed to be harrowing, evil and tortured; it is also a rare project that mostly meets the expectations that were laid at its feet upon the revelation of its inception. Such talents were always going to be cursed with the air of expectation, but that is to be put to the side when looking at this album. Now you may have notice I said that it mostly meets the expectations of the album, only one of the songs fails to hit the mark. Yet I hate to say this, but this album when compared to other works from both Scott Walker and Sunn 0))) it feels slightly safe in sections; especially if you compare it to the last Scott Walker album 'Bish Bosch'. When you have two pioneers of their genres, you expect the best (or in this case the craziest sound ever) and for the most part it does that, but not enough to make this a world beater. However, this is not the same as saying it is not enjoyable or genius in places; it is still one of those albums which are currently receiving mainstream press where other avant-garde albums have been ignored. It is a good record, well crafted and worth exploring; I just wish it was a bit more off the wall.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top song - Herod 2014
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
Here is the 4AD page to the project
There is no Scott Walker website, but here is his page on label 4AD
Much like Mr Walker, Sunn 0))) are not too big on having a website; but they have set this up on their label - Southern Lord
Here is the link to the Sunn 0))) bandcamp, the album is not on here at the time of writing. However, there is the rest of Sunn 0)))'s discography
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
You can also listen to the album on Deezer if this is the service of your choice
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