The pulse of Scott Walker’s work has pumped the black blood of his twisted vision for decades now. The bright-eyed days of his youth have long since been replaced with eyes that comfortably and skillfully maneuver their way through the dark. His new album “Soused” is no exception and with the help of Sunn O))), Walker creates another bleak soundscape where the fragility of life is exposed and extinguished at his will.
Truth be told, my exposure to Sunn O))) before this is limited but seeing as Scott Walker wrote the songs on this album, it fits right in with his more recent work. The drone work of Sunn O))) does however function as a new dimension in another installment of Walker’s demonic opera.
This album sounds like a horrifying soundtrack, twisting and turning its way through your core. There is no movie that would properly encapsulate the fear that this album produces, so as a piece of music, it transcends the audible and reaches out and runs its claws along your spine.
The album opens with “Brando,” a nod to the actor with a reference to how he always seemed to get in a fight in his films. “A beating would do me a world of good” is repeated throughout the song and with the haunting sincerity of Walker’s voice, transforms from referential to a suggestion wrought with desperation. The sounds of bullwhips in a hollow chamber make it all the rawer.
“Bull” continues the sonic tirade with one of the most accessible song of Walker’s recent years. With a minute semblance of structure, Walker plants more jarring images in our minds: “welding skin to armour” and “quilt of corpses” just to name a couple.
“Herod 2014” centers on biblical mass infanticide, complete with a traditional Ojibwa lullaby. Walker has a way of using separate images and references to help accentuate the shifts and jarring rises and falls of his compositions. “The nurseries and crèches are heaving with lush lice/Bubonic, blue-blankets, run ragged with church mice” prove that at the ripe age of 71, Scott Walker’s lyrics are more visceral and evocative than ever.
“Fetish” starts with a minimal composition, setting a tone with the empty space and the tortured vocal before building into a feverish train that is carrying perversion towards its isolated end. The album closes with “Lullaby”, a song with a backbeat that makes your skin crawl with a sound that evokes an image of a killer eagerly tapping his nails on a window as he examines his prey inside. This song uses the quiet/loud dynamic to accentuate the lullaby aspects: LA-LAs and sentiments about sweet little darlings. This is used in great contrast to the rest of the song and to the rest of the album, making it the only song this album could have ended with.
There is no way to properly understand this album without interacting with it. It is not for the faint of heart nor the casual listener. This is an exercise in walking outside the lines of traditional song, which has become a focal point in the second half of this crazed crooner’s career. This is a complete love/ hate situation, but that’s the way it should be. The challenge of picking the pieces from the ashes is a worthwhile endeavor as Scott Walker has again proven himself as one of the most important enigmatic figures in music of yesterday, today, and always.