Monday, 1 December 2014

Album Review:Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused


At one point on Brando, the opening track from Soused, Scott Walkers' unique and heavy-hearted croon infers that 'A beating would do me the world of good' alongside a beat made from the lashings of a whip. It's a line that drips of violence and masochism and stands as a good warning of the sonic punishment that you can hear over over the album's fifty minutes.

Soused is a collaboration between former pop star and now Avant-Garde artist Scott Walker and earth-shattering drone worshippers Sunn O))). The drone group had sought out Scott Walker for their 2009 album Monoliths & Dimensions (which seemed to incorporate disparate arrangements and instrumentation one of Scott's albums) but conflicting schedules got in the way. Walker since wrote some material with the band in mind and when they finally got together they recorded it over a week. It shows through the album, it lacks in detail but makes up for it with a rawer immediacy.

Brando's first thirty seconds make you wonder just what you've gotten yourself into. High synthesizer's ring out over guitar lead melodies like some dreamy ballad from an eighties David Lynch film. It then falls to silence before those familiar heavy waves of drone pile in over a one note bass pulse and that whip lash beat. Scott Walker's voice carries a horror like a man brought to the edge of sanity by some horrific, unspeakable experience. At this point it become clear whether you will become enraptured or repulsed by the mesmeric dark guitars and vivid, haunted scenes that form the core of Soused.

As much as Scott Walker has gained a reputation as a meticulous, serious artist punching away slabs of meat as he hides away recording his albums, his music does a have a humorous and playful side that often come out through his use of language with lines like 'Leaping like a river dancer's nuts' in the Sabbath like proto-metal of Bull. Other tracks give themselves up completely to painting a picture with only a black and grey colour palette. The biblical Herod 2014 repeats a haunting mantra, 'She's hidden her babies away' over slow ghostly moans that carry the promise of a forthcoming terror. The beat-less track builds with what sounds like squealing, pained horn sounds and industrial sounds of clattering, shuffling machinery with colossal doom riffs that create unease without a drumbeat to hang on to.

Fetish begins with Walker's voice in near silence, punctuated with sharp staccato jabs that could have come from an old film's soundtrack paying homage to Psycho's shower scene. Dissonant and jagged art rock riffs and harsh screeching horns pick up the track as drums crash and tumble in a perfect exercise in loud and quiet dynamics as the song writing seems to tell a story in itself. Lullaby is a haunting drifting ending to Soused, more likely to inspire hellish nightmares if listened to before bedtime as it's quiet lulls are split between harsh dissonance and Walker's tortured wails.

In many ways this is one of the most accessible records in both Walker's and Sunn O)))'s recent output as they are both confined to a more rigid rock band set up. Sunn O)))'s heavy drones a pinned to drumbeats and Scott uses a smaller range of sounds to complements his twisted narratives. It's still alienating listen for the uninitiated, but for those who like their music with an undercurrent of horror this may well be a good introduction for these artists who exist at the far reaches of experimental rock music as Soused is a focused and compelling for those who can take the beating.

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