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Archiv: Scott Walker

Never believe a band that says it’s going to make a “dark” album, Robert Forster once wrote. So, being very careful, I won’t say I will do a “dark” radio show between Friday night and Saturday morning, but looking at the titles of the compositions alone might suggest to the innocent reader it possibly might become a “rather dark” affair. And it cannot really calm anyone down announcing that my Scott Walker interview from today’s afternoon will probably be presented in three little excerpts – time enough left  for him to shout out (hair rising, shiver sending, making the idea of sleep a courageous thing) his “Lullaby”.

 
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Ueb / Cease To Matter / Last Chance Gas & Water / Late Victorian Holocaust / Red Cafe / Soleil rouge / 12.1 / Tremens / 12.4 / Fetish / Night Procession / Bull / Cornubia / A Fearful Proper Din / A Darn Psi Inferno / Evening Star / Softy Gun Poison / Tomorrow Never Knows/ Atomos XI / Rawhide / Farmer in the City / Jesse / Epizootics! / Lullaby / Atomos II

 

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Tremens is, as the other tracks, created in a state of amazement at the state of the world crumbling and tipping over to direct madness around us, as we play.

In the spring months we recorded, Ukraine, Syria, and ISIL happened, and for us, for the first time it is as if we are looking collective insanity in the eye.

We do not want to make program music as such, but this reality is reflected in the outpouring of sound as we try to sort out the bits of information we are fed, but are constantly diverted elsewhere.

In the same manner clarity in the music ( = pulse) is fed to you in bits, but ripped apart by sudden currents of parallel or opposite information .

This record is not a planned career move, it is a direct output of the energy in spring 2014 between the three of us.”

- Jon Balke on the track “Tremens” and the forthcoming album “Outland” from Jokleba (Balke, Kleive, Jorgensen)

 
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Jokleba never said they were going to make a dark album. It just happened, and it is so wild and uncompromising that it deserves the absence of the usual old words.  (me) 

2012 10 Dez

Bish Bosch Transmutation

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There are numerous breath-taking moments on ‘Bish Bosch’ – in fact, rather like in a Kurosawa movie, where every frame is full of energy and dynamism – even where nothing appears ostensibly to be ‘happening’, in each track on the album almost every moment is replete with suggested meaning or, almost as strongly, the absence of it. For me, there are two particularly stunning moments. The first of these can be found on SDSS14+13B (Zercon, a Flagpole Sitter) after 16:33’. In his latter day work, Walker’s voice has consciously been used in such a way as to remove ‘emotion’ or ‘character’ from it – to become as neutral a medium as possible for the lyrics. On ‘Tilt’ and ‘the Drift’ in particular this approach has been adhered to quite rigorously. On BB, in contrast, something very interesting has happened: whilst some tracks reveal the same ‘neutrality’ – at least at various moments, there is now running through the album a fascinating loosening of the shackles, which sees Walker’s voice at times a mature mirror of his work on the four 70s solo works; whilst at others it screams, double (or multi?-tracked) with rage and, at the moment referred to above – the significance of which I can’t really fathom, the timbre of the voice is such that you could almost be hearing the teenage Scotty Engel  singing the words ‘don’t forget to blink, least your eyeballs dry up’. When I heard this, I wondered whether it was an out-take from an early recording session, where the 14-year old nascent songwriter had made his first public attempt to make public his singular writing style – only to find that the precocious ‘and dangle on your cheeks like Caesar’s shrivelled Coglione’ wasn’t something that the people at Orbit were ready for! The other incredible moment comes in the same ‘song’ – seconds after the Voice (I refer to it as though it were a character in its own right) has assumed the familiar persona of the Crooner, which so many would like Scott Walker to revert to being, for a few bars, which I italicise purposely, because it then transmutes – quite literally into ‘Ba-s’ – first one ‘Ba’, then a string of them, before finally becoming a cacophony of multi-layered ‘Ba-s’. It is a stunning chain of events. I believe that ‘Barbarian’ was a term given by the ancient Greeks to anyone who did not speak their language and for whom such repellent speech sounded uncultured and actually unworthy of being named a language – just ‘BA’ – ‘BA-BA-BA’. It is as though, on this one track, Walker – far from becoming a parody of himself, as one reviewer has suggested, has on the contrary playfully sucked into a black hole / brown dwarf (they’re pretty much the same thing for me) all of the various permutations of which his voice is capable, together with all of the words he has used – conventional or abstruse from his Walker Brother days, through the first period of solo work to more recent work and allowed all of it to transmute into its essence: vibrations – ‘BA-BA-BA’. Lev Vygotsky, the Soviet Psychologist, once wrote that “a thought can be compared to a cloud shedding a shower of words” and in highlighting in this track the purity of consciousness over the relative grossness of words Walker has probably got a little closer to spiritual truth to which all great works of art aspire.

“Across the album, there are cameos and fleeting glimpses of powerful historical figures, many with blood on their hands: Donald Rumsfeld, the Ku Klux Klan, Attila the Hun, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope Julius II, and the ‘Conducator’, a title used by both Ceausescu and his predecessor King Carol II. Sterzing, the Tyrolean village mentioned in ‘Corps De Blah’, was notorious as a bolthole for Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of the Second World War.

At the same time, Scott takes a delight in crude humour, and the album is awash with insults and sardonic put-­‐downs, slapstick, body parts and bad smells (check the tight-­‐sphinctered emissions of ‘Corps De Blah’). There’s plenty of rough and tumble and visceral argy-­‐bargy, too. ‘Epizootics!’ (as well as recalling 1940s hipster slang, the word means an unusually high rate of new infections within an epidemic – appropriately for a man who once had a hit with a song called ‘The Plague’, Scott’s music has often touched on disease) soundtracks its descriptions of sweaty street hassle with swinging, strident percussion and the raucous sub-­‐tones of the rare brass instrument, the tubax, played by Pete Long. “It’s a combination of a tuba and a saxophone,” explains Scott, “and there’s only two in the country. It’s a monster thing, you actually have to sit on the floor, it’s enormous. But it means you can get below the bass, very very deep.”” (Rob Young, one more time) 

2012 26 Okt

Abrasive guitars, digital keyboards and thick silences

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“I’m a pessimist, in that I know it’s not going to end well,” he says, with a laugh. “But most of my songs are spiritual at the core. I try not to be too cynical about things, because it’s too difficult otherwise. You have to be able to work your way through it – you have to be able to see what’s there, and deal with it.”

“Unsurprisingly for a long-­term exile from his native America, Bish Bosch is a great melting pot of clamouring voices and languages, swift scene-­‐changes (the album’s geographic reach covers Denmark, the Alps, Hawaii, the ancient landscapes of Scythia, Greece and Rome, and Romania), time-­‐travelling jump-­‐cuts, and metaphors from medical science and molecular biology that seize you by the throat.

If “The Drift” was a dark place, full of scorching orchestral textures and ominous rumblings, Bish Bosch is a tauter but more colourful experience, with greater emphasis on processed, abrasive guitars, digital keyboards and thick silences. Scott’s regular producer Peter Walsh, and his regular core of musicians, Ian Thomas (drums), Hugh Burns and James Stevenson (guitars), Alasdair Malloy (percussion) and John Giblin (bass). Guests include trumpeter Guy Barker and pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, who worked on three of Scott’s mid-­‐seventies LPs.

Musical director Mark Warman plays a prominent role, both as conductor and keyboardist. “If I use the big orchestra I’m using it for noises or textures, or big pillars of sound, rather than arrangements,” Walker explains, adding that the sonic richness was achieved by means of a novel recording technique. “What we did was record the drums, bass, percussion, strings and vocals in digital and analogue simultaneously. Because we knew there were a lot of silences in it, especially in something like ‘Zercon’. And in the endings – the ending of ‘Tar’, where you don’t know what’s going on. So in those spots we just cut off the analogue, and where we had the silences we just used the digital. And then we turned on the analogue again when everyone was playing together. Everything was recorded that way, so it’s about eighty per cent analogue.”” (Rob Young again)

“I’ve always thought since the late 70’s, “This is my last record.” Every single record has been that way … I guess I just pull the trigger each time.” (Scott Walker) 

“Scott Walker insists none of his work is in any way autobiographical. So you are compelled to re-think the way you experience music to get the most out of these pieces. Instead it’s more like a form of sonic fiction (magic realism, cut-up, sci-fi and historical reinvention all rolled up into distinct packages). There are frequently two, three or more ideas packed into each song: scenarios that seem distinct at first but whose connections are subtly revealed. The lyrics process a mass of data, set to music that often veers into filmic sound effects and Foley artistry. Songs leap across giant historical chasms or reach for the outer limits of space. A single number can contain references to molecular biology and sulphurous farts; quotes from the Bible and Hollywood film directors; medieval leather shoes and Algonquin chiefs. They unashamedly revel in unfamiliar words, technical terminology and obscure references, so keep a dictionary handy and bookmark Wikipedia. It’s all part of the fun.” (Rob Young, The Wire; Scott Walker will be the cover story of the December edition of The Wire, it will be “album of the month” in Mojo Magazine, and I will will put it on high rotation on my radio show)

2012 25 Okt

Monolith und Sternstunde: Scott Walkers “Bish Bosch”

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Bish (n. sl.), bitch
Bosch, Hieronymous (c. 1450-1516), Dutch Painter
Bish bosh (sl.), job done, sorted

 
“I was thinking about making the title refer to a mythological, all-encompassing, giant woman artist.”  (Scott Walker)
 

Heute früh traf die neue Arbeit von Scott Walker ein, ich setzte mich ins Cafe und las den langen Einführungstext von Rob Young. Die CD kommt mit einem ausführlichen Begleitheft daher, mit allen Texten, Instrumentenangaben etc. Am 30.11.2012 wird “Bish Bosch” veröffentlicht. In meinem Büro legte ich die CD ein, die Idee war, die Musik Stück für Stück auf mich wirken zu lassen, mit längeren Pausen zwischen den neun Songs. Es kam anders. Das Textbuch legte ich rasch zur Seite, und ich muss ein zugegeben etwas blödes Gesicht gemacht haben, als mein Unterkiefer von Minute zu Minute mehr herunterklappte. Die Musik ist von solch einer klanglichen Erfindungskraft, dass es einem schier den Atem raubt. Ich rauschte durch sie hindurch, die Songs drückten mich noch tiefer ins Sitzkissen, keinen Ton wollte ich verpassen. Ich habe im Moment nicht mal Lust, all die Finessen und Frakturen zu beschreiben, die abenteuerliche Dynamik, das Wechselspiel von Stille (es gibt auch schreiende Stille), unerhörten Tönen (Tönen, die ich wirklich noch nie gehört habe), und brachialen, zugleich raffiniert komponierten Soundwirbeln. Ach nein, keine handelsüblichen, keine originellen Worte mehr. Ich hätte mich nicht gewundert, wenn meine Couch ihre Bodenhaftung verloren hätte, zwei Bilder von der Wand gefallen wären, und noch ein Fenster aus den Angeln gesprungen wäre. Mir liegt nun auch noch das viel zu heilige Wort “Ergriffenheit” auf den Lippen. Die erschütternste, aufwühlendste Musik seit Jahren, und bei all den Todestänzen und Erforschungen finsterer und ferner Räume, nicht ohne (natürlich schwarzen) Humor. Ziemlich unfassbar. Ein Monolith, der rockt! Dabei sollten sie mehr an rollende Felsen denken als an die Konventionen der Rockmusik. Und es gibt zärtliche Passagen, da werden manchem Hörer die Tränen aus den Augen schiessen. Genug fürs erste!

2012 24 Okt

Der nächste “Hammer”: Scott Walkers neues Songalbum

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Meine kleinen pathetischen Anwandlungen als Teenager wurden befeuert von der Sonne, die, den Walker Brothers zufolge, nie mehr scheinen würde. Später hatte ich Respekt vor Walkers vier Soloalben 1,2,3 und 4, die von Jacques Brel beeinflusst waren und schon an einem eigenen Surrealismus werkelten. Aber es blieb vorerst eine Zuneigung aus der Halbdistanz. “Climate of Hunter” war sein erstes Meisterwerk, die Musik wurde erratischer, intensiver, befreite sich aus den Vorgaben des französischen Chansons. Die Abstände zwischen seinen Soloalben wurden immer länger, “Tilt” und “The Drift” wurden meisterhafte Songzyklen, die Althippies genauso ratlos zurückliessen wie neunmalschlaue Schreiberlinge à la Bruckmaier und Wilander. Letzterer übersetzte einen Song, um das Absurde des Unternehmens vorzuführen, fühlte sich dabei wahrscheinlich unheimlich cool und verlieh dem Album fünf Galgen. Der andere verweigerte jede inhaltliche Auseinandersetzung und unterstellte Walker, dass er wohl irgendwann mal beschloss, sich um die Menschen ringsum zu erheben, und sich für etwas Besseres hielt. Belegbare Quellen? Fehlanzeige! Es ist interessant, dass die Gegenkultur einst angetreten war, Horizonte zu erweitern, Grenzen einzureissen, Hörgewohnheiten zu erweitern. Da, wo das dann wirklich passierte, bei Buckleys “Starsailor”, Enos “Discreet Music”, Talk Talks “Laughing Stock” etc. etc., wurden Ratlosigkeit und Häme erst mal gross geschrieben. Um es klar zu sagen: auch die neue Musik von Scott Walker wird viele Menschen verstören und in die Flucht treiben, aber man sollte ihr wenigstens mit Respekt begegnen und nicht mit dümmlicher Arroganz. Und einige werden spüren, dass es Musik auf dieser Welt gibt, die sich einen Scheiss um Coolness kümmert und tiefste Schichten aufbrechen kann.


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