Review Summary: Scott Walker returns with what is perhaps his most twisted and surrealistic effort to date.
When it comes to avant-garde music, you either get it or you don't. It's a genre that celebrates the most abstract dimensions of the human psyche, birthing the kind of music that deviates from conventional logic and indulges in imaginative artistry. Musicians like Scott Walker seem to be utterly apathetic to the notion of appeal. He manipulates a myriad of contrasting sounds and melodies to comprise his esoteric canvas, an embodiment of his thoughts and obsessions meant for us to observe, and whether we, the audience, comprehend it or not, is none of his concern.
Scott Walker's decension into the abstract was a long one, but not at all surprising. He made his name in the late 1960's as a rising star in the Baroque pop scene and released several essential albums within the genre. But even then, as his music often embellished itself with elegant euphonic arrangements, there was always a sense of darkness within his persona. Hidden behind all of the lavish orchestral sounds, lied a cynical man who loved to reminisce about human immorality as well as expressing his own morbid sense of humour. And as time went by, as his fame began to be eclipsed by the changing trends of an ever altering world, the music of Scott Walker became a thing of the past. And it was during this state of hiatus that he concealed himself from the world and underwent a profound metamorphosis of his own. In albums like Tilt
and The Drift
, we found him embracing a more ominous and enigmatic nature. The once romantic crooner who managed to seduce us with his sophisticated charisma, now wallowed comfortably in the shadows to recite ambiguously horrid tales for the sake of shock. It may appear like a rather drastic evolution in style, but once reflecting on the content of his earlier efforts, particularly in the transitional Scott 3
, we can really see his darkness slowly beginning to devour any sense of innocence and optimism.
is yet another expansion into his avant-garde style. It's more vigorous than the previous two art albums, as the songs are often violent and unpredictable in comparison, but the atmosphere they exude still matches the unrelenting dismalness of the prior releases. Bish Bosch
is a much more elaborate album artistically because we really get to see Scott Walker transcending through genres, and coalescing them to create an anarchical exhibition of sounds. To some, avant-garde music is a puzzle to be solved. An enigma that encompasses hidden themes that are just waiting to be analyzed and deciphered. For others, it's all about the mere experience in each listen and the emotions that they spark up within us. The music of Bish Bosch
is not about how attractive it can appear to the listener, it actually aspires the opposite, it wants
to be as grotesque possible- both in its music and lyrical content. It constantly drags the listener into a surrealistic environment, a deep abyss of unsettling darkness that harbors nothing but melancholia and relentless acrimony. The album opens with "'See You Don’t Bump His Head'", it's a rather tamed piece but it does a great job of foreshadowing the subsequent events, serving as a kind of appetizer before the main course. The song flows along a repetitive drumbeat that carries us along into Scott Walker's opening vocal delivery, which is decorated with a familiar ghastly ambience in the background. There's also an abrasive guitar riff that tends to float in and out of perception, and it really helps augment the sense of malevolence that drives the mood of this song. As usual, Scott Walker's lyrical deliveries are coated with obscure metaphors which are deliberately left unclear so we can obsesses over its interpretation.
"Corps De Blah" and "SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)" serve as the two main epics in the album, and their compositional structures reflect an eccentric collage of various moods and sounds. One of the intriguing aspects of Scott Walker's music has always been his innovative instincts to use unique instrumentation to formulate his vision for each song. In both of these tracks we find ourselves voyaging through intricate spaces, and with each passing second, we are exposed to new realms of abnormality. The soundscapes that embody these songs are actually ingeniously arranged because we encounter so many different sources of instruments and auditory concepts. From ambient hazes and cosmic waves exuding from synthesizers, bombastic percussions, to heavy metal eruptions, and even farting noises, Scott Walker is literally coming at us from all directions with an array of surprises. "SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)", in particular, is one of the most mesmerizing experiences Scott Walker has ever orchestrated. There's an overwhelming feeling of tension that arises in us when listening to this one piece. It's as if we're descending into a vivid nightmare, becoming hopelessly trapped in the depths of a twisted surrealistic fantasy. The suspenseful atmosphere and dynamic instrumental medleys proves to be both exhilarating and magnetic right to the very end.
"Epizootics!" is another highlight in Bish Bosch
, and it's actually one of the most accessible songs, or at least, it doesn't try to be as abnormal as the others. And what makes it so inviting is that it is initially comprised of a rather harmonious arrangement, the repetitive percussive beat and buzzing saxophone technique create an almost inciting melodic groove. But it isn't long before "Epizootics!" begins to shift into completely anomalous directions. Leaving us to journey through quasi-psychedelic passages, bursting trumpet segments, and even a brief finger-snapping vocal break early in the midsection because, well, why not? Overall, Bish Bosch
, with all of its familiar erraticism, is an auspicious follow-up to its acclaimed predecessors, Tilt
and The Drift
. It really has everything going for it. Scott Walker proves he's still capable of organizing seemingly random musical components in ways that sound both innovative and minimalistic, for example, the usage of clashing blades as a rhythmic instrument in "Tar". And his lyrics are as characteristically unpredictable as always, exposing his whimsical side by telling jokes about mothers and obesity, to illustrating explicitly horrific scenes in our minds. Bish Bosch
is quite honestly one of Scott Walker's most ambitious efforts, but obviously this is one of those albums that just has to be experienced to even begin to fathom its experimental nature. Needless to say this isn't an album for the average listener, but to all of those patient fans who have been desperate to dwell back into the twisted mind of Scott Walker, give this album a chance and I promise you now, you will not be disappointed.