Scott Walker tends to release one album per decade. In Walker’s later years, his dedicated fanbase has come to expect that. The slow process has nothing to do with his age (69), though. It’s that his songs emit feelings that only years of focus could establish, much like images of a brilliant film that remains ingrained in one’s memory. The memories have an inherent beauty, no matter how queasy or anxious it is to perceive them initially. Listen to Tilt and The Drift to hear how this relates; you’ll be exposed to some of the most stirring music imaginable. Percussive clattering, chilling bursts of unrestrained brass, and Walker’s quivering voice lead songs that never show a conventional structure, or anything remotely normative. But he always makes it work. Walker’s new album, Bish Bosch, follows up 2006’s The Drift, an album brilliantly representative of Walker’s idiosyncratic songwriting. Culled from years as a ’60s pop phenomenon that later evolved into beloved experimentation, Walker’s ability to construct atmospheres within his songs his second to none.
The first track premiered from Bish Bosch is “Epizootics!”, which compared to the bulk of Tilt and The Drift is surprisingly trending toward pop. It’s far from the easy-listening sort Walker was producing in the early ’60s and with The Walker Brothers, but certain elements help make “Epizootics!” a wonderfully colorful ride with plenty of enjoyable pop-leaning twists. The uplifting bursts of brass are one surprising aspect of the track; their intermittent jovial feel and rising tension mesh brilliantly, though. When pounding tribal drums accompany the brass’ shifting to a more ominous minor key, the feeling is more indicative of the tension. Fingersnaps comprise the successive bridge, before a raucous explosion of queasy brass pulsating with a venomous desire. Walker literally hushes it into a lush silence. It matches with the video very well, specifically the part where the couple dances in sync to the bursts of brass.
A cicada-like chirping then emerges to lead a delicate vocal accompaniment, bringing back visions of more somber classic Walker efforts like “Angels of Ashes” and “The Old Man’s Back Again“. Another “shh” signals his voice to another pitch higher, shifting the established sadness into a more playfully dramatic realm. The tribal drums subside when spoken-word emerges: “Sorry I’m so clumsy, take that accidentally in the bollocks for a start.” Who the hell knows. I’m sure many wouldn’t disagree with comparing Walker to David Lynch, especially with the non sequiturs; their material is odd and unsettling, but its artistic merits stand without question. They remain ingrained in your head forever. I know “Epizootics!” will remain in mine, like much of Walker’s material. I can’t wait to hear Bish Bosch in its entirety on December 4th.