April 3rd, 2006



Fuck me, this is terrifying! I've come by The Drift, the new Scott Walker album. Don't ask me how. It's on 4AD. I used to be on 4AD, but that's by the by the by the by. But the thing is, this isn't a pop record, it's a nightmare. It's a horror film, part Cocteau, part Jodorowsky. It's a donkey being slaughtered, it's a sudden screaming orchestra, it's Elmer Fudd jumping out from behind a pillar and turning into a cloud of bees and stinging your face with a million ghoulish obscenities!

In fact, at the first listen that's the main thing you notice. That things jump out at you, like jump cuts in a horror film. Completely unexpected things, things you've never heard on a pop record before. Everything is ghostly, drifty, abstract, croony, brooding -- and suddenly it all erupts into noise, sheer livid horror. Here, in the words of Robert Lowell,

One swallow makes a summer
The moon rises, luminous with terror
We are like a bunch of spiders, all clinging together in a corner and crying

Don't listen to "The Escape" alone late at night! You will die! Don't listen to "Jolson and Jones" while driving! My face is still sticky with web!

If this is a horrific record, it's also an incredibly bold and original one. The clarity of Walker's voice, the strangeness of his arrangements (he claims in this interview for BBC's The Culture Show that he doesn't do arrangements any more, just puts "blocks of sound" here and there) and the startling poetry he comes up with combine to make you think "What the fuck are the rest of us doing with this medium? Why aren't we treating it like sculpture, the way Scott is? There are no rules! Anything is possible!"

The only points of comparison I can think of (apart from Scott's last couple of albums, but even those don't pack this punch) are David Sylvian's Blemish, if it was crossed with horror film "The Ring", or perhaps some people in the francophone tradition; early Brigitte Fontaine or late Leo Ferre, say. To hear it the same evening I saw Barney's "Drawing Restraint 9" was simultaneously perfect and way over the top.

All is strangeness! Spring dies screaming! Art is reborn!