There's something repellently fascinating about Scott Walker's notion of music these days. His songs creak, groan and blare with scant regard for either the niceties of song structure or the demerits of ugliness, while his lugubrious baritone perches atop the sonic maelstrom, declaiming knotted phrases with a bleak, lordly disdain.
The first time I heard Bish Bosch, I never wanted to hear it again. And yet, in an age when the sounds and rhythms of pop, and even the vocal signatures of its performers, are becoming ever more generic, there is a strangely addictive quality to hearing something quite so aggressively sui generis as this.
In the past, Walker has had percussionists punching flitches of meat to obtain distinctive percussive sounds, and here his sonic strategies include the use of rams' horns, tubax (a rare brass behemoth cross of saxophone and tuba) and the metallic swish of machete blades scything against each other. The arrangements are not so much tunes as foley-board manipulations of sonic events into soundtracks for his equally baffling lyrics, which delight in arcane reference and abstruse locution. It all adds to the feeling that this is not music one's hearing, but some ceremonial incantation from the dark side.
And in a way, that's not far from the truth: Bish Bosch – the title aptly evokes the album's queasy blend of art and bawdy, brutal ribaldry – is sick with corporeal disgust and philosophical disquiet, Walker apparently regarding mankind as little more than bags of flesh and bones somehow gifted with sentience. And it's this latter quality that he exalts to cryptic excess here in tracks such as the 22-minute "SDSS 1416+13B (Zercon, a Flagpole Sitter)", a vast parade of Biblical and classical allusion, astronomy, anatomy and gratuitous insult, which comes with footnotes explaining its titular connection between a brown dwarf star and Attila the Hun's dwarf jester Zercon.
Whether your interest is suitably piqued by such arcana probably depends on how bored you have become with the sounds and language of most modern pop.
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