British-American singer, producer and former member of The Walker Brothers, Scott Walker is finally releasing his first studio album since 2006’s The Drift. Bish Bosch stands in stark contrast with the music that made him a household name back in the 1960s, it is progressive, honest and inventive. Indeed, Bish Bosch is very experimental, with a maddening feel like it’s the sound track for a horror movie.
“See You Don’t Bump His Head” is a surging, building track with the first insight into Walker’s haunting lyrics and vocals; “while plucking feathers from a swan song, a cobweb melts within a womb…while plucking feathers from a swan song, at last the sheet of jewels arrives”. Guitar twangs sporadically over a steady beat.
“Corps De Blah” opens with vocals alone, Walker’s voice has a steady, religious feel, like he’s leading a sombre choir group session for a funeral. Ominous squeaks and minor keys startle as the song goes on. At ten minutes in length , the track seems to be broken into various chapters, the sound effects get more and more cinematic, with the words to match; “nothing clears a room like removing a brain, hail the rain, hail the rain”. And, like all good thrillers, the track ends with sound of a blade being sharpened.
“Phrasing” Walker repeats the sentence; “Pain is not alone” over a sparse soundscape which builds up to a strange juxtaposition of latin sounds, rock and electronic scatterings. The twenty minute ensemble “SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)” sits with steady, thick silences between declaratives from Walker; “you should get an agent”, “Northmen do not eat the big pink mint” playing also on the notion of identity, singing about “the I”. Dramatic strings and sound effects accumulate.
Walker evokes evermore gory similes in “Dimple” for example; “November in July, eyes glinting in darkness like freshly crushed flies”, the eery background drones continue.“Tar” starts with more sounds of blades being sharpened. Walker says of the references in an interview on the label website; “I’m not particularly fascinated by brutality – I mean, at times I’ll use it on a comic level, or it’ll be angry, but I’m never striving for it – it just happens. I don’t know why – that’s for an analyst!”
Scott Walker goes on to say; “I’m a pessimist, in that I know it’s not going to end well… 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.” And deal with it he certainly does, in a way that only Scott Walker can; with originality and that instantly recognizable set of vocals.
Reviewed by Heather Welsh.