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Scott Walker
Bish Bosch Joe Kennedy , December 7th, 2012 07:02

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In an essay written to accompany the release of Scott Walker's new album Bish Bosch, Rob Young claims the former Walker Brother has, over the course of a sequence of records beginning with 1984's Climate of Hunter,  developed "a late style utterly at odds with the music that made him a superstar".

One can see why many – even those as clued-up as Young – might feel this to be true. From certain perspectives, Walker's career hinges on the break of the mid-eighties, before which he was a performer of skewed romantic pop, and after which he became incorrigibly committed to envelope-pushing indebted to the literature (notably Beckett and Paul Celan) and music (particularly György Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis) of postwar European modernism. Indeed, the very idea of 'late style' emerges from the context of that ultra-ascetic avant-garde: the notion was cultivated by Theodor Adorno, late modernism's great theorist, to describe the way that Beethoven's mature work enacted – in Edward Said's helpful paraphrase – "a contradictory, alienated relationship" with his earlier compositions. As Said put it, late style represents "a form of exile" from an oeuvre.

However, the concept of late style is only partially helpful here. For a start, there's the fact that Walker's 'late' period has now lasted twenty-eight years, a span of time greater than that which elapsed between the 1964 formation of The Walker Brothers and Climate of Hunter. Furthermore, as John Doran and David Peschek demonstrate in this feature, the obscurity, abstraction and absurdism which has prevailed since 1984 can be glimpsed even in some Walker Brothers releases. In this case, the radicalism of the break may be overstated, and it is more appropriate to recognise the 'pop' Walker as inhabiting the same aesthetic furrow as the latter-day sonic pioneer.

Below a review I wrote of Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow this time last year, I was taken to task by a commenter for referring to Walker's previous effort, 2006's The Drift, as 'abstract pop'. In response, I argued that The Drift was "full of pop motifs that get broken, distended, perverted", and that one of its primary strategies was subverting the repertoire of musical effects pop uses to index romantic love. One can best apprehend the relevance of this by considering the historical context in which The Walker Brothers emerged, namely a period in which pop was still figuring out its grammar of feeling. Where now – as one sees in much music which references the younger Walker, such as Richard Hawley or The Last Shadow Puppets – swelling strings and mournful horns are rather a clichéd or kitsch way of expressing romantic angst, the mid-1960s saw pop's relationship with emotion as something yet to be rigidly defined.

Walker's achievement since Climate of Hunter has been less to do with a wholesale rejection of the past in favour of establishing a late style than with using music to locate, and arguably produce, increasingly complex forms of affect. Like its immediate predecessors, Bish Bosch retains a focus on feeling, even if the sensations it sketches aren't processed enough to resemble anything on the conventional palette of emotions. Although the songs are highly-wrought and palpably inorganic – these hints of disciplined conception and manufacture are a good thing, by the way – there's nothing distant or technocratic about the album. In fact, Walker's immersion in the turmoil of what he makes is powerful enough to make this a record which asserts a claim over the complete attention of the listener. It's a claim made so frequently as to sound banal, but in this instance there really is no chance of using the music as background listening. Bish Bosch demands, and rewards, time and deliberation.

This obviously means that any review is going to be governed by certain caveats. Three or four listens over a twenty-four hour period is only really good enough to start noting coordinates for how one might approach the record in the future; its seventy-three minutes contain an astonishing amount to take in, both musically and lyrically. Still, it's possible to give a general sense of what knits the nine tracks together. Sonically, some of the major traits of The Drift reappear – monstrous, clunking lopes interspersed with patches of giddying, squealing glissandi and murderous percussion – but are executed with even more dreadful panache this time around. There are abbatoirial electronics, touches of discomforting gated reverb from the Martin Hannett catalogue, and interjections of balefully clinical guitar, and that's before the bravura dabs of audio absurdism: farts, tuneless Brechtian choruses, and, on the concluding 'The Day the "Conducator" Died' (an 'Xmas Song' commemorating the execution of Nicolae Ceaușescu), the opening bars of 'Jingle Bells'.

Lyrically, there are two persistent themes which are held in tension and never quite reconciled, namely astronomy – most tracks refer to lesser-known stars and constellations – and bodily abjection. Each song provides multiple examples of the latter, but 'SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)' yields the most in terms of grossness: "No more / dragging this wormy anus / 'round on shag piles from / Persia to Thrace / I've severed / my reeking gonads / fed them to your / shrunken face" leapt out at me. Unlike the vast majority of pop lyrics – I'm looking at Bob Dylan here – those on Bish Bosch genuinely stand on their own as poetry, and seem particularly conversant with Celan's nauseated work.

The broadsheet reviewer's trick at this point in a discussion of 'late' Walker is to say something like "One Direction it ain't", and return to well-rehearsed old bromides about the tension between pop and the modernist avant-garde. What's fascinating about everything from Climate of Hunter on, however, is the way in which it resembles the most cynical Cowell-pop in its constructedness. Nothing is out of place but, more importantly, nothing feels spontaneous. This album could not have come about as the result of rockist jamming: conversely, it seems as if everything down to the most inconsequential of tambourine-rattles has been mapped out in advance. The tracks have been plotted meticulously, which makes the journey between their internal rhythmic and tonal microclimates feel like a matter of architectural necessity rather than of rehearsal-room evolution. 'Epizootics!' is a case in point, its bowel-shaking bop opening seguing gradually into a martial, moderately krautrock rhythmic battering, before song structure gives way to an atonal, Xenakis-like soundscape. Perhaps the response one feels to this is akin to revulsion or horror, but it's conjured with the same pop-savvy precision with which Walker once evoked jealousy and loss.

One word which does a lot of work in summing up Bish Bosch is 'unanswerable'. You can't tune out of it, but neither is there a key by which you might ultimately 'understand' what Walker's getting at. From the opening, strangely gabba-like rhythmic monotony of 'See You Don't Bump His Head' to the Ceaușescu number at the end, there's no yield or compromise, no room to slip the music's gaze. Not so much late style as an old practice made stiletto sharp, this is an album of a depth and ambition that should, frankly, set a standard for contemporary art music.

Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 7, 2012 12:30pm

Great food for thought, your review. It is my album of the year. It is important not to separate the more conventional and the more radical "pop music". Cohen's Old Ideas, f.e., is a beautiful record that allows a similar deep listening though it is far more simple, in musical standards.

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Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 7, 2012 12:39pm

P.S. We often quote TheQuietus in our blog. So, some moght be intersted what people listen to who love The Walker:) see manafonistas.de

My 2012 list

Scott Walker: Bish Bosh – record of the year (4AD)
Thomas Köner: Novaya Zemlya (Touch)
Jan Bang & Erik Honore: Uncommon Deities (samadhisound)
Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus: Didymoi Dreams (Rune Grammofon)
Jan Garbarek – Charlie Haden – Egberto Gismonti: Carta de Amor (ECM)
Eivind Aarset: Dream Logic (ECM)
Swans: The Seer (Young Gods)
Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (Epic)
Burnt Friedman: Bokoboko (nonplace)
Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Ancestors (TUM)
Astrid: High Blues (Rune Grammofon)
Lambchop: Mr. M (City Slang)
 
Other outstanding records were made / released by Eberhard Weber, Food, Arvo Pärt, Paul Buchanan, Leonard Cohen, James Yorkston, Stian Westerhus (solo), Frank Ocean, Keith Jarrett, Brian Eno, Dan Michaelson, Tindersticks, Tim Berne, Heiner Goebbels, Ivar Grydeland, Gerry Diver, Wilco, Diagrams, John Surman, Holly Herndon, Neil Young and Can (The Lost Tapes). And, last, but not least, Masabumi Kikuchi Trio with Paul Motian.

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S.
Dec 7, 2012 2:33pm

My #1 album of 2012.

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Bob
Dec 7, 2012 4:03pm

Thanks for an excellent review, Joe. (and believe me: I've read 'em all!) I think that your point about Scott Walker's finding a new way of articulating or encoding emotions and indeed, all experience, in music is a good one. Music, as is the case with language, becomes standardized and generic and at the same time seeks constantly to resist such stasis. What I like about Scott's music (and all reviews basically seem to boil down to good ol' fashioned liking and disliking!) is that it endeavours to capture the complexity of the human condition and the ongoing forces of finitude and infinitude. In his album titles alone we see this fight: 'Tilt', the 'Drift', and perhaps most clearly of all: 'Bish Bosch', where there are inferences of the ongoing warring between these forces inherent in a world of duality. The ludic nature of Walker's texts are in the front line of this fight against 'finalisation' to use a term associated with Mikhail Bakhtin - as listeners/readers seek to arrive at a final interpretation of his intended meaning. The beauty of all of his albums - and not least Bish Bosch, is that such a final interpretation must remain as elusive as a bar of soap*. (not that I'm suggesting that as a sound effect in his next work!)

*The soap would need to be wet, of course - a dry (or packaged) bar of soap would be easy to grip.

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Cecil
Dec 7, 2012 4:11pm

I see one possible key to "understand" the album: the spelling of the title implies a nod to Hyeronimus Bosch. I hear the album as a series of nightmarish - hellish - ideas, as if to translate to music what the eye sees gazing at the various characters in the third panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights.

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Cecil
Dec 7, 2012 4:12pm

In reply to Cecil:

*Hieronymus*

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Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 7, 2012 4:43pm

In reply to Bob:

You are definitely not Bob Dylan, nor Bob Boilen, but you are a good writer. And music thinker. You are invited to have a look on our blog manafonistas.de - we are not looking for writers, we are looking for soul mates who - then - want to join us. We are music lovers, some of us are professional music journalists. And we have a rule at manafonistas.de: we will end up with 12 Manafonistas. We are in parts english, otherwise German.

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Ghost Writer
Dec 7, 2012 9:38pm

The strongest contender for record of the year!

http://youareaghost.blogspot.mx/

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Bob
Dec 7, 2012 10:53pm

In reply to Michael Engelbrecht:

Vielen Dank, Michael. Ich freue mich viel darüber deine nette Wörte zu hören! I'll certainly check out your site.
I saw that Lee Hazlewood had been written about, which is always a good starting point - as is the fact that the site is written in German, which I have studied, but which is a bit rusty!

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Winged Eel Dingaling
Dec 8, 2012 1:14am

I used to pay lip service to "Climate" and afterwards bullshit but that's just silly pop provincialism... Scott is fucking TRITE no matter how many "heavy" literary influences he flaunts; open ya'll's ears to real deal 20th & 21st century modernism and late Scott is nut just unnecessary but painfully SILLY.

Only in the blinkered pop/rock-centric view could this be thought otherwise.

Some people should never be allowed to listen to Bernd Alois Zimmermann (or Frank Zappa!) records, they can't handle it, and Scott is one.

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Joel
Dec 8, 2012 2:02am

Interesting review. Well written.

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Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 8, 2012 9:39am

In reply to Bob:

Bob, just take time, and if you think you want to join this bunch of people, we will make a deal.
Here my email adress: please send me a short notice, so I can delete it. Take care, M.
micha.engelbrecht@gmx.de

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Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 8, 2012 2:02pm

In reply to Winged Eel Dingaling:

Hello, stranger! I am one of these high brow idiots who love this fantastic album. I am one of these arrogant eggheads who think it belongs to a future canon of classics of the 21st century. I am one of these narrow-minded pseudo-intellectual mind-fuckers who think that Joe Keenedy's review may be the best review I read in a long time. And you know why? He took another road to the world of The Walker, a road that linked his early days and his later albums in a new way. This might be of no interest for you. Okay. "Some people should never be allowed to....", so starts one of your sentences. I am deeply impressed. Do you really believe the nonsense you are writing, buddy?

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Winged Eel Dingaling
Dec 8, 2012 4:09pm

In reply to Michael Engelbrecht:

But you're NOT high brow-- like Scott no many how many Ligeti, Berio or Kurtag records he wanks to, you're a pop sod who willfully ignores a at least a century of voice + instruments modernism... Wow, Scott Walker discovered Celan... heavy! When you discover Hugo Wolf, tell me so I can stand back while your head explodes.

There's nothing wrong with "liking" this turgid gruel but the claims made for it by people woefully ignorant of its many superior antecedents are laughable. (Humor being something Oh So Serious Scott lost 30 years ago, oh the pain of the world my Delius loving arse.)

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Michael Engelbrecht
Dec 8, 2012 5:09pm

In reply to Winged Eel Dingaling:

Oh, oh, you're a bit wrongfooted. i know Hugo Wolf quite well, and no head would be exploding in case we arrange a meeting. So keep cool, green tea helps! Maybe you should buy a splasher movie in your local dvd store. Sometimes they use Penderecki in the soundtracks, buddy. Another kind advice: be a bit careful with the things other people you don't know might ignore: it's a cheap rhetoric startegy that costs you even the smallest amount of credibility. You're blood pressure okay? Fine. sincerely, your pop sod!

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Count Screwloose
Dec 8, 2012 5:25pm

I find myself caught between a lot of the opinions I'm reading about 'Bish Bosch.' It's hardly humorless - I don't think anything SW does could be - but it is the first time I've felt him flirt with the edges of self-parody. Perhaps that's just the risk you take when you've staked out such a personal and unique style. It may be time to shake things up a bit, though. It doesn't help to have your publicity sheet advise listeners to 'keep Wikipedia by your bedtable, kids!' That's the sort of academic tomfoolery that will keep listeners away in droves and better suited to 'Ulysses' reading groups ('I think I've picked up a reference to Dublin!'). This isn't to say I don't like the album - I like it very much indeed. I'm not sure of his complete intention with 'Zercon,' but I found it one of the most affecting tracks. The use of common insults throughout was somehow for me an effective way of painting a world too easily and commonly cruel (something all his work is about, I think). Few artists could do that by strangling out lines like 'Does your face hurt? Well, it's killing me,' but Scott does it and makes me want to take the measure of every supposedly 'clever' thing I might think of saying from now on.

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Jeff
Dec 8, 2012 7:00pm

In reply to Winged Eel Dingaling:

And people call me a pretentious wank. Wow.

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t wilson
Dec 8, 2012 10:03pm

In reply to Winged Eel Dingaling:

Great review.

Was listening to 'It's Raining Today' the other week - definitely some underlying sense of anxiety in the strings, made me think that perhaps a lot of the time the separation between his early work and the later high art stuff is less clear cut, as you've said here. Been thinking that for a while so I'm glad you've debunked that separation somewhat.

Also, I've read that he's a big fan of Jean Genet, so that 'bodily abjection' could come from him too, but based on the example you give it definitely seems a lot less romanticized (for lack of a better term) than Genet, more macabre and absurd.

Anyway, that's my limited two cents.

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Dec 8, 2012 10:05pm

In reply to t wilson:

Sorry this was in reply to Joe Kennedy's review not Mr. 'Stand back while your head explodes'. I don't want to talk with him, he doesn't seem very nice.

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john
Dec 10, 2012 2:17pm

Bish Bosch is a record to praise for its courage, its vision, its awkwardness, its ‘out-there-ness’. On a purely rational level, It’s a very special record by a very special artist, definitely one of the records of the year

But listening to Bish Bosch is hard work (not that everything has to be easy – on the contrary.) It seems as if everything that makes it so special, is rather ugly, difficult or simply annoying. As soon as there is a ‘nice’ or ‘pretty’ part in it, this immediately comes to a halt; there are (except for the last song) no melodies that ‘stick’.

In short: it’s a record I respect highly for its mere existence, but one that I find very hard to actually LOVE.

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Helk Bwemthox
Dec 10, 2012 2:39pm

In reply to Winged Eel Dingaling:

What exactly are you overcompensating for? Are you a bit dim or something?

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Rich M
Dec 10, 2012 3:29pm

In reply to Helk Bwemthox:

He liked all this stuff long before any of us, and furthermore if anyone else says they like NOW then they are lame posers. We get it, random internet guy, here's your special medal.

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Michael E.
Dec 10, 2012 3:57pm

In reply to john:

I think a lot of people will share your point of view, For me it is acrecord to be fascinated by, and,yes, I love it too, not for any kind of beautiful melody, but for a lot of stunning moments and passages that send me shivers down the spine. Being immersed in this world of sound, in certain hours in you life, can be, I think , very rewarding and fulfilling (in contrast to depressing).

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Jeff
Dec 10, 2012 6:08pm

In reply to Michael E. :

(in general reply to this thread)

I agree that it's difficult to listen to, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that the harder edges are necessarily ear-killing. Everything on here is beautifully recorded, from the ugliest squeals to the most serene string passages. Scott knows that if every track were as gorgeous as those on (for example) Scott 3, then those peaceful "breather" moments wouldn't be as beautiful.

Every adventure has its twists and turns.

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Sam
Dec 10, 2012 6:21pm

This bit is interesting:
"Where now – as one sees in much music which references the younger Walker, such as Richard Hawley or The Last Shadow Puppets – swelling strings and mournful horns are rather a clichéd or kitsch way of expressing romantic angst."

Is Walker's music from the last 20 years not also full of cliched sound used to express non-romantic angst, dread, and so on? I find it to be some of the most cliched music out there. Sure, it's unpredictable (in the same way that Yes are), but it's no less cliched than Rihanna.

I like Tilt and the Drift, but it's amazing how seriously people take these records and how seriously they seem to take themselves when discussing them. If Coldplay or U2 had made Bish Bosch it would get PANNED.

If you're interested in an actual modern classic, check out Shackleton's Music For The Quiet Hour.

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John Doran
Dec 10, 2012 7:01pm

In reply to Sam:

I disagree with your assessment of Coldplay or U2... Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed got a lot of critical kudos by sheer dint of it being slightly unexpected or weird. I think if Coldplay had released this album it would be the most talked about musical event of the last ten years. Also not all music writers are as compromised or tin eared as you're making out. There are huge chunks of this album that immediately leap out at you as beautifully recorded and envisaged bits of music, it's just the whole thing in its entirety which takes a bit of digestion time.

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Sam
Dec 10, 2012 8:23pm

In reply to John Doran:

Lulu got absolutely destroyed. It's one of the most reviled records ever made. It's certainly no worse than Pish Posh, though. Look it up on metacritic if you want a reminder.

I agree that the record is beautifully recorded, and that there are moments of beauty, but it's still a cliched mess. He just uses critically acceptable cliches.

It's not a terrible album, but it's no great shakes, either. If Coldplay (or Metallica) had made this, it would certainly be talked about, and I think that its merits would be considered with more balance. If you think that the world would not laugh at Chris Martin singing like Walker, and singing those ridiculous lyrics, then I don't really know what to say!

Admittedly, the promo for the album is immensely irritating to me: LOOK! REFERENCES! It's like 4AD knows the record isn't very good and needs to make it look deep in order for people to appreciate. You don't see Dylan doing that, and lord knows that he could,

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S.
Dec 10, 2012 9:01pm

In reply to Sam:

Hey Sam, your post reminds me of the old saying about opinions: "You're wrong."

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John Doran
Dec 10, 2012 10:02pm

In reply to Sam:

Hey Sam, I'm not particularly after a row or anything but that's just not the case. In Lou Reed and Metallica's heartland (The WIRE and Metal Hammer) this was a top 20 albums of the year job. Actually voted for by writers of those magazines. 'Universally reviled' is far too strong. Certainly in some of the mainstream media but not universally.

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John Doran
Dec 10, 2012 10:05pm

In reply to John Doran:

Also, the idea that Bish Bosch is full of cliches is... well, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Certainly you can't mean lyrically? Do you mean sonically? Even then, I think you'd really struggle to make that case with plenty of concrete examples.

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Max Florian
Dec 11, 2012 12:36pm

this is the best review of Bish Bosch overall.
and the nitpicking it contains is essential.

I'm mightily irritated and, at the same time, feel sorry for Winged Eel Dingaling and Sam's ilk, because they despise pop music with such a wanking trainspotter's hate. such people will never have a true blissful experience in their lives which will not be manufactured by their own uncessantly busy, hateful little minds in advance. arids.

I think what Scott Walker is doing with his recent work in a pop context is what David Sylvian's '80s albums did then. it does set a standard for contemporary pop music: I can't quite find the same flair for pure creative invention, mixing the most disparate outside influences, and offering them back in a most palatable - urgent, elemental - way with quite the same urgency and propulsion in anyone else's work. it's punk and it's pop, at their finest, in 2013.
that it's a 70-year old gentleman doing that it doesn't surprise me. one awfully nice bonus is that Scott Walker's work is saying something about pop music's viability as an emotionally MATURE medium.

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Mark Andresen
Dec 11, 2012 1:27pm

Yet to hear it, but it's interesting how his music, since 'Climate' has so polarised the sexes - summed up by David Ennis and Maria Holland above. I know several blokes who enjoy the challenge of it (even if they don't get either) and several women who hate it and won't contemplate a second listen. Neither are 'right' or 'wrong' - just an observation.

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Michael E.
Dec 11, 2012 3:02pm

In reply to Max Florian:

I said enough here, so just a few words: thanks, Max Florian, for your clear and refreshing statement. I see Scott Walker among other artists and works who have made unique albums. Think of Mark Hollis, the last two Talk Talk albums, some great song albums by Robert Wyatt (Cuckooland, f.e.) , Sufjan Stevens (Ilinoise), Björk, and a lot of underrated gems (Another Day On Earth etc etc) ...

A propos David Sylvian: he even "radicalized" (is that the right word?) his 80s album with works like Blemish and Manafon, a masterpiece that made even a lot of old listeners run away:) it even gave our blog on music beyond mainstream - manafonistas.de - its name.

One more thing (ups, i didn't intend so many words): i do not like at all these dichotomies between pop and serious stuff. Without hesitation I admit that I have a similar love for Mahler's Fifth Symphony as for Leonard Cohen's Songs of Love and Hate (or his new one, Old Ideas). i don't have to file this under "guilty pleasures", and, well, so let's be aware of people who tell you what the "real thing" is. The real thing what you love. Simple as that.

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Joe K
Dec 11, 2012 3:26pm

I'm trying to keep out of comments threads after the Ariel Pink affair, but I'd just like to say that the points made here (including the argumentative and contradictory ones, disregarding any ad hominem elements) have been fascinating. Sam - I don't agree about the Coldplay/ U2 thing (not least because neither of those bands would produce Bish Bosch, even if you gave them an infinite amount of time as in the monkeys/ Shakespeare hypothesis) but I do think the point you're making about some artists getting a free pass critically is worth raising. Winged Eel etc - if you regard Walker as trying to mske music in the Darmstadt tradition of perpetually self-renovating modernism that's trying to redefine the whole musical idiom, then I can see why you think his music's a failure. However, I don't remotely think that he's attempting to do that - I think he's very specifically working within (and looking to expand) a pop idiom. The relevant comparisons are Eno, David Sylvian, Mark Hollis et al, and I think he stands up incredibly well in that company. I don't think he shares a prerogative with Ligeti or Berio. Also, there's a lot of poetry I haven't had space to discuss in this context - grammatically and syntactically, there's a real crossover between the lyrics on this record and work by various 'Cambridge School' (quote marks present as I hate that term) poets. Celan is just, I think, the most obvious reference point. Anyway, thanks to everyone here. really interesting stuff.

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Michael E.
Dec 11, 2012 5:46pm

In reply to Joe K:

Too interesting to stop now.

Yeah, these are the names, and Brian Eno is one of them. In another magazine, Mike Barnes speaks about a meeting between Walker and Lanois/Eno. I heared about this from different sources over the years. Eno loved the idea to create special sounds for Walker's voice, similar to the way he was fascinated by the Teo Macero putting Miles Davis' trumpet in a very strange (not jazz-like) landscape on the 30-minute piece HE LOVED HIM MADLY.

I once heared some of the instrumental tracks that Eno played for Walker (as an idea). It would have moved into the outer spaces of Ambient Music (imagine, vaguely, ON LAND mixed with APOLLO) - with the voice of The Walker roaming and strolling around... It's a shame it didn't happen, for whatever reasons.

This record that was never made would probably have become the missing link (soundwise) between the dark romanticism of Scott 1 2 3 4 and the later, more "atonal" works since CLIMATE OF HUNTER....

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Max Florian
Dec 12, 2012 12:32am

In reply to Michael E. :

dear Michael E.,
rest assured I knew well where you were coming from, just from your blog's name : )
I'm a Sylvian fan for life - and my favourite album of his is actually 'Blemish' ('Manafon' I respect but I ultimately think it failed on many counts) - but I don't feel Sylvian or Hollis pack quite the same punch as Walker does, the main reason being that Walker's attitude is much, much more, as I said, propulsive - and therefore, engaging with the world he (askewly and inventively) describes. that's also why he strikes me as being more ambitious in his quest than the other two gentlemen we mentioned, and his work more impactful on the everyday level.
by comparison, M. Hollis's album, and Sylvian's Samadhisound releases, feel like renunciatory works, more or less neatly working inside a periphery of their own choosing (or coming to terms with). I think it's no coincidence that Hollis stopped releasing music, and Sylvian more or less records his lyrics and vocals on other people's music nowadays. I think the mindset in which Sylvian's '80s albums were made was quite different.

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Max Florian
Dec 12, 2012 12:56am

in response to the various posters' interesting thoughts:
re: the division of the sexes - my girlfriend just loves Scott (just the latter-day one, 'The Drift' being her favourite), as she does Cage, Coltrane, King Crimson, some EAI stuff (OK, Ami Yoshida, if only because she's a woman and they share haircuts). I'm much more stereotypically womanly sentimental in my listening tastes than she is. she draws a line at Pink Floyd, though (which I love). : )
re: Bish Bosch not having memorable passages - I strongly disagree. the man can compose killer hooks with next to nothing - see the Roman numerals one, and many, many others on 'Tilt', 'The Drift' and this one. I invariably pick them up on first listen and end up singing them in the street.
re: the scathing comparisons - I'm repeating myself here, but, are you people dead? with all your doubtfully great listening experience, can't you still listen properly? a sound is a sound foremost - an auditory object; only then, an idea, or a neutralised pawn in a comparison battlefield. how can you not be simply physically startled while listening to numerous, wonderfully-recorded instrumental passages from Walker's last three albums?
and, lastly, about the 'cliches': yes, there are 'classic' ways to express the various details and gradations of human emotion in music, from Herrmann to Walker. it's not 'cliche': it's 'classic', thus also giving us some definite signposts to hang on to. these signposts have been used and reused because human sensibility accrues through time and some things stick around because they prove effective and have not emotionally worn out their welcome, yet. seeing that today's mainstream pop is emotionally in the same place where it was in the '50's, I think it will be a long time until these musical stratagems devolve into 'cliches'.

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Michael E.
Dec 12, 2012 9:50am

In reply to Max Florian:

Hi Max, would be interesting to go with you through the details, but that would take some nice hours I think:)
Congrats to a girlfriend who loves THE DRIFT:)

My favourite Sylvian albums are, in fact, MANAFON and, THE MANAFON VARIATIONS. And for many reasons, they don't fail at all. And though Walker's work is full of punches and power, I just think (to make it short) that his works just detects other realities in comaprison to Talk Talk or Sylvian... I don't these this in terms of superiority, definitely not. But, as I said, it would take hours... Just looking forward to THE TERROR in 2013 which will be the new Flaming Lips album, and probably provoke similar discussions here:)

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Chris
Jan 8, 2013 12:24pm

I wonder if someone like, oooh, let's say Eric Cantona (he's a bit of a poet) made this album would it get the same sycophantically gushing review?

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Joe K
Jan 8, 2013 2:49pm

In reply to Chris:

I'd give this record a gushing review if anyone made it, but if Eric Cantona made an album like Bish Bosch I'd die of pleasure as we'd have arrived at the great cultural and aesthetic singularity.

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