Review: Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused

Posted: October 21, 2014 in Album Review
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That hurt. The nine-minute ‘Fetish’ opens with a horrifying, primitive electronic attempt to replicate nails across a chalkboard. It pulses and repeats, resembling an alarm over a dense background racket of industrial clunks. And then Scott Walker opens his mouth. He cleanly and operatically serenades listeners against the sounds of a dank factory. It is like somebody bursting into song in a musical film without much reason – bizarrely out of place, at the worst of times. The enigmatic subjects of Soused however are far bleaker that John Travolta fixing up Greased Lightnin’. After all, those thunderous drones are on behalf of drone metallers Sunn O))), so nothing can be expected to travel at great speed.

This collaboration has been a long time coming, with Sunn O))) attempting to partner with 60s-pop-star-come-mindfuck-merchant Walker during to creation of 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions.

Soused wastes no time, not bothering so much with thickness as Sunn O)))’s lone albums, which portray a barely breathable, dense atmosphere, but for that viscosity to take a back seat, in favour of chaos as a spattering of noises bounce off of the canvas. Whistles, blips and whips appear all over the rapid, bulding thud of opener ‘Brando’. It begins in full throttle, with the prolonged grunt of guitars (strangely including a melodic riff that for a short while resembles Sunn O)))’s shot at their very own ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’), and a Scott Walker belting his heart raw.

It’s a heart attack inducing shock – the first of many. While most of Soused six tracks are given a repeated motif, somewhat resembling a chorus (being as close to a ‘song’ as many would say that Sunn O))) has ever got), there’s an irritating yet intriguing every time, impromptu neglect of any structure, only to remind listeners six-or-seven minutes later, that they are listening to the same song.

Longest track ‘Herod 2014’, is a repeat offender, as nobody will be singing along to a the third and final chorus for quite a while, assuming the lyrics can be decoded from beneath a rapid, random fire of slashes from a thousand knights drawing their swords. How Walker laments how “she’s hidden her babies away” in a modern tale of a purge of the infants, suggests that this isn’t a drill. And your home is next on the search.

The twelve-minute eventful crawl takes listeners through a montage alternating between scattered vocals from Walker and outrageously noisy, squelching, oscillating fuzz from Sunn O))), with a repeated feedback sound, resembling spitting voices. This alternating exaggerates Soused outlandish and undoubtedly experimental form, meaning that it doesn’t take long for listeners to be engrossed, not confused, and not only accepting, but believing what comes next. That could be the black clouds of drone giving way for Walker to cry, in favour for as close to an angelic chorus as either could offer (a tinnitus-style high pitched ring) during ‘Brando’, and Sunn O))) being given a bit of their own five-minutes to grumble, to anti-climactically end ‘Bull’, leading nowhere but the next track.

Who various segments sound as though they should be credited to, sticks out like a sore thumb. Despite Sunn O)))’s signature drone being more minimal, never have they formed a true background for anybody. However, they haven’t truly started here either, with some brutal and very creative entangling of the two. Sunn O))) aren’t a background, but the solid, black stage on which Walker stands. They are both presences that collide and refuse to leave the premises, in a battle with a brilliant and menacing payoff.

8/10

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