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Scott Walker: Abstract And Unsettling On 'Bisch Bosch'

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scott Walker's 'Bish Bosch' is his first album in five years. Scott Walker's 'Bish Bosch' is his first album in five years. (Paul Cox / courtesy of the artist)

You know that line from the Grateful Dead, "What a long, strange trip it's been"? That is the perfect summary of Scott Walker's career. In the U.K. in the mid-1960's, when The Beatles were at the height of their popularity, the Walker Brothers had -- for a moment at least -- a bigger fan club. Despite not being British (they were all transplanted Americans), not being brothers, and not even being named Walker, (Scott's birth name is Noah Scott Engels.), Walker's haunting baritone graced a number of hit singles. Scott Walker was a star.

But in the decades since, Walker's music has become darker, more abstract, showing the influence of avant-garde classical as well as avant-garde rock. His songwriting and record producing has become more fitful, as if each album were the result of a long and desperate battle with his material. He did one album in the 80s, one in the 90s, the truly scary The Drift in 2006. Now, in the second decade of the century, a new album, Bish Bosch.

In between, Walker was the subject of the documentary, 30 Century Man (not 30th, just 30 -- it's a title from one of his songs), which showed him in the studio punching raw meat to get a particularly queasy percussion sound and building a large wooden box solely for its sonic impact. The new release has songs that play out like movies: horror movies, black comedies, documentaries -- sometimes all in the same song.

Walker tells us about the process of making (and naming) this decade's Scott Walker album.

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