Soused combines magnificence with menace

admin

Eric Novak

 

When two of the most notoriously abrasive artists meet to record an album together, one would reasonably expect the resulting album to be extremely abrasive. While Scott Walker and Sunn O)))’s latest album Soused has its fair share of chaotic, abysmal moments, it’s actually some of the most accessible music either artist has released to date.

Scott Walker is a very strange case in the music world. He’s known nowadays to make genre-twisting, terrifying experimental music, but he actually got his start in the ‘60s, fronting the pop sensation group, The Walker Brothers. Sunn O))) is the duo of bassist Greg Anderson and guitarist Stephen O’Malley, who are known for experimental drone metal that is played at ear-shattering decibels. The pairing of these two artists may seem a little strange at first, but they actually complement each other fairly well.

Soused bears a closer resemblance to Walker’s work, as it seems like he was the main driving force behind the collaboration. Sunn O))) serves a more subtle supportive role, providing sinister-sounding drones and occasional interjection with Scott’s singing.

The album opens with “Brando,” which is introduced by Walker’s inimitable operatic baritone voice singing amidst an uncharacteristically harmonious backdrop of strings. The happiness is eventually disturbed by a dry-sounding guitar playing a riff that’s almost too bluesy to be found on a Scott Walker or Sunn O))) album. This intro sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is characterized by moments of almost beauty juxtaposed against harsh, dissonant sections.

Although the artists are at their most accessible, listening to this album requires a sense of patience. Despite calm, almost serene sections, the album maintains a sense of dread and a bleak atmosphere throughout. This is by no means a detriment to the music, as the atmosphere that Walker and Sunn O))) create together is fascinating.

All five songs are played at incredibly slow tempos, and none of the songs are shorter than eight minutes long. While this may seem daunting, the length of each track gives each song plenty of space to stretch out, and none of the songs feel like they aren’t fleshed out enough or go on too long.

Each track creeps slowly by, taunting the listener with far-off sounds, like souls calling out for help from times long-past. While the listener is drawn in by the minimalistic, almost silent-ness of the track, it suddenly drops a loud blast of sound on the listener, creating constant interest and never quite being what one might expect.

Compared with some of Walker’s previous albums like The Drift or Bish Bosch, however, this album lacks some of the shocking punch and idiosyncrasies that made those albums great. Walker’s distinct approach to non-instrumental sounds is much less pronounced on this album, as we don’t hear anybody punching any meat or sharpening cutlasses as percussion. Sunn O)))’s presence on the album tends to cause some sections to be a little dynamically static, and dynamics are normally a huge part of Walker’s music.

The biggest gripe about the album, though, is that it is not a huge departure from the style of his last album, Bish Bosch. The album exists more or less in the same sonic atmosphere, and there aren’t as many innovations that Walker has added to his sonic arsenal.

Even with these minor disappointments, Soused is still a very strong album that shows that both artists are still at the top of their game, creating consistently challenging music that sounds like nothing else that has ever been released.