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Scott Walker + Sunn O))) - Soused


Release date: 20 October 2014
Album of the week
Scott Walker and Sunn O Soused
17 October 2014, 09:30 Written by Ross Horton
​Greg Anderson, Stephen O’Malley and Scott Walker responsible for some of the most bizarre, most engaging, most inspiring and most grotesque musical exploits of the 21st Century. If you’re familiar with their work - ancient or recent - and have stuck around thus far, you will adore Soused. That’s the good news. The bad news, sadly, is that this project has so many coincidental similarities with another cautiously anticipated all-star collaboration that for me not to mention so would be criminal.

In 2011, Lou Reed and Metallica unleashed Lulu on a largely unwitting crowd of musos and metalheads to universal derision and unanimous disappointment. Well, almost. See, I rather like Lulu. I think that the grandeur of the thing (it's far too long), combined with the glittering resumes of all concerned - not forgetting the shocking and visceral content of the album - made it one of the must-hear records of my lifetime. This is bad news for Soused because it was, in my eyes, destined to be a kind of hipster/muso Lulu, only with the benefit of hindsight to prepare the participants for what might happen if expectation outweighed execution. You can decide whether my presumptious mental relegation of Soused was merited.

Soused begins with "Brando", a searing piece that immediately sets the limit for which the patience of the listener will be (consensually) tested over the course of the record. Various off-beat sounds open the track - a Slash-y guitar stinger here, a whip crack there, before the first gargantuan drone burns like molten tarmac through the speakers. Scott's wet croon is as gorgeous and ectopic as ever as he moans amidst growling guitar feedback, and you can sense he's instantly at ease coated in corrosive electric dew by Messrs Anderson and SOMA. And those whip cracks can really eat you up, too, if you ain't careful, especially considering the fact that they are the beat...

"Herod 2014" could be read in numerous tenuous ways, such are the suggestive lyrics that Walker delivers with Bela Lugosi menace. But it's the sonic terrain that's most appealing/offputting feature of the track: A horrifically high-pitched squeal repeatedly plunders through your ear canals, bouncing off several austere guitar textures.

"Bull" is the finest track on the record, and indeed one of the finest tracks either entity has been responsible for in recent memory. It's got a spooky Latin chant, an endless "keep movin' on" mantra from Walker and torrid musical witchery from thee robed ones - naturally. It was this track that initially convinced me of the potency of the project, primarily because I kept skipping back a track whenever it finished, to start the whole process of cathartic conflagration all over again.

The final two compositions are "Fetish" and "Lullaby". The former is a dense, crashing sonic excursion complete with unbearable tension and heart-stopping riffs. The latter is tense but in a different way, as though the listener were waiting for some enormous cathartic pay off that never materialises - a trademark Scott gesture.. "Fetish" is a surprising confluence of styles and a seamless symbiosis of the distinct styles at the heart of the project.

This is Sunn O))) at their most playful, and Scott at his most enjoyable. That's not to say that Sunn O))) are dour and Scott's work is largely impenetrable... Actually, yes it is. The Sunn O))) ambient collaboration with Ulver convinced me they had something extra they kept hidden and only wheeled out at appropriate times - Soused proves it. I reckon The Drift, Grimmrobe..., Bisch Bosch, Monoliths... (and probably even Lulu) will be played more than Soused because of the very nature of the beast: Soused is, after all, a side project from two sets of artists with ridiculous catalogues that wouldn't be replaced in your affections if David Bowie did a collaborative album with Richard D James (imagine that!).

So, people will tell you this is the album of the week, perhaps of the month or of the year. But what if they're lying and it's all bullshit?

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