Scott Walker And Who Shall Go To The Ball And What Shall Go To The Ball Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Walker has never been one to conform to anyone’s expectations and having been in the...

Sid Smith 2007

Listeners familiar with his erratic output of last couple of decades will know that when Scott Walker breaks those famously-long bouts of public inactivity the results can be perplexing, challenging and downright confrontational.

Commissioned by London’s South Bank Centre in 2006 to produce a score for a contemporary dance piece, Walker has turned in a series of oblique and angular strokes of the musical brush which coalesce into four edgy movements.

Whilst sharing the uneven contours that shaped The Drift as well as some personnel (including Mark Warman, co-producer Pete Walsh and Alasdair Molloy – seen in the recently released SW documentary 30th Century Man being instructed to slap and punch a side of pork for percussive effect), the biggest difference is the absence of Walker’s haunted croon.

The resulting chamber music has the strings, woodwind, and brass of the London Sinfonietta deploy terse motifs and abrupt flicks of rhythm slashing at the air, trading places with ambiguity, silence and solitude. Cinematic echoes abound. The taut grunt of the bowed basses evoke flashes of John Williams, Bernard Herrmann and Elizabeth Lutyens, whilst the dissonant churning of “4th Movement” has shrill galloping Louis Andriessen-like repetitions on the brass, colliding one on top of each other before being electronically accelerated into oblivion.

No stranger to the emotive cues and triggers required for movie soundtracks (in 1999 he provided the music to Leos Carax’ Pola X), this score provides ample opportunity for dancers to make their mark. A master of his entrances and exits, Walker gathers all the loose ends thrown up in to the air during the previous 20 or so minutes, distilling them into a sustained D chord, and thus providing the album with a powerful sense of mournful resolution.

No doubt it’ll be labelled ‘pretentious’ by members of the critical orthodoxy that, by and large, prefers musicians and artists to remain firmly inside the box into which they’ve been interred. Walker has never been one to conform to anyone’s expectations and having been in the game this long, he’s not about to start now.

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