The moment I heard Scott Walker would be collaborating for a full album with Sunn O))), I assumed I was dreaming. That was just too good to be actually true. In the past Sunn O))) have had great collaborations with bands such as, Boris, Nurse With Wound and Ulver, all of which really fitted their style. But this goes beyond just simple compatibility, we are talking about Scott Walker. A musician with such a twisted mind, who moved from his early mainstream pop days (which were also great) to the avant-garde experimental scene, releasing dark dissonant music, starting from Tilt back in 1995 and continuing with the mind-blowing The Drift and Bish Bosh. The outcome of this meeting of the dark minds is Soused.
It does seem that in the album it is Walker who takes on the lead. The music does sound much closer to his own work, with Sunn O))) of course contributing their own bleak essence. That is what Sunn O))) do so great, fill out the background of the album as they explore the space behind the music, with their huge guitar riffs, slow droning melodies and unearthly concepts of using synths. And even with that they seem to be toying with you in some instances. Funnily enough the beginning of the album, “Brando,” is probably one of the more easy-listening moments of the record, with the synth sound having an almost soothing effect as Walker’s imposing voice comes in. How is that for pleasant? Good, because that is it! And what comes next is the bullwhip! Literally. That is what the two artists use in this case in order to retain their abstract rhythm.
Soused is brilliantly twisted and impeccably dark. “Herod 2014” sees the music take on nightmare-like forms as the piercing synth sounds make things more uneasy. Delay effects creating spinning movement for the different sounds, disorienting the listener. And in other instances the use of synth manages to create impressive soundscapes filling up the background with a plethora of intriguing sounds, as is the case with “Fetish.” And there are cases where the more steady approach of the album takes on a turn for the more manic, as is the case in certain moments of the closing track, “Lullaby.” This approach of the two artists further builds up the atmosphere of Soused, finding a perfect trajectory between nightmare and perdition. From straight up dark ambiances, as in “Herod 2014,” to a colder vibe, as is the case with “Bull” and “Fetish,” Walker and Sunn O))) have absolute control over your mind. There are even moments when things get even stranger. The more brutal moment about six minutes in “Fetish” and the underwater ambiance about nine minutes in “Herod 2014” further depict the extent to which the experimentation of these two artists can go.
The big impact of Sunn O))) in Soused is their guitar playing. As you have always remembered it, with its drone/doom weight and its monolithic progression, it is as good as ever. From the more straightforward riffs in the opening track, to the huge doom moments of “Herod 2014” and in “Bull,” they add the necessary impact for the album. While when Sunn O))) turn on their feedback mode, then they are truly unstoppable. Especially in “Lullaby” it seems like the feedback is covering up everything. Then there still are the moments where some experimentation is needed, so the guitars undertake that role as well. The excruciating moment about four minutes in “Herod 2014” is a prime example of this tendency of Sunn O))). While the presence of percussion in the album, adds up and gives a variety of different vibes to Soused. From the more minimalistic moments, as is the case with “Lullaby” and “Herod 2014,” with its distant bells, to the more straight forward playing of “Bull,” which has a surprising industrial aura to it, Ian Thomas does exactly what is needed of him.
Of course you also have this voice! And man, that is just a highlight on its own right. Straight from the opening lines of “Brando” it feels just as strong as ever. And a few nice twists in there, as the distortion in “Bull.” It is simply terrific the way in which Walker’s vocals are able to hold their own in such a diverse piece, from the dense moments, with all the synths, effects and heavy guitars playing to the more minimalistic instances. Your jaw is going to drop when you hear the a capella part in “Herod 2014.”
Soused is darkness, it is purest, most twisted form. And even though I have been listening to this album for the last couple of weeks, almost non-stop, I still cannot believe that this project actually came to be. Just have a listen to “Lullaby.” The level of dissonance that these guys are able to reach in that song is simply mind-blowing. Only chaos reigns.
8.3 / 10
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