Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD, 2014)

ed43c3a1Confession time: I had no idea who Scott Walker was prior to the announcement of Soused.  As those of you who read this here blog on the regular might have guessed, I’m not particularly hip to the avant-garde scene.  Furthermore, I was a tad apprehensive about another Sunn O))) collab being released this year after experiencing Terrestrials, their underwhelming team-up with Norway’s terminally overrated Ulver.  If you’re in the same boat as I, fear not; one doesn’t have to be familiar with Herr Walker’s work to enjoy Soused, and it blows Terrestrials out of the goddamn water.

Sunn O))) has a history of working with some of the most compellingly idiosyncratic vocalists around, ranging from Julian Cope to Attila Csihar to Malefic, and they’ve picked yet another winner in Walker; the pairing sounds a bit off-kilter the first time one listens to Soused, but the more one allows the album sink in, the more one comes to appreciate how well Walker’s weathered croon works in tandem with Sunn O)))’s sub-tectonic drones to create something familiar yet at the same time quite unlike anything in the band’s catalog.

The atmospheres of Soused range from the surreal to the absurd to the unsettling, and this is due as much to Walker’s haunting vocalizations and bizarre lyrics as to Sunn O)))’s ability to completely blot out any traces of light with a thick, rolling fog of distortion.  It often feels as if Walker is a man losing his grip on sanity as he attempts to traverse the murky soundscape; while his singing is fairly conventional, it somehow sounds deeply disturbed when set against this music.  Although I can’t speak for Walker’s back catalog, his presence makes Soused the darkest thing Sunn O))) has released since Black One back in 2001.

With Soused, Sunn O))) have conjured up yet another brilliant collaboration; I’d put this album up against Altar or their work with Merzbow any day of the week.  It not only sees them continue to evolve and stretch their sound in unexpected ways, but also serves as a great introduction to the deranged world of Scott Walker for novices such as myself.  While it is difficult for me to speak for Walker’s fanbase, I can safely say that my fellow Sunn-worhshippers will find much to appreciate within the confines of this match made in the darkest corners of the human psyche.

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