SCOTT WALKER: And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? (4AD)


Posted on Nov 19th 2007 11:18 pm

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Scott Walker: And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?

And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?
4AD 2007
04 Tracks. 24mins39secs

The title speaks volumes: there’s an anxiousness and sense of otherness to its two questions. Something fairy-tale like, but not the sugar-coated fare of Walt Disney, this is the territory of exclusion and structural uncertainty.

If you’re a Scott Walker acolyte like me, this comes as no surprise. Ever since he recorded his four songs for the Walker Brothers reunion, Nite Flights, in 1977, it’s been clear that he’s channelling the deepest of dreads, that special feeling that is part existential fright, part horror and alarum (his love of Brel in the sixties clearly signified this as well of course). Punctuating the silences that have lasted more than a decade at a time, his rare missives since then have sounded like spectral cries, fireflies in the deepest of final nights. Still, there were occasional hints of sunset illumination that contributed a welcome sense of contrast to Climate of Hunter (1983) and Tilt (1995). With last year’s remorseless The Drift though, the light had turned black.

Given the aforementioned paucity of new material, the past year or so has seen a veritable glut, relatively speaking, of new Scott Walker material: The Drift, Darkness (a single song contributed to the multi-artist Plague Songs project) and now this 25 minute, four part composition. Scott Walker doesn’t sing on AWSGTTB?AWSGTTB? It’s an instrumental work intended to accompany a performance by the Candoco dance company. The music might best be described as Modernist in form. Imagine a haunted version of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale or a shattering of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht rendered by Kurt Weill.

The instrumentation consists of string quartet, saxophones and percussion and there’s some form post-processing in the final movement. There are lengthy stretches of quietude suddenly riven by strident violin slashes. It’s a technique surely deployed with the express intent to unsettle. Mournful and desolate for its first eithgeen minutes as strings slide downwards like planes falling in slow motion out of the sky, AWSGTTB?AWSGTTB? becomes aggressively despondent in its closing section, saxophones sounding off like crazed marshal wasps, bells clanging, snatches of sound caught up in curt loops. It is well worth considering it as a companion work to Darkness and The Drift. AWSGTTB?AWSGTTB? is allegedly a limited one-time release, it’s beautifully sheathed in a Chris Bigg-designed card cover and if you can face down the darkness, Walker’s new work has much to offer.


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3 Responses to “SCOTT WALKER: And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? (4AD)”

  1. mapsadaisicalon 21 Nov 2007 at 12:48 am

    As always with a Scott Walker album I find the thought of having to review it as forbidding as listening to it; I’ll happily leave that to you! I played the last track from this on the radio the other week, and I’m a little disappointed that no-one called the station to complain that they wouldn’t be able to sleep.

  2. themilkmanon 23 Nov 2007 at 1:50 pm

    If one person qualified to review this, it was certainly Colin! I’ve been trying to get into SW’s later work, but I just can’t, although this latest is actually easier on the ear for me. As much as I love his singing on Scott 1-4 and a few later releases, I find it way too lugubrious on Tilt and The Drift, and it prevents me from appreciating the music.

  3. […] Scott Walker – And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? Scott was positively prolific this year, what with this 4 part instrumental composition and that single vocal contribution to the Plague Songs project. My review here. […]