Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused

Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused

Here’s the thing about Soused, the collaborative album from avant-garde singer-songwriter Scott Walker and everybody’s favorite drone/doom merchants Sunn O))): it doesn’t really seem like that much of a collaboration. Yes, there are moments when the familiar downtuned bombast of Messrs. Anderson and O’Malley come to the fore, but if you come to Soused primarily as a Sunn O))) fan, you’ll find those moments to be disappointingly few (though they become more obvious with repeated listens). Still, there’s much about Soused to recommend, once you get used to some of Walker’s musical eccentricities.

The thing that caught me most off guard about Soused is how theatrical the music is. Walker’s voice is theatrical (my first reaction on hearing him was that he sounds like a vampire trying to sing opera), the song arrangements tend toward the theatrical with their use of synthesized strings, occasional horns, and other odd accouterments, like the repeated cracking of a bullwhip on “Brando” and Walker’s lyrics also flirt with the theatrical, from the simply outrageous (“a beating would do me/a world of good”) to the actual (mis)appropriation of lyrics from showtunes (“no raindrops on roses/no whiskers on kittens”), often occupying some strange middle ground between amusing and unsettling.

More than anything, Soused is a Scott Walker record, featuring many of Walker’s usual stable of musicians, that Sunn O))) also happens to play on. So if you were hoping for an album like Altar, Sunn O)))’s wonderful 2006 collaboration with Boris, this isn’t it. If you’re a Sunn O))) fan who isn’t familiar with Walker’s body of work—and I was one of those fans, though I’ve since familiarized myself with some of his recent output—you’re likely going to be perplexed the first time you listen to Soused, because it’s one of the strangest, most difficult albums I have ever heard. But with the second listen it’s a little less strange, and after about five spins Soused almost starts to make sense. It’s probably not the album that most Sunn O))) fans want them to make (it’s been five years--please give us a proper follow-up to Monoliths and Dimensions) but it’s much more enjoyable than Terrestrials, their tepid collaboration with Ulver from earlier this year, and has a lot to offer if approached with an open mind.

Soused is currently available in multiple formats from 4AD Records.