Scott Walker

Scott Walker (born Noel Scott Engel; January 9, 1943 – March 22, 2019) left the earthly plane this spring.

I’ve never listened to his critically acclaimed solo albums, so I figured, perhaps a fitting tribute would be to listen my way through as many of his albums as I could (easily) find.

Scott Walker first came into the public’s eye as the front man for the American Pop Group, The Walker Brothers. Their two biggest hits were “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)”.

Scott.

After departing the Walker Brothers he launched his solo career with the album “Scott”, aiming a bit away from his mainstream pop music past, and more towards world weary Jacques Brel cabaret. In fact, his English versions of Brel’s songs were some of the highlights of his early work.

Scott 2.

His next album, “Scott 2” continued in the same vein, with even more Brel tunes and a bit of a folk tinge.

Funny, no matter how pleasant the musical arrangement or how mellifluous his baritone voice, he cannot resist twisting the knife of weirdness with his lyrics.

Also he really seems to like singing songs about prostitutes and brothels.

scott 3.

“Scott 3” is a far more consistent album than the previous two. Plus, I’ve had it on repeat all morning and haven’t noticed a single mention of prostitutes or bordellos.

It seems like this is the album where he first got everything together, there are some pretty great songs and very good vocal performances.

scott 4.

Oddly, “Scott 4” was actually Walker’s fifth album, but “Scott Walker Sings Songs From His T.V. Show”, his actual 4th album, is not easily available.

While Walker’s earlier albums felt like they could be made almost any time in the 20th Century, Scott 4 has its feet firmly in the 1970s.

On many songs he jettisons cabaret stylings for electric guitar and rock vocal tropes. “Boychild” and “Duchess” are the stand outs here. “Boychild”, in particular, provides a template for much of the record label 4AD’s early sound.

til the band comes in.

On the previous “Scott 4”, Walker had added a new voice/persona to his arsenal, that of the pop jazz vocalist. Unfortunately, he continues that persona for several songs on “til the band comes in”, sounding like a dime store Tony Bennett. Particularly bad are the songs where he attempts to imitate African-American speech patterns. Embarrassing.

That said, “The War is Over” is as good a song, and performance, as any other he had put to vinyl up to this time.

Climate of Hunter.

Walker’s record label had been increasingly frustrated with the sales of his solo albums. After “Scott 4” and “til the band comes in” failed to chart, they saddled him with increasingly onerous producers and projects. When none of those worked out, eventually they dropped him. He found other labels and even participated in a reunion of “The Walker Brothers”. After a few albums from the reformed Walker Brothers, Walker dropped out of sight for about 10 years and didn’t release any recordings until 1984’s “Climate of Hunter”.

The first thing that struck me is the center of his voice has moved. On the early records he’s a chest/throat singer. On Hunter, his voice has moved to his head. Also, he is singing with a consistent persona, rather than flitting from one to another from song to song.

Musically, it reminds me a bit of Brian Ferry albums from this period, but without the backup singers. Interestingly, Evan Parker provides soprano sax parts on a couple tracks!

Lyrically, he has really found his voice, though I would be hard pressed to tell you what any of the songs are about.

The only distracting thing are a few horrible mid-1980s style guitar solos.

Overall, it feels more compelling, and, perhaps, honest, than any of his earlier albums.

Tilt.

I’ve been listening to “Tilt” exclusively for two days now and I don’t really feel any closer to understanding it.

It feels alien yet compelling. I’ve no idea what any of the songs are about, but the words seem to make some sort of dream-like sense.

The same with the music, light classical might be alongside samples of power drills or feeding back guitars.

Some sort of hermetic watershed or culmination of his work up to this time. Eerie and astounding.

The Drift.

Uh.

Someone really should have warned me about “The Drift”. This is one of the darkest pieces of artistic expression I’ve ever run across. Seriously. And I’ve read some dark shit.

This is going to haunt me.

I’m gonna be seeing the flayed and dismembered bodies of various animals out of the corner of my eye for weeks.

Reminds me of some of Ben Wheatley or John Hillcoat’s early movies.

Disturbing.

Bish Bosch.

⁣⁣The lyrics on “Bish Bosch” are nearly as opaque and gruesome as its predecessor “The Drift”, but somehow there’s an air of humor over the proceedings that makes it a bit less of a claustrophobic ordeal.⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣In fact, the longest song, “SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)”, clocking in at over 20 minutes, is pretty much nothing but a series of, often unaccompanied, well, I hesitate to call them “jokes”, but, at least, shaggy dog stories. The stories in sequence, one after another, as not-quite-jokes, actually gets funny, after a while, in the way William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” is “funny”.⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome.⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣Bish Bosch seems to bring together Walker’s early obsession with the world weary cabaret songs of Jacques Brel and fuse their sensibility with the gruesome black humor of his later work.⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣It’s not exactly pretty, but it works.⁣⁣

soused.

⁣I guess if you were only familiar with Scott Walker’s work with the Walker Brothers or his early solo work, you might be a bit surprised by “Soused”. Handsome “Pop Singer” works with bearded, robe wearing, drone metal dudes!?
⁣⁣
⁣On the other hand, if you’d only heard Walker’s Tilt, The Drift, and Bish Bosch, you’d be, like, why didn’t this happen sooner? It would have prevented those bad 1980s guitar solos on “Climate of Hunter”!⁣
⁣⁣
⁣Anyway, this is mostly Walker, with the Sunn O))) boys providing the correct atmosphere for his bleak, gruesome songs. Pretty Great, if you are a fan of Walker’s later work or Sunn O))).⁣
⁣⁣

Wire Magazine Top 50 Albums, 2018

Dog & Chicken.

Hey, here’s an index of my writeups of all 50 albums from Wire Magazine’s (@thewiremagazine) Top 50 Albums of 2018.

1 
Sons Of Kemet 
Your Queen Is A Reptile 
(Impulse!)

2 
Zuli 
Terminal 
(UIQ)

3 
Ben LaMar Gay 
Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun 
(International Anthem)

4 
Guttersnipe 
My Mother The Vent 
(Upset The Rhythm)

5 
JPEGMAFIA 
Veteran 
(Deathbomb Arc)

6 
Sarah Davachi 
Let Night Come On Bells End The Day 
(Recital)

7 
Senyawa 
Sujud 
(Sublime Frequencies)

8 
Autechre 
NTS Sessions 1–4 
(Warp)

9 
Body/Head 
The Switch 
(Matador)

10 
Low 
Double Negative 
(Sub Pop)

11 
Jerusalem In My Heart 
Daqa’iq Tudaiq 
(Constellation)

12 
Julia Holter 
Aviary 
(Domino)

13 
Eli Keszler 
Stadium 
(Shelter Press)

14 
Proc Fiskal 
Insula 
(Hyperdub)

15 
Oneohtrix Point Never 
Age Of 
(Warp)

16 
Tyshawn Sorey 
Pillars 
(Firehouse 12)

17 
Lea Bertucci 
Metal Aether 
(NNA Tapes)

18 
Pusha-T 
Daytona 
(GOOD Music)

19 
Eartheater 
IRISIRI 
(Pan)

20 
Nordra 
Pylon II 
(SIGE)

21 
Tirzah 
Devotion 
(Domino)

22 
Chris Corsano & Bill Orcutt 
Brace Up! 
(Palilalia)

23 
Dedekind Cut 
Tahoe 
(Kranky)

24 
Jean Grae & Quelle Chris 
Everything’s Fine 
(Mello Music Group)

25 
Hannah Silva 
Talk In A Bit 
(Human Kind)

26 
Kate NV 
для FOR 
(RVNG Intl)

27 
Josephine Foster 
Faithful Fairy Harmony 
(Fire)

28 
Agnarkea 
Black Helicopters 
(Natural Sciences)

29 
Hailu Mergia 
Lala Belu 
(Awesome Tapes From Africa)

30 
Jim O’Rourke 
Sleep Like It’s Winter 
(Newhere Music)

31 
Anne Guthrie 
Brass Orchids 
(Students Of Decay)

32 
Eiko Ishibashi 
The Dream My Bones Dream 
(Drag City)

33 
Laurel Halo 
Raw Silk Uncut Wood 
(Latency)

34 
Cucina Povera 
Hilja 
(Night School)

35 
Kamaal Williams 
The Return 
(Black Focus)

36 
Vessel 
Queen Of Golden Dogs 
(Tri Angle)

37 
Hydrorian Remnants 
(Psychic Sounds)

38 
Noname 
Room 25 
(No label)

39 
Jlin 
Autobiography 
(Planet Mu)

40 
Grouper 
Grid Of Points 
(Kranky)

41 
Yo La Tengo 
There’s A Riot Going On 
(Matador)

42 
Helena Hauff 
Qualm 
(Ninja Tune)

43 
Nkisi 
The Dark Orchestra 
(Arcola)

44 
Gazelle Twin 
Pastoral 
(Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)

45 
Gaye Su Akyol 
Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir 
(Glitterbeat)

46 
Jon Hassell 
Listening To Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) 
(Ndeya)

47 
Ipek Gorgun
 
Ecce Homo 
(Touch)

48 
Park Jiha 
Communion 
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)

49 
Musarc/Neil Luck 
Bloody Sirens 
(Entr’acte)

50 
Yves Tumor 
Safe In The Hands Of Love 
(Warp

Seven Minutes, More or Less

After finishing with this phase of the Lutheran Hymnal Project, I wanted to move in a different direction, and cover some popular songs, along with learning to use techniques like real time audio effects and looping.

The first primary sound source is my recording of Lutheran Hymn 602, aka “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”, aka the Doxology. The second primary sound source was a feedback loop I made of the ambient sound in my work office building.

Everything is chopped, mangled, and looped in various ways, mostly using the features of an audio program called, “AudioMulch”.

Play it loud.

Seven Minutes, More or Less, by Erik Ellestad

Seven Minutes, More or Less, by Erik Ellestad

7 track album

Source: erikellestad.bandcamp.com/album/seven-minutes-more-or-less

What’s Up With the Hymns?

Apparently, this whole “Lutheran Hymn” thing puzzles quite a few people, so I thought I might write a little post about it.

First off, I grew up in a small town in South Western Wisconsin which was mostly populated by Norwegian and Lutherans. I grew up singing these hymns every Sunday. When I was old enough, I joined the children’s choir and continued in church choirs through most of high school.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and interviews with musicians, and a lot of them talk about their very early inspirations.

Many of those musicians were lucky enough to have grown up going to African American Gospel churches or to belong to some ethnic group with an interesting folk music tradition.

However, as mentioned, I grew up going to a Lutheran church in Wisconsin. That is my tradition, and in a lot of ways, my “folk” music. That, and “Old Tyme Gospel Music”. But perhaps more about that later.

I find the basic harmonies and melodies of these old hymns, especially the more open ones, to be quite moving and powerful.

When I was looking around for some music to learn and play on the clarinet, I thought to myself, “Hey self! It might be funny to track down a Lutheran Hymnal, and learn those old hymns on the clarinet.” Get re-in touch with the memories and feelings of my youth, good and bad.

As a bonus, the hymns are neither particularly challenging nor long, which is, in fact, a big bonus for someone with a full time job who is also trying to (re) learn Jazz and to play the clarinet and sax.

I can transcribe, transpose, and record all 4 parts of the hymn in a few hours, and it is good for me to learn the recording, mixing, and arranging software. Most important, I am re-learning to play harmony parts with other instruments, even though I am playing all the instruments myself.

So, that’s what’s up with the hymns.

I hope you enjoy them a little bit, and that they might remind you of something of your past or present, good or bad.

032.RejoiceRejoiceThisHappyMorn

Please turn to number 32 and join with the clarinets in, “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn.”

Name: WIE SCHöN LEUCHTET.
Meter: Irregular.
Tempo: With movement
Music: Phillipp Nicolai, 1556-1608
Text: Birgitte Cathrine Boye, 1742-1824
Tr. Carl Doving, 1867-1937

Like our previous Phillipp Nicolai Hymn, “Wake, Awake“, I find the harmonies in “Rejoice, Rejoice This Happy Morn” very powerful. This is one of several hymns which use this melody, the most famous of which is the original, number 404, “How Brightly Beams the Morning Star”.

Here’s the clarinet arrangement: 032.ServiceBookAndHymnal

I doubled each part and applied the usual tweaked audacity “Church Hall” reverb effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

025.HarkTheHeraldAngelsSing

Please turn to hymn number 25 and join with the clarinets in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

Name: MENDELSSOHN
Meter: 7 7, 7 7, D.
Tempo: In moderate time
Music: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy 1809-47
Text: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76
Tr. Catherine Winkworth

Another oldie, but goodie.

First off, famous composer alert!

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (German: [ˈjaːkɔp ˈluːtvɪç ˈfeːlɪks ˈmɛndl̩szoːn baʁˈtɔldi]; 3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn,[n 1] was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period.

From the wikipedia article regarding “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the joyful tune expected today.

In 1855, English musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn‘s secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” written by Charles Wesley.[12] Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his Easter song “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today“,[13] and in some hymnals that tune is included for “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with the more popular Mendelssohn-Cummings tune.[14]

Also, from the wikipedia article on Mendelssohn:

The hymn tune Mendelssohn – an adaptation by William Hayman Cummings of a melody from Mendelssohn’s cantata Festgesang (Festive Hymn) – is the standard tune forCharles Wesley‘s popular hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. This extract from an originally secular 1840s composition, which Mendelssohn felt unsuited to sacred music,[93]

Funny, so neither the text’s author nor the music’s composer liked what eventually became the most popular version of the song! There’s probably a lesson there about popular taste.

Here’s my arrangement for 5 clarinets: 025.ServiceBookAndHymnal

There were some alternate melodies, so I actually ended up with 1 Clarinet playing the “soprano” part, 2 Clarinets doing the “alto” parts, 1 Clarinet playing the “tenor” part, and 2 Bass clarinets doing the “bass” parts in the final recording. Total of 6 clarinet parts. I’ve been tweaking the Audacity “Church” Reverb effect presets so that it has less effect on the levels of the tune.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

024.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your Service Book and Hymnal to number 24 and join with the clarinets in “While Shepherd’s Watched Their Flocks by Night”.

Name: BETHLEHEM.
Meter: C.M.D.
Tempo: Joyfully
Music: Gottfried Wilhelm Fink, 1783-1846
Text: Nahum Tate, 1652-1715

“Wow, dude, like when the Angel of the Lord came down to announce Jesus’ birth to the Shepherds, man, SHEPHERDS! they must have been like, quaking in their boots and totally freaked out!”
“Oh man, you’re so right! They must have been OUT of their minds!”
“Give me another toke, I’m going to write a poem about it!”

While Shepherds watched their flock by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
‘Fear not,’ said he, for mighty dread
Had Seized their troubled mind;
‘Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind

‘To you, in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:
The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid’

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:
‘All glory be to God on high,
And to earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease!’

I’m pretty sure that’s how this poem happened.

Arranged for 4 clarinets: 024.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Anyway, I was playing the melody and thinking, jeeze, this seems familiar, I feel like playing it faster, it seems kind of ‘folky’. I paced it at 90, then felt compelled to play it double time.

After recording it, I realized, “Oh right, wait, isn’t this melody REALLY similar to Hymn 14, ‘Rejoice All Ye Believers”?’ Huh, I guess Gottfried Wilhelm Fink was also familiar with “Swedish Folk Melody”. Nice to know my instincts are based around melody.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

023.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn you hymnals to number 23 and join with the clarinets in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.

Name: Caron.
Meter: C. M. D.
Tempo: With movement, sweetly
Music: Richard Storrs Willis, 1819-1900
Text: Edmund Hamilton Sears, 1810-76

You might be familiar with this one!

Arrangement for 4 clarinets: 023.ServiceBookAndHymnal

I haven’t been super please with the Bass Clarinet on the tenor parts. That range of the Bass Clarinet is just a little too assertive for a tenor part. This time I transposed it down and octave and played it on Soprano Clarinet. I did play the Bass Part on Bass Clarinet.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal

022.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Please turn your hymnals to number 22 and join with the clarinets in singing “From Heaven Above”.

Name: VON HIMMEL HOCH
Meter: L.M.
Tempo: In flowing style
Music: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1829-78

I really hadn’t been paying attention when I was younger, but I guess Martin Luther also wrote some hymns!

022.ServiceBookAndHymnal

Standard operating procedure, record all 4 parts on soprano clarinet, then record the tenor and bass parts on bass clarinet. I applied the Audacity Large Room Reverb Effect.

Red Service Book and Hymnal
Red Service Book and Hymnal