Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Tilt - Scott Walker

This album from 1995 is a brilliant and daring construction, crammed with fully orchestrated and frequently terrifying song arrangements. It opens with the breathtaking "Farmer In The City", an ode to Italian cultural polymath Pier Paolo Pasolini, which is carried through by a full symphonic orchestra. It is a beautiful, operatic song, and yet the fractured, soft voice of Walker (a surprise to anyone familiar with his thunderous work in the Walker Brothers) and his obscure lyrical style remove it from the classical tradition.

Do I hear 21, 21, 21
I'll give you 21, 21, 21

Any at this point expecting an album of orchestral ballads will be shocked as the second song interrupts the calm created by the opener. A minute of squeaking and muttering suddenly explodes, with no warning, into a terrifying cascade of industrial rock. Clattering drums and screaming horns lead into a meandering bass line and military drums. The arrangement is complex and typifies the approach taken with the remaining seven songs on the album. Most are extended, and many are bracketed with periods of near silence.

If there is a problem with Tilt, its that its almost completely inaccessible on a first listen. Listening late at night through headphones is a frankly unnerving experience, and many will not get past the first couple of tracks. However, those who persevere will find subsequent listenings are extremely rewarding, as the complex lyrics and dischordant melodies begin to make sense, and the sudden switches of mood anticipated. Those who make it to the end will be greeted with the sparkling, abrupt acoustic ballad "Rosary". It will leave you with a puzzled smile on your face.

There are few albums quite like Tilt. It is more challenging than all of Walker's earlier work, and a bit more rewarding than his latest, The Drift. Then again, maybe I just need to persevere with that one.