I've got the highest respect for a musician that can create an album that sounds as distinctive and original as "Tilt". I'm also envious, as it's the kind of music I'd like to be able to make. I actually got "Tilt" after someone said that my song The Moonsheep vaguely reminded them of this, and now I've heard this I know what a compliment that was.
Scott Walker has a voice. It's manages in turn to be theatrical, crooning and even sneering, and is the focus of all these unsettlingly weird songs. The music is as dark as the album cover. Sometimes it's lush and string-backed, as on "Farmer in the City" which verges on an operatic aria. The organ swells of "Manhattan" seem almost pomp-rock inspired, like a twisted Queen ballad. The title track might even be country and western. Often there's hardly any instrumental backing at all behind Scott stretching and twisting his surreal poetry. There are some maddeningly aloof moments, such as the way "The Cockfighter" has a minute and a half of deathly quiet sound-effects before bursting forth into some industrial clanking.
One particularly bizarre feature is the way he uses percussion. "Bouncer see Bouncer" is backed with a Chinese water-torture of a bass kettledrum - these quiet spooky thumps may be as damaging to the ears as the thrashiest of metal guitars. "Patriot" is perhaps the best example of all these diverse styles. After starting with some ethereal crooning and another semi-operatic string-backed chorus, it suddenly goes into an astonishingly weird aside. Scott spits curses into the silence, while a pipe and drum bash out a scary clipped echo of his shouts. Amazing stuff - again respect is due to anyone with the nerve to do this kind of thing on a major label.
February 2, 2004