He never went away....but he's back again, 63, and younger than ever before. His spirit soars.There are a lot of ways you might introduce the stunning, the towering singularity of Scott Walker's new work The Drift. As the critic Cynthia Ozick once said of novelist William Gaddis (three novels in thirty years): he may not have been "prolific", but "instead he has been prodigious, gargantuan, exhaustive, subsuming fates and conditions under a hungry logic."Hungry Logic? Oh yes: songs you feel you could almost run a finger along and come away withe brick dust or splinters, traces of blood curdled sand. I won't try and "introduce" any of the songs on The Drift or try and offer any explication of what (so far) I think might be their general drift - I think you need to feel them as I did, as a species of shock, a series of shocking headlines history forgot to give us, delivered into your lap, the immense and beckoning blistering NOISE if it (a truly GLORIOUS, a gloriously non-pareil bank stream current of noises), but also the microscopic attention to 'background' detail, layer upon layer, quotations, discreet little sonic movies full of scent and chill and bruise, clue and ricochet and close up. He more or less invents a world with each new song - the shock of which being partly that he should treat (in this whiny backwater called rock) subjects like this at all, that he should treat us with immoderate cast: Cossacks framed in mnemonic petals, ill-fated lovers rubbing shoulders like dead moons, Elvis baying in Memphis moonlight, Mussolini hanging like something from a Francis Bacon tarot deck, songs for and from all our Black Septembers, all our German autumns, all the nines, elevens, ones, zeros in a mangle of newspeak.There are a lot of self-proclaimedly 'experimental' artists clamoring for our attention, but who else gives us so much space in song, yet still a recognizable song, one marked by sex and pity and perplexity and rage, all the while keeping his ego to a bare minimum. Who else allows so many other voices - unlikely, unmoored, unmourned voices - into his song? Who else gives us language back as such a shock and surprise, as here, in the incredible risk and wager and CRISIS of The Drift, hear how sweeps and heaps of gory or holy or horrific confusion and reflection and fall are rendered with so precise and unfaltering and unique an ear eye and throat, by this man alone, out of time, our first and last and best recording angel, the last Modernist left standing, the only one left alive, Scott 2006.
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