Just over a decade ago, Scott Walker, always one of the ultimate names to be dropped among the pop cognoscenti, delivered the stunning and difficult Tilt album. He’d never before stood so far from the mainstream that so loved him in his ’60s heyday, but had in turn so repelled him. And to put it mildly, not everyone got it. It was to be 10 years before his next full studio album, The Drift, a truly terrifying and demanding, if sometimes exhausting listening experience.
As was pointed out in surprisingly candid interview sequences for the recent 30 Century Man documentary, the artist had not been idle between releases, recording, amongst other collaborations, the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s film Pola X. Now he moves into scoring a contemporary dance piece.
And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And Who Shall Go To The Ball? accompanies a new work by choreographer Rafael Bonachela‘s CanDoCo, an aggregation of able-bodied and disabled dancers. Just 25 minutes in duration, and released in deluxe packaging as a never to be re-pressed limited edition (at the fetishistic 4AD, Scott seems to have finally come home), its four movements are completely instrumental, and less of an aural ordeal than his other recent work.
That said, 1st Movement begins with 30 seconds of almost inaudible hum, which is then punctuated for the next three minutes solely by an intermittent crackle/squelch of indeterminate origin, before a broken muddle of strings offers the first really discernable instrumentation.
Thereafter, the next three tracks belong closer to the modern classical avant garde tradition. 2nd Movement judders along with swirling Bernard Herrmann-esque strings and the thudding, Euro-pulse that permeated much of The Drift. In the 3rd Movement, a low drone gives way to a melodious, slow building violin piece, which simmers with brooding intent whilst never blowing its top.
It’s the final movement (have a guess!) where the intensity so far only implied is realised, like Philip Glass in extremis, with a quickly enveloping siren of electrifying strings. This breaks down in a brief percussive passage before a long Arvo Pärt-like truce – all quietly sustained notes and overlapping harmonic textures. It doesn’t resolve itself, and that’s no surprise.
Should we even be listening to this in isolation? No-one besides CanDoCo souvenir hunters, 4AD completists and Scott fanciers is likely to go anywhere near this one. It’ll be our little secret, then.