Big Ears Roundup [part 4]

Budd played his second concert at Big Ears with ACME strings and even tubular bells

[…continued from last post]

This Is Not This Heat

This is 2/3 of This Is Not This Heat

After the Carle Bley Trio performance it was time for dinner. We went to Tomato Head, a pizzeria we had liked on earlier visits. As we walked across Market Square in the center of downtown, we saw the two guys from Mercury Rev [who had also been in the audience for Carla Bley Trio just earlier] sitting outside at the bar next door enjoying the vibe. These two guys seemed to really get around and immerse them selves in the fest. We ate dinner without any further run-ins. Afterward, I set out for the north side of town for a show my wife would be skipping.

While I had heard about This Heat when their “Deceit” album was released, I had never heard the band until checking them out for the festival. My wife was initially interested then drifted away as she was exposed to more of their range, which was expansive. They were playing in The Standard and their set began with a bang, literally, as there was an explosion of force and light from the stage. My wife was smart to sit this one out. But that was a brief big bang of sound and vision; lasting less than two minutes as the set quickly became more eccentric and milder in demeanor.

I was intrigued by their variety. No two songs sounded alike, and they had two drummers to do anything they needed to. Their two Post-Punk albums were held in high regard as outliers to nothing else and I could agree that they definitely walked a singular path. But I was resolved to leave their set early since they played from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. and Harold Budd and ACME in the Episcopal Church was scheduled from 9:00 – 11:00 p.m. I had seen the fury of the Budd crowd the previous day at the larger United Methodist Church and I was determined not to miss his second show. I resolved to leave This Is Not This Heat by 7:45 since I had to walk across town and get in the Budd queue. I think I had gotten enough of a sense of what this band was as they played their next to final show in Knoxville.

Harold Budd + ACME

Harold Budd seated with ACME string quartet

As I got to the queue outside of the church, I saw my wife – first in the general admission line. She had been talking to a brother and sister who were next in line behind her. With an hour to showtime, the queue was not long, surprisingly. A far cry from the first show. My wife asked me where I had parked the car and I was briefly dumbstruck as I had not properly picked up on how I was to have moved the car form its berth at the Art Museum to something a little closer to where we would end the night here. Whoops. I had been so focused on how I had to get across town quickly that I had not absorbed that salient fact.

As the hour unfolded, there began to be a significant line. The admission to the shows was supposed to begin at 30 minutes prior but this Budd show was also running late as the first one had done. At 9:00 p.m. promoter and mainman Ashley Capps himself exited the church to speak to us in line, informing us that the show would be running late and that he was as  helpless as the rest of us in this instance. By that time the line was snaking around the block as it had the day prior. We got in and the show was underway around 9:30 p.m.

Budd returned to the stage [sheet music in hand] for the final part of the concert

Though the show also began with a gong solo where the player really explored the space, this time, it was also very different from the previous show from the word go. ACME were the American Contemporary Music Ensemble who had a string quartet here this evening along with the member of nief-norf who had played the tubular bells at the first show also on hand. Budd was on piano and keys. He began the show with piano and after 20-25 minutes, Budd exited the stage to let ACME take over for a little while. Hearing Budd compositions as rendered by ACME was definitely a new lens to experience his music through. ACME had a member present, Caroline Shaw, who had won the Pulitzer Prize for her music in 2013, and she also played at the festival with Roomful Of Teeth. They love to maximize the potential here at Big Ears.

Desert Train Whistles & Billy Dracula sheet music

When Harold Budd returned to the stage, he did not play the piano for the remainder of the concert as he stuck with synths and a Fender Rhodes electric piano instead. Budd next played some of his newer music, written for the Toledo Museum of Art show that he performed last year. We were in Atlanta three days later for Simple Minds, so we could not go; making this festival residency a huge payback. Mr. Budd moved between his red synth [I can’t make out the manuacturer] and a vintage Fender Rhodes electric piano, the latter being used for the new piece “Desert Train Whistles  And Billy Dracula” which he wrote last year when he didn’t think he had enough new material for the Toledo event. The composition was so named for Billy Al Bengston, one of Budd’s favorite contemporary artists. It’s visual art, more than music, that is grist for Budd’s creative mill. That, and in this case, the desire to hear electric piano combined with chimes.

Harold Budd returns affection to his audience at Big Ears

This left us ready for bed with the final day of the festival to play out the next day. It was an inconceivable luxury to have two Harold Budd shows back to back, and the ride was not over yet. In years past, Big Ears wrapped up by Sunday but this year they were going strong for a fourth day. When they released the schedule some months after we bought our tickets and lodgings, and this necessitated us getting lodgings for another day just weeks prior to the event.

Next: …Our Jazz Odyssey

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Big Ears Roundup [part 3]

Day 3 – March 23rd, 2019

Mimi Goese and Ben Neill were the bolt from the blue that this festival needed for us

[continued from last post]

Ian Chang

Saturday started for us when we were shopping for new sunning shoes and delved deep into the heart of suburban Knoxville to find a shoe store my wife had scoped out. I had immediate success with finding a pair of incredibly comfortable Asics to replace my aged gym shoes. My wife was not so lucky. We spent as much time shopping as we dared. We got back to downtown Knoxville and the Museum of art in time for Ian Chang’s show in one of the galleries, but we were already too late. The show was at capacity before it started and we were in the queue. Then he began playing at 2:00 p.m. and we realized that hearing that loud of an enhanced electronic percussion show in a small gallery was too overpowering. We opted to shop in the museum’s gift shop until our next show on the schedule; also in the museum.

Mimi Goese + Ben Neill

Ms. Goese captivated while Mr. Neill took care of the details

We ambled into the Ann + Steve Bailey Hall at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the site of the Joep Beving show from the previous day, where we assumed that Mimi Goese + Ben Neill would be playing. An audience had begun to grow for the 2:45 p.m. show, but fortunately, someone more clued in came by and told us that the show was in the KMA auditorium instead. Their music sounded promising. I was barely familiar with Ms. Goese’s origins in Hugo Largo from the late 80s so we settled in to see what awaited us.

Ben Neill developed the mutantrumpet with Bob Moog

What awaited us was electrifying! After the damp powder of the Ian Chang performance we skipped, this was immediately explosive. The twosome proffered sometimes danceable art rock with a hi-tech under pining that saw multiple computers linked with Neill’s “mutantrumpet.” This was a three belled horn [one was a slide!] with heavy electronics embedded in it to allow Neill to manipulate the sounds occurring in dramatic and head-spinning ways. The closest thing to the vibe I could grasp for was early Björk, but I hate to suggest musical comparison. Musically, this had no peer. Neill was sampling loops from his instrument as well as Mimi’s vocals and manipulating them in real time on its hardware. Only in Ms. Goese’s intensity of performance could I make a valid comparison with the Icelandic thrush.

Mimi’s stage presence was riveting. Her cliché-free music and powerful voice was fully compelling as she sang and embodied the various points of view inhabiting her songs. Movement and poise was clearly an important part of getting her art across. Why was I just learning about her now? She seemed to be every inch the dynamic artist teamed up with a man who was determined to push the trumpet far past the boundaries that had held it back for centuries, obviously! They even managed to fit an astonishing cover into the mix with a version of the title track to Echo + The Bunnymen’s “Ocean Rain,” which Mimi introduced as a song to break your heart. Astonishingly, after their mesmerizing hour onstage, they actually returned for an encore. How many times does this happen at a festival set? Note: the row of Mimi’s siblings sitting behind us may have had an influence beyond our fervor.

Carla Bley Trios with Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow

Modern jazz was the prerogative of the Carla Bley band set

Since I didn’t normally move in jazz circles, I first heard of Carla Bley in 1981 [two decades into her illustrious career] when she wrote and her band played on “Fictitious Sports,” the first Nick Mason “solo” album, which Nick just played the drums and percussion on. In the ensuing years I’d hear her name mentioned more and more as I became slightly conversant in jazz. When I saw that she would be playing here, I made a mental note to try to see her if there were no Budd conflicts. At 82, she’s the same age as him and this would certainly be the only chance I would get to see one of her performances. Jazz doesn’t travel  so well where I live.

We had plenty of time to get good seats in the Tennessee Theatre for the 75 minute set late in the afternoon on Saturday. The playing was crisp and exciting as Carla held down the pacing with Steve Swallow and allowed Andy Shepard carry the melodic invention on his expressive and peripatetic sax solos. While it’s hardly my main musical diet, I still have a taste for jazz and this was classic modern jazz from a woman who has a long and storied career in the field. Having led bands for over five decades, Ms. Bley was one of the first women to crack the boy’s club of jazz band leadership, so she has filled a role larger than that of simply “artist.” My wife also greatly enjoyed their set, and it pleased me to see her enjoying some modern jazz that was full of complexity if not dissonance. We stopped at the merch table on the way out to buy their latest disc. Interested ears may catch Carla Bley Trios at their next performance at the legendary Spoleto Festival on May 31st in Charleston, South Carolina.

Next: …Budd Is Love

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Big Ears Roundup [part 2]

Day 2 – March 22nd, 2019

Rafiq Bhatia begins the day with some psychedelia

[…continued from last post]

Rafiq Bhatia

I started the morning with Rafiq Bhatia at 12:30 but the guitarist was at The Standard and the next show was Joep Beving at the Museum of Art from 1-2:00 p.m. so some festival math came into play. I was able to hear two songs by Bhatia and it was interesting, but my wife would not have liked it as much as I did, so she was right to sit it out. Ian Chang was playing drums and we had added his set at the museum to our schedule. I left by 12:45 and met my wife so we could walk to the museum for Beving.

Joep Beving

We got to the hall on the museum where Beving had begun at 1:00 p.m. sharp about 2 minutes late. I couldn’t help but notice that I saw Christina Horn of Hudson K sitting on a bench taking the show in. I had tried to get her set up with a concert date in Asheville but I think my effort was too little too late, but I had wanted to say hello to her after the show in any case. Beving was a huge Dutchman playing a small upright piano with the front panel taken off to show the action of the hammers. Interesting… I’d never seen this before but would later learn that it was not just for show. Beving played beautifully with a clean tone except for near the end of his set when he used a pedal to fill out the sound for one number. He then removed the damper that was on the strings for the last number where he really let it rip. His set was lyrical and passionate with some real fortissimo happening in the conclusion of his set. He had the crowd hanging on his every note. After he was done, the gent stood up, towering over the piano, red-faced as he had been playing very physically. After acknowledging the generous applause of the crowd, he quickly exited to the exterior of the building. As we left, I notice that Ms. Horn had left earlier, so I missed her this time. Maybe I would get another chance to say hello.

Harold Budd with nief-norf and Mary Lattimore in the UMC Cathedral

Harold Budd w/nief-norf + Mary Lattimore

In just an hour after Beving’s set, it was time for the first of three Budd shows at the festival. We walked to the United Methodist Cathedral for the concert and there was already 100-200 people outside of the chapel queued up 45 minutes early. We got in line and a friendly chap in a red flannel shirt began talking with us. Over the course of the festival we would learn his name was Travis and he used to run a record label in his youth and was now transitioning to a life as a physical therapist. Making connections like this is one of the nice upsides to a festival. We waited as the lines [general admission, premier, and VIP were all separate for the venues at the festival] got extremely long. Until we could not see where they were wrapping around the building. At 1:30 we should have been entering to sit but that did not happen. Things were running late.

Budd’s Piano – a Yamaha

We finally got in and selected a place about halfway back from the stage, even though we were close to the front of the general admission line. There were that many premier and VIP holders queuing ahead of us. This was the only concert of the three that Budd would be playing piano in. The rest of the music was down to Knoxville’s nief-norf, a Knoxville experimental new music collective, and harpist Mary Lattimore. The concert today was a premiere of new work by Budd and it was exquisite.

Budd’s score of the new music played this day

Budd has of course pared down his work to the bare minimum of notes necessary to convey the almost heartbreaking beauty of his music with the utmost in efficacy. As the concert began the juxtaposition of his piano and a single chord on the vibes was making me misty-eyed.  The acoustics of the space were well considered and it sounded marvelous.  Can you imagine how lustrous the music of Budd would sound with a harpist playing along? It was that exquisite. I could not help but notice that it was a very different sound to the previous Budd concert we had seen at Moogfest in 2012, where he played with a double bassist. But apart from the gong player who began this show [as had happened also in 2012], I would eventually discover that no two Budd concerts are alike!

Absint did not make the heart grow fonder…

Absînt

We left the Budd concert at 4:30 p.m. and it was time for dinner. We found the nearby falafel restaurant and had what was the most mediocre falafel I’ve eaten and had two and a half hours before the next show we’d try to take in; Absînt in The Standard – on the north side of town. This quartet had some promise. The room adjacent to The Standard’s stahe room provided a clean sofa to rest on as we discussed the day. We’d missed the duo performance of Bill Frisell on Thursday in order to see the ballet. His tone sounded wonderful, so this was another chance to see Frisell play. The new combo also sported Aurora Nealand, Tim Berne on sax, and David Torn on 2nd guitar. I had seen Torn in a house concert that had done nothing for me in 2017, but his playing on Sylvian, Bowie, and Karn albums was excellent, so maybe he needed to be in a group setting to work for me. Their show began on time and I say that only in the literal sense of the word. What it delivered was four individuals playing as if in a void with absolutely nothing gelling. Berne’s sax provided any melody but it was at odds with the noodling coming from the others. Ms. Nealand was sitting on the floor playing with a box of chains. After about 90 seconds we left. Gladly.

Please remind me never to see David Torn play live again, no mater how much I like some of his performances.

Spiritualized

Since the Mill + Mine on the same side of town as The Standard, it was an easy walk. We got to the large venue and had no problems getting in as the doors opened at 8:00. We got places about halfway back. Maybe a little better. The band were on the stage at 8:30 sharp and as the show began, I was hopeful that we might see a show this evening but after a false start that was delicate and tentative, the sound erupted and we quickly exited the venue. My wife conceded that she might enjoy them on disc but the volume levels were too much. We left the festival since there was nothing else of interest for us. We had been interested in Tashi Dorji and Tyler Damon,  but there was no way we were going to The Pilot Light again.

Next: …The First Revelation Of Big Ears 2019

 

 

 

 

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Big Ears Roundup [part 1]

Day 1 – March 21st, 2019

I had imagined reviewing the Big Ears Festival last Tuesday after arriving back home from traveling to it, but the death of Scott Walker meant that I had to address that event first. To say nothing of the death the next day of The Beat’s Ranking Roger [which, technically, I just mentioned]. The festival is an easy two hours drive from where I live, so it’s not an onerous thing to attend. Knoxville is the next big city to the west and it’s many times the size of sleepy Asheville, but even as this was the third Big Ears we have attended so far, the event seems to be stretching Knoxville to its limits. I can imagine events playing at the civic center there eventually. Lots of shows reached capacity, and many of the people I spoke with were definitely opting for VIP passes the next time they went. I could barely afford the $250 general admission passes for my wife and I. Since we are usually attending for a single artist, I could never justify that sort of outlay. Premiere was $375 and jumped you in the line ahead of general admission. VIP guaranteed admission to any event up until 15 minutes prior but was a staggering $650/head. I can’t play that game.

Tim Story Presents: The Roedelius Cells

Friday started off slowly for us. The trip to Knoxville took just two hours and we started at the Art Museum by the early afternoon. This was not a performance per se. It was an 8-channel installation in the Knoxville Museum of Art and was out first stop. We listened to it while taking in the art in the gallery of the museum. It was not quite the same thing as hearing Roedelius actually play the piano, but we’d actually see Tim Story later in the festival.

Recent Work By Beatrice Gibson

We then made our way across town to catch some of Beatrice Gibson’s experimental films playing in the University of Tennessee Downtown Gallery. We had plenty of time to take in several hours of these before the first concert we were planning on attending. We sat down at what was the end of one film and another began within a minute or two. The result did not inspire. It really felt like I was watching an SCTV parody of an “art film” and that Catherine O’Hara would be walking across the moors in a black and white print poncho at any moment as Eugene Levy showed up in the mis en scene to whinny like a horse. Having seen one 10-12 minute film, we took our leave. It was time for some food.

St. James Episcipal Church would be the sits of several shows this festival

Peter Gregson

Cellist Peter Gregson was playing in the St. James. Episcopal Church across town from 6-7 so we were actually seeing some performance this time after our “soft landing” at the festival. Gregson had re-examined the Bach Cello Suites with an eye for exploding some of the details embedded within them into brief compositions re-arranged to spotlight them. Acoustics in the church were fantastic, as one can see from the dome of the cathedral as shown above. Gregson did play along with playback since he did not have side players and of course his synth lines were also canned here. This is the first time I’ve seen any classical performer do this and it means that a line in the sand has been crossed. I get it with pop music, but to rely on playback with classical works seems to be troubling as it is a more purist art form. At any rate, the performance was interesting and it allowed hearing these standards of the cello canon in new ways.

©2019 Karyn Photography, courtesy of Nashville ballet

BALLET: Lucy Negro Redux

This was the “A-Ticket” item of the first day. The Nashville Ballet’s new work was being performed for the third time this evening; having premiered in Nashville in February with its second performance occurring the previous night. This show was the one that was under the aegis of the Big Ears Festival so anyone attending could get in to see it. And it was a dazzling show. An interdisciplinary modern ballet that incorporated poet Caroline Randall Williams [above in red] who wrote the book of poetry that inspired it into the staging itself. The live music was performed by singer/banjo player/violinist Rhiannon Giddens and pianist and percussionist Francesco Turrisi. We love ballet and the music here was vying with the poetry of Ms. Williams equally for our attention. Ms. Giddens [of the Carolina Chocolate Drops] sang like an angel this evening.

Altered Statesman

We seriously erred in leaving the show early in order to get across town in time for the Altered Statesman show at 10:00 p.m. The Pilot Light; a dive bar in the Old City area of town. I’ll admit that when sampling Altered Statesman, they sounded pretty good to my ears and I was looking forward to hearing more of them. But we got there and crammed into the tiny club and got up front. They began playing, and my wife began to retreat. We moved half way back from the stage. Then, everyone moving within the club was only moving directly in front of us. Never a fun thing, and after three numbers my wife had heard enough. “Has beens,” she decreed as we left The Pilot Light and walked to the nearby Mill + Mine to get ready for Mercury Rev.

Mercury Rev

Our bad luck continued as we easily got into the large club only to be assaulted by the cacophony issuing from Yunohana Variations With Yoshimio, Susie Ibarra, And Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. This was some noisy caterwauling that drove us from the huge room, like… pronto! Fortunately, the Mill + Mine had erected a large chill out tent with bar outside of the club on the grounds that was like an oasis, but the notion of waiting the 40+ minutes until Mercury Rev was fast losing its appeal as we began to face down the 16th hour of a day spent walking back and forth across downtown Knoxville. We decided to cut our losses and find our bed for the night. So we never saw Mercury Rev play a note. That’s not to say we didn’t see Mercury Rev…

Next:  …Happy Budd Day

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Scott Walker: 1943-2019 [part 4]

Walker sans chapeau…twice

[…continued from last post]

After the whirlwind of 2006-2007, Scott had one more fragment of activity before Walker Central went quiet for a few more years. He sang on the concluding track “The Big Sleep” on the sophomore Bat For Lashes album, Two Suns.” I’ve yet to hear this or even Bat For Lashes, for that matter. I can’t just listen to any new artist. usually I have to let them ripen fully before venturing into a listening relationship.

4AD ‎| UK | CD | CAD3220CD | 2012

When Walker was ready his second album for 4AD was released in December of 2012. “Bish Bosh” was an album I finally bought in the summer of 2013. It’s bracingly different from the previous two albums in that it seems to have a thick undercurrent of the blackest humor running beneath the abrupt juxtapositions of noise and what sound like snatches of jazz cut up and collaged into a piece of work that contains an orchestra on just three of its nine songs. The track “SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)” was nearly 22 minutes in length, and contained in its lyrics, comic insults that Walker would have grown up with as part if its lyrics. It’s less portentous than “The Drift” [what wouldn’t be?] and gloryoski, some rock guitar actually got some of the spotlight on a few of the tracks here. Was Walker mellowing with age? Or was he just observing the cosmic joke at the end of the abattoir of history?

4AD ‎| US | CD | CAD3428CD | 2014

Heads snapped back wonder when less than two years later, Walker combined forced with doom metal band SunnO))) to create “Soused.” Five tracks of ultradense music that I’ve actually yet to buy a copy of. Not that I didn’t have it it my hands… twice, during the tour of all three Amoeba Records stores in my 2014 tour of California. Even though it was on sale, I felt that it would be easy to get later and I’d be better off spending the money on other things of greater scarcity. That said, I have not seen a copy since. I must admit that the precedence of elder statesman of uncompromising art rock teaming up with metal band had been set just the year prior when the mind-boggling Lou Reed/Metallica team up, “Lulu” was released to a disbelieving populace. So this project contained much less shock value on the face of it. In both cases, each album would be the last new vocal recordings that either artist would release.

4AD | UK | CD | 2016 | CAD3620

But Walker had more music in any case still in him. I managed to buy the soundtrack to the film “Childhood Of A Leader” just six months after its release. I found it a very compelling piece of work that was richly redolent of Walker’s interests and themes even in the service of another’s film. Having not seen the film yet, I can only imagine how powerful the synchrony might be. It was so good that I really must get the “Pola X” soundtrack. Hopefully for less than the $50+ it’s currently going for. This was the last CD that Walker released before his death.

Alas, no physical copies of this OST exist… yet

But not the last music. It’s interesting. Last week, my wife brought home a DVD of the film “Vox Lux” and as I looked at the case, I couldn’t help but notice that it featured a soundtrack credited to Scott Walker. “Not the Scott Walker,” I mused. But after checking the oracle [some call it the internet…] I was astonished to see that Walker had indeed composed the score. It would be his last work, released in December of 2018 in digital formats only. I suspect that physical copies will follow, especially now following his death.


The man called Scott Walker managed to have a mind boggling third act to his artistic life that few could match. He went out on a place that saw him re-engaging with the public after years where only a juice ad was the last public sight of him for practically a decade. There was a documentary on his art. He produced and designed a concert of his music from “Tilt” and “The Drift” as performed by his hand-picked interpreters. He curated the 2000 Meltdown Festival. He released four vocal albums and several soundtrack works. He scored a modern dance piece. And most impressively of all, found a label that would let him pursue his own muse. He left behind a legacy of bracing work that will be inspiring musicians for decades to come. Exploratory probes into the darkness he saw at the heart of the human condition.

– 30 –

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Scott Walker: 1943-2019 [part 3]

Scott Walker ©Jamie Hawkesworth

[…continued from last post]

Rough Trade ‎| US | CD | 06076-83204-2 \ 2002

One of the most fascinating things that Walker did in the new millennium as agreeing to produce the last Pulp album, “We Love Life.” He certainly brought his feel for orchestration to the results with a warm, rich sound to the album; an important consideration when following the bleak and brutal “This Is Hardcore.” It was especially cheeky of the band to include the lyric below within the single “Bad Cover Version.”

“It’s like a later Tom and Jerry
When the two of them could talk
Like the Stones since the eighties
Like the last days of Southfork
Like Planet of the Apes on TV
The second side of ‘Til the Band Comes In
Like an own-brand box of cornflakes
He’s going to let you down my friend” – “Bad Cover Version”

4AD ‎| US | CD | CAD 2603 CD | 2006

2006 brought the news that Walker now had a home at the beloved label 4AD Records and a new album, “The Drift” was awaiting our ears. The album pushed the boat even further out from the shore than “Tilt” had. The pain and atrocities of the 20th century were the full grist for his creative mill as he perfected abyss staring to a degree few others could pursue so unflinchingly. The textural richness of the sound he achieved only heightened the impact of it all. And yet he chose to end the album with a solo performance with guitar, that came perilously close to his earlier form, save for the almost random interjections of him saying “psssst… psssst,” as if trying to get our further attention.

The next year brought the astonishing Walker documentary “30 Century Man;” a film co-produced by Walker enthusiast David Bowie with fevered interjections from Brian Eno. The latter once tried to produce a Walker album in the early 80s to no avail. The notion of this presumed eccentric recluse allowing this to happen certainly blew large house-sized holes in that irrelevant theory. The joy of the film was that it presented Walker as a normal guy [maybe a bit private] who happened to care a lot about his art. Ironically, he agreed to allow the film because: a) he admired the director, Stephen Kijak, and b) his management bugged him that he could die at any time and then no one might know about him!

4AD ‎| UK | CD | TAD 2731 CD | 2007

The same year also brought a new Walker EP, the instrumental soundtrack to the dance performance of “And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball?” 4AD pressed up only 2500 and I was lucky enough that my local emporium had a copy to buy. This was a dance piece performed by CandoCo Dance Company with choreography by Rafael Bonachela. As the music here is as heightened and nerve shredding as the music that had preceded it, it came as little surprise that the actual dancing was performed by a mixture of disabled and non-disabled dancers! Walker stated that the music was echoing how we cut up the world around us as a consequence of the shape of our bodies. Once parts of the score employ beats [the first part is largely bereft], they are hardly the stuff of a typical ballet score. Rather, they can approach the stuff of nightmares.

Next: …Things Get Heavy

 

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Scott Walker: 1943-2019 [part 2]

Scott Walker © Jake Walters

[…continued from last post]

My next step was buying the late 60s run of “Scott” through “Scott 4,” as anthologized on “Boychild.” By the late 90s, these were more obtainable. I remember buying 1,2, and 4 at Park Avenue CDs just as I was leaving Central Florida to live elsewhere. I made sure to buy things that Park Avenue were likely to have that I might not see in my new environs of Asheville. I recall seeing the Walker Brothers “Nite Flights” CD there the one and only time I ever saw one, but since I would be buying this strictly for the four songs penned by Scott, I was a cheapskate and put it back to maybe buy later. There was no later. I still don’t have a copy.

These albums were on the dusky edges of adult MOR but many of the musical values that Scott would still champion and even subvert later in his career, were strongly in evidence. The sustained, unresolved string chords of “It’s Raining Today” would be a signpost for the rest of his career as he began probing into the pain of the human condition. At first on a intimate level. Later on he would be taking a much wider view of our suffering. He always valued an orchestra as at center stage here and would lean on them for the rest of his career even if they were competing with him punching a side of beef 40 years hence.

Virgin ‎| UK | CD | CDV 2303 | 1984

I had by now read my first book on Walker, Watkinson + Anderson’s “A Deeper Shade Of Blue.” The timing on their book was unfortunate as it carried right up to the point where “Tilt” was in release, so it ended inconclusively with Walker a faded 60s recluse. By its 1996 publication date, it had been a dozen years since “Climate Of Hunter,” his last album had been issued, and it was assumed that that might have been all for the singer. I finally found a copy of that one for sale after reading the book. There are still tenuous ties to the late 60s sound in some of the arrangements, but his lyrics had already splintered into the fragmentary blank verse that he would build his songs around until the end of his days. He later spoke of matching the sound to the lyric, so it can be assumed that the words came first with the music shaped to fit them in a secondary fashion. I also managed to find a copy of “Scott 3” on CD and completed the numerical run of his late 60s solo albums. I still need “‘Til The Band Comes In;” his divisive 5th solo album where following the commercial failure of the self-penned “Scott 4” Walker hedged his bets with a half original/half cover album.

The release of “Tilt” served to reinvigorate Walker. Preferring privacy, he was now keeping a higher profile as his work was beginning to build up – as was public interest in his new work. There were soundtrack commissions that ran the gamut of his talents. In 1996, Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds enlisted him to sing the Bob Dylan song “I Threw It All Away” for the soundtrack they made for the film “To Have And To Hold.” Then, on the 1999 James Bond soundtrack for “The World Is Not Enough,” he shockingly dipped back into his late 60s crooning style for “Only Myself To Blame.” One imagines that he funded a lot of his future work with this paycheck. And in a more prestigious move, he scored the 1999 Leos Carax film, “Pola X.” Carax was just the sort of uncompromising, boundary-pushing filmmaker that Walker would have been drawn to. The one Carax film I attempted to watch [“Holy Motors”] I had to turn off as the foreboding I had while watching it was becoming too strong to withstand the disturbing scenes I was surely anticipating. The French-only OST CD on Barclay remains elusive and costly to this day. I have not heard it.

Next: …21st Century Man

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