Wow! Brand new Scott Walker! The avant-crooner legend has been enlisted to create a full-blown orchestral score to Brady Corbet’s The Childhood of a Leader, a Satre adaptation set in 1919. There’s plenty of the dissonance of late-period Walker at play here, a perfect fit with the tense psychology of the film. On 4AD.
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Scott Walker does soundtracks, who knew. Probably any real fan, as the internet just informed me that he did one back in 1999 for a romantic drama film called Pola X, but it’s still a curio. Truth is, I’ve been asked to review this not because I’m the local Scott Walker expert, but because I have been known to lurk in the stock room warbling the lower regions of my voice with a pompous overtone. But you don’t care about that so onto them sounds.
It begins with the orchestra tuning up, over which a rogue brass player is trying to throw everyone off with a free jazz lick before the conductor shouts “OK let’s try this please..??” and the cacophony halts. Immediately after you’re barraged by the entire string section seemingly playing some metal riffs, building dissonant chords much like ‘Mars’ from Holst’s The Planets or Stravinsky when he’s feeling rhythmical. Very cinematic, very foreboding, also very unlike most Scott Walker I’ve heard. There are some great high-register violin sounds that have that nails-on-chalkboard quality, which I would imagine would fit well with the ‘tense psychological drama’ of the film. Ominous synth drones enter and a plane flies by during the ‘Dream Sequence’, accidentally conjuring the reality of the post-war fallout of 1919 Paris.
His use of harmony reminds me of the lurking unease of Bernard Herrmann on soundtracks such as Vertigo, but perhaps without any sort of love theme to be found. Most of the pieces are short orchestral movements, between about a minute or two in length, so you get shown this grim world of 20th century classical anguish for a brief moment before its hastily replaced by another form of darkness. ‘Versailles’ is a minute and a half of boiling brass, while ‘Cutting Flowers’ hints at beauty but with harsh notes cutting across. ‘Printing Press’ is him doing electroacoustic techno and it hurts.
One thing that some may miss is the iconic warble of the man, which doesn’t seem to be here at all. But this is him playing with an orchestra like a voodoo doll and having a great time doing so. I daresay it’s even darker than his collab with Sunn O))). Dream on Mr O’Malley.
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