Bish Bosch - 4AD
FILTER Grade: 86%
By Kyle MacKinnel on November 27, 2012
“Pain is not alone.” It’s hard to imagine an artist more successfully merging grandeur with the grotesque than does the legendary Scott Walker on Bish Bosch—the latest decadal zero-crossing on his intrepid voyage deftly skirting the edges of black holes. Beginning in 1978, when he penned the magnificent first four tracks on The Walker Brothers’ reunion, Nite Flights, Walker has been torturously unlatching a Pandora’s toolbox of increasingly entropic, disease-ridden, godless jazz-prayers. Approaching 75 minutes, Bosch is the most Brobdingnagian volume in Walker’s nightmare encyclopedia, but is also more profuse than both Tilt (1995) and The Drift (2006). Torture, bestiality, flatulence, severed genitalia and, well, “blowing up bullfrogs with a straw” all have a home on this record (sit back down, PETA, Walker has stated that his songwriting is in no way autobiographical). During the climax of the record’s centerpiece, “SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter),” a 21-plus minute track aptly titled after the universe’s coldest sub-stellar body yet discovered, Walker laces a string of schoolyard-caliber fat jokes. Ukelele, whisking machetes and a giant, helical African horn called a kudu shofar—yep, all present.
But what’s really amazing about Bish Bosch is that all of its myriad components are somehow pulled in to exist on the same insane planet. The source of the gravity? Walker’s immense, disgruntled-god croon, of course. Much like the works of Hieronymus Bosch—the album’s namesake painter—it’s foolish to try to absorb the whole piece on first listen, but isolated portions are readily appreciable in their own right. Try to imagine a negative image of The Garden of Earthly Delights. As existentially terrifying as it is impossibly distant, movements of this record are transcendent—the kind that seize the nervous system (refer also to “Corps De Blah,” “Phrasing” and “Epizootics!”). So why endure the horror show? If for no other reason—and there are far too many to list here—Walker’s music should be braved for the simple fact that you won’t encounter anything else like it again, ever.