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The greatest album of the 1990s....,
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This review is from: Tilt (Audio CD)
While Scott Walker had alluded to war before (The War is Over, The Plague), it became a dominant-theme around the four-tracks he wrote after six-years of writer's block for the final Walker Brothers album. The year zero was ultimately 'The Electrician', whose theme of torture would advance and recur on 1983's 'Climate of Hunter' and this follow-up from 1995.
'Tilt' is an album that takes no prisoners, a record that drifts deep into the avant-garde, seemingly influenced by Schoenberg, Messiaen, Einsturzende Neubauten, Gorecki, Glenn Branca it is far from the catchy pop of the Walker Brother. Despite many listeners/failed-listeners misgivings, 'Tilt' is an album that has been cited postively by David Bowie, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, Neil Finn & Paul Morley. I think it will be seen as a classic in years to come, and it made more sense when released on an indie-label in the U.S. than it did on a major label at the time of Britpop. 'Tilt' is an album I've played frequently- an album that generally drops any rock-angles, which Walker appeared to exhaust on several similar sounding & titled tracks on 'Climate...'- Tracks Five and Seven (& maybe three also!)
Walker's voice is more operatic than before, while the extreme-atmosphere aligns it to more extreme albums, such as Nico's 'The Marble Index', Talk Talk's 'Laughing Stock', John Cale's 'Music for a New Society' & David Sylvian's 'Blemish.' It's all a highlight, albeit an oblique one - I have no clue what Walker is singing about. But I have ideas...and in the scheme of things, it's still more 'Ulysses' than 'Finnegans Wake.' The themes of exile and torture found in 'The Electrician', and continued over several-'Climate- tracks are key here. The influence of Samuel Beckett, notably plays like 'Not I' & the trilogy of novels, seems apparent- or rather- Walker has the same oblique-exactness with a similar nightmareish quality...
It's all a highlight, but the ones I like the most are 'Farmer in the City (Remembering Pasolini)', which like Coil's 'Ostia' recalls the murdered auteur who made 'Salo.' This is a reworked version of Walker's 'Man from Reno'-single and feels like a cut-up-dream recollection after reading about Pasolini. 'The Cockfighter' is a complex, multi-part track that veers off into a sound like 'Dark Magus' played by Stravinsky, then into Neubauten-metal, strange moans & a touching part...which nods towards the Holocaust...
'Manhattan' reminds me of 'Before Night Falls' - a sense of tortured exiles in New York: "scalper in the lampglow...chief of police a la collar - bones connected...i tip to Bengal/i tip to Somal/i tip to Burmese..." The music is not merely avant-classical, and several-tracks have elements that take in world-music, whether whistles, Ba-Wu Flutes or chittaroni. 'Tilt' sounds immense...
The final four-tracks are as strong as the rest, 'Bolivia'95' offering up some stunning blues-based-guitar up; while 'Patriot (a single- at 7.58 minutes!)appears to nod to the Iraq War of the early 90s, 'ja'91/see how they run'- which must allude to the mass-murder on the Bazra-highway? The repeated 'chorus', "the good news you cannot refuse/the bad news is there is no news" remains hypnotic stuff - though I'm not sure what is meant by the allusions to Zeitung! The title-track is hypnotic trance-rock, the guitars veering off into the otherworldly- a missing link between "Heroes" and 'Hail to the Thief.' Finally, Walker plays guitar alone on 'Rosary', the adieu to the greatest album of the 1990s...
'Tilt' is an album that frequently finds itself at the top of any list of favourite albums I make (other titles include 'Sulk', 'The Marble Index', 'Pacific Ocean Blue', 'Closer' etc)& it still remains to be accorded the appreciation I think it warrants. Walker would follow this with the soundtrack to 'Pola X', a box-set of his past-work, and is apparently recording a new album for 4AD. Roll on 2009!!!!