Scott Walker The Drift

Though he’s been at it for 40-plus years — first in the proto-boy band the Walker Brothers, and then his grandiose solo career — Scott Walker (nee Engel) has remained one of pop music’s most extraordinary figures. The legacy he leaves behind from the ’60s, both with his Brothers and his four solo Scott LPs, is nothing short of brilliant. When Scott abandoned the orchestral splendour in his music, he dabbled with abstract measures on 1984’s Climate of the Hunter and then to the extreme on 1995’s radical and often unlistenable Tilt. The Drift continues a similar, even more radical dissonance but with much more of an instant payoff than Tilt. That’s not to say his 12th album is accessible because it’s not — far from it. But The Drift keeps you listening the way a cinematic thriller can keep you on the edge of your seat by using a narrative that, as disjointed and unsettling as it is, finds the one-time crooner flustering with his giant voice and immersing himself in a nightmarish world of despondency. The music is often alarming and sometimes scary, building a sense of paranoia that can suddenly be exacerbated by lurid strings crashing down or even the noise of a donkey unleashing its painful shriek. A new Scott Walker recording is always a precious thing to celebrate no matter what it sounds like — his past speaks for itself and is laudable enough to allow some missteps. The Drift is no exception, however. Though it’s challenging even to the most devoted Scott fan, if you understand his artistic integrity and flair for theatrics, then you will appreciate this austere work he has produced. It’s certainly not for just anybody, but then again, when has his solo work ever been? (4AD)