Music: Scott Walker & Sunn O))); T.I.; Panda Bear
Scott Walker & Sunn O)))
Scott Walker has journeyed to strange places. In the 1960s, he was a pop icon (albeit an unconventional one) noted for his deliciously baritone balladeering. In the 1980s, he successfully transitioned to an avant-garde noisemaker.
His newest album, a collaboration with Seattle-based drone metal duo Sunn O))), is as dark as dark can be. It’s an imposition on the ears, consistently cruel and macabre. None of the five tracks are less than eight minutes long. Walker’s voice adds a silky, dissonant note that nearly topples into bathos. The music sounds as though it is rising, like hot and putrid air, from the deepest bowels of an inferno.
It’s effective. The “emotional” heart of the album is Fetish, which unleashes a bubble and froth of chilling sound effects – a perfect soundtrack for a horror film. It’s not pleasant, but it’s compelling.
Perhaps the best part of the album is the lyrical poetry, which takes time to emerge from the doom-and-gloom rubble: “The deer fly, the sand fly, the tsetse can’t find them.” It’s worth sorting through, if you can bear it.
T.I. is a hit man, churning out songs that seamlessly melt into the energy of the party or the club. If they're not his hits, they're someone else's - most recently, his protégé Iggy Azalea, whose smash album The New Classic has the paw-prints of his influence all over it. On his ninth studio album, Paperwork, T.I. works it again - and as the title suggests, it's business as usual.
Paperwork occupies a strange place between business and pleasure. He's having fun, but a lot of the album feels perfunctory. At times, he sounds rushed, trying to fit in all 18 tracks without flagging. And this is the first instalment of a trilogy.
There are some classic moments, such as No Mediocre (featuring Azalea), Paperwork, and the complicated Stay. T.I. has a flawless flow; he raps with a slack, lyrical ease that eludes even the best.
The highlight is New National Anthem, an indictment of the Ferguson, Missouri, police killing of Michael Brown. Comparatively, much of the album sounds platitudinous. But even when he's not trying that hard, T.I. is incomparable; he's still the uncontested King of the South.
Some of us live in eternal hope that Animal Collective will one day return to the singular excitement and innovation that attended their greatest days. In lieu of that occasion, we settle for the solo efforts of its former members.
The latest is Panda Bear's new EP, Mr Noah, a collection of four gems that skirt the greatness of his former work and very nearly live up to it. This almost-but-not-quite angle doesn't do justice to Panda Bear, who continually carries the Collective legacy and creates fantastic music in his own right.
True to form, the EP opens with (what sound like) distorted birdcalls, as if in some psychedelic jungle. As with so many Panda Bear/Animal Collective tracks, the noise sounds random until it suddenly slips into place, establishing its own rhythmic logic.
As with all Panda Bear's music, it takes a few listens. There's a warmth and soothing familiarity to his voice, like a fuzzy blanket. Let go, he seems to say, it's going to be all right.
Thankfully, this EP arrives in advance of a longer album, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, due in January. Relief is on its way.