Scott Walker has stalked the music industry like a specter for four decades. The iconic founder of American-bred '60s British chart-toppers the Walker Brothers, and author of a clutch of hard-to-decipher solo albums in the late '60s and early '70s, Walker slipped out of sight for much of the '80s and '90s. It's been 11 years since the release of his last album, the inscrutable Tilt. Now out of nowhere, he reappears with another sui generis album, The Drift.
While the recordings he made with the Walker Brothers slot nicely alongside those of the Beatles and the Righteous Brothers, Walker the solo artist steers far from the conventional. How many others have tackled subjects like Mussolini and his mistress ("Clara"), the Balkan conflict ("Buzzers"), and Elvis' stillborn twin ("Jesse") on the same album? Walker's vocal delivery is not even singing, in the traditional sense, but closer to the speech-singing of avant-garde doyen Laurie Anderson.
The music bears the weight of Walker's bleak, brooding worldview, with stark arrangements, mostly minimal and atmospheric, interrupted by dynamic bursts of noise. Murky and self-aware, Walker never finds any simple answers to the questions he poses. For the typical listener, this state of dissolution could be hard to endure, but for those interested in a musical adventure into the unknown, The Drift is a thrilling excursion.