HARDHOUND

Scott Walker – The Drift

Author: Colin | Published: 4/7/09

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Artist Scott Walker
Title The Drift
Label 4AD
Year 2006
Designer Vaughan Oliver at v23, design assistance: Chris Bigg at v23
Music Darkness, leavened occasionally by the blackest of humour
Notes Other than my copy of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn in the previous but one post, this record is probably my other most treasured piece of vinyl. The Drift was released on record only as a promotional item and as it’s one of my all-time desert island selections, I’m very grateful to the designer Vaughan Oliver for giving it to me. The cover and accompanying booklet successfully reflect the darkness of the music they presage. With themes including Balkan genocide, the fate of Mussolini’s lover Clara Petacci, the twin towers and Elvis Presley’s still-born twin brother, it’s difficult to read the darkened textures as anything other than blood-stained walls.

I realise it’s pretty much a truism, but the design is immeasurably better served by the scale of the 12″ format than the CD package (which I also own). Vaughan expressed a degree of frustration at the degree to which his design was circumscribed by Scott Walker. Given the expressive freedom of so much of Oliver’s work, that’s understandable. His approach is hugely impressive all the same: the typography and layout are formally impressive and the muted colours are striking –  particularly the gold and pale blue against the darkened background.

The layout of the lyrics is by Scott Walker, and is the same approach seen on his previous masterpiece, Tilt. The spindly, tall lines suggest something intensely honed, eked out against the lure of silence (a decade, give or take a few years, divides each of Scott Walker’s last three albums). Dare I say they suggest Giacometti figures? Well I did! The photography is also worthy of note, simultanously touching upon Scott and suggesting disintegration, intensity and alienation.

The only slightly discordant note is struck by Ian Penman’s essay which is unforunately at once hagiographic and rather prosaic. Ultimately, singing Scott Walker’s praises is tremendously superfluous: you will either be immensely moved or alienated by The Drift.


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