The ghost in the machine...
Climate of Hunter
By the time Scott Walker released Climate Of Hunter in 1984 he’d been long fixed in public consciousness as a pouting balladeer as firmly as a prehistoric insect trapped in amber.
Jaded by his celebrity status and MOR pigeon-holing,
Like a typecast actor, he would quite never escape the gravitational pull of those early self-titled albums and their cultish appeal. Hardly a month goes by without some earnest singer keen to establish their retro-chic credentials by citing Scott 1 – 4 as a key influence in their development.
A full decade separates his previous album the country tinged "We Had It All" and "Climate of Hunter." Recorded in the space of a month, it’s a piece of angsty experimental modernity that in 1984 had few, if any, competitors.
Excluding the anachronistic reading of "Blanket Roll Blues", complete with an acoustic cameo from Mark Knopfler, it condenses a dizzying blur of lush orchestrations; free-form sax squalls; trumpets tape-looped into a hazy sheen above ruminating funk bass; 4/4 beats punctuating ethereal string-synth atmospherics.
Wilfully obscure, and one suspects intentionally “difficult”, there are times when the tortuous melodies seem to arise from the smoke made from arbitrary collisions of notes and chords, that is these melodic sequences are anything but obvious.
Through the ephemeral mist of it all,
Yet for all the experimental prickliness there’s an unfathomable grandeur to tracks such as "Rawhide" and "Three" which insinuates itself as sure as any pop-based hook. Though the ballad "Sleepwalkers Woman" treads familiar ground to the magical territory of "Boy Child" from Scott 4 its inclusion was too little too late for fans of the Scott of yore.
The vociferous rush of Seven is the closest thing to straight forward rock on the album, interspersed as it is, with guitar solos that seem to owe something to Stevie Vaughan Ray’s work on
Although the eight tracks on the album rarely stray beyond the four minute mark, there’s little else in the way of concession to popular taste. Inevitably it sank without a trace on release.
Determined to break with expectation and pursue his rarefied muse, Walker condemned himself to become a ghostly presence destined to occasionally haunt the cloisters of his own career.
Yet Climate Of Hunter and his 1995 album, Tilt, can be properly seen as artistic triumphs. It’s impossible to think of any other artist from the 60s that occupied the MOR as