Album Review: John Cale, ‘MERCY’

John Cale’s title could also be tied to his unparalleled legacy – each on his personal and as one of many founding members of the Velvet Underground – however his stressed curiosity as a musician prevents him from transferring anyplace however ahead. “When you go and find yourself in a nook that you simply really feel uncomfortable in, one thing will occur and also you’ll provide you with an answer,” the 80-year-old mentioned in a latest interview, providing a neat summation of his inventive mantra. The marvel of his music lies not within the options it presents however in his willingness to sit down in that uncomfortable area, barreling via the noise in methods that may be sleek or disturbing, however all the time unpredictable. MERCY, Cale’s seventeenth solo album and first of authentic materials in over a decade, traverses murky grounds with out pretending to succeed in any type of readability. But it strikes with intention, collating avant-garde concepts and collaborative sparks right into a compelling and oddly touching report that doesn’t information a lot as urge you to wander alongside the identical void.
There’s an air of chilly stillness about MERCY, which may make for a listless expertise had been it not for Cale’s eager eye for element. He revels in brooding, dystopian atmospheres however permits contrasting components to emerge inside them, and right here, these typically come courtesy of the album’s spectacular solid of friends. The title monitor establishes this gloomy disposition, however Laurel Halo carves area for shimmering magnificence within the music’s icy synths because it stretches out to seven minutes, without delay responding to and suffusing Cale’s pleas for transcendence. Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering, who final yr settled on mercy as the one resolution to loneliness, makes for a becoming accomplice on the transfixing ‘STORY OF BLOOD’, the 2 voices gliding over one another to evoke each the unusual physicality and soulfulness that permeates the lyrics: “That is the story, the story of blood/ It begins within the coronary heart/ It strikes throughout, wake you within the morning/ And brings you down.” And on ‘TIME STANDS STILL’, Sylvan Esso add a contact of lightness to an in any other case morose meditation on historical past.

Time does appear to face nonetheless on MERCY, the place present-day disaster spurs an uneasy (and unfiltered) fixation with the previous. A throbbing beat by the digital producer Actress crawls into and jerks away on the ghostly, summary reminiscences that override ‘MARILYN MONROE’S LEGS (magnificence elsewhere)’, and ‘NOISE OF YOU’ proceeds by tumbling additional again in time, surefooted at first however slowly rising in desperation the extra it longs for a distant sound. Removed from the swirl of instrumentation gathering round these tracks is the drumless drift of ‘MOONSTRUCK (Nico’s Track)’, whereas the groovy ‘NIGHT CRAWLING’ finds Cale reminiscing on his friendship with David Bowie within the ’70s. These songs may simply pander to the listeners’ personal propensity for nostalgia, but relatively than heartfelt tributes, they’re confrontational and difficult, although in the end nonetheless tender, of their honesty.
With out a few of its visitor contributions, MERCY‘s indirect lyricism and meandering music buildings may depart one thing to be desired. Although Cale delivers an arresting efficiency on ‘NOT THE END OF THE WORLD’, it’s not laborious to marvel how an additional collaborator might need elevated its sense of drama. It’s a testomony to how seamlessly he integrates the customarily refined textures handed to him by this youthful era of artists, but additionally how a lot we would like them – friends and contemporaries – to all the time enterprise into these darkish and desolate landscapes facet by facet. In spirit, they typically do; ‘EVERLASTING DAYS’, a collaboration with Animal Collective, has a clumsy scrappiness about it, but it surely’s not lengthy earlier than the gauzy results lock in with the music’s sweeping devastation. “Once we attempt to stroll away, after we flip our backs and smile/ Will we see the previous that haunts us now?” Cale ponders. The journey the album takes us on is oneiric and starkly private, however simmering beneath is the agency hope that after we all inevitably find yourself in a nook, we’ll be in search of the identical factor. MERCY doesn’t reveal a lot about its personal character or function, however this, it spells out in capital letters.