John Cale – Mercy (Domino / Music As Usual)

With eighty years behind him and he still has things to say the great John Cale. While other artists settle into his legacy to satisfy the always voracious stomachs of the nostalgic, the Welshman resumes his almost flawless discography after a decade with another album that, without being the best of his extensive catalogue, does serve as an example of the work of a restless, mutant, rebellious and uncomfortable artist.

john cale in Mercy (Domino, 2023) renews his vows as an experimenter of abstract, sensory, poetic and oceanic sounds. Sounds that crackle like larval organisms that alter the normal rhythm of the songs. Because on this record otherness is what gives meaning to the whole, and also a trace of melancholy that infiltrates through the grooves of a majestic and ghostly work.

Cale For the occasion, he has surrounded himself with many collaborators who are contributing their grain of sand to this dark prayer. The beginning of the album is marvelous with “Mercy”, and some synth arrangements of Laurel Hello that are a delight: a digital symphony where echoes appear David Bowie and who narrates -apparently- a prayer while death rests its cold breath (“Colder, colder, colder, cold/Lives do matter/ (Lives don’t matter/Nothing, nothing at all”).

A phantasmagoria through the reverie of a Marilyn Monroe in chiaroscuro weaves the crackling rhythms of “Marilyn Monroe’s Legs (beauty elsewhere) with the arrangements that smell of asphalt and neon of Actressand which gives way to “Noise Of You” a beautiful melody whose resonances remind me of The Blue Nile.

Weyes Blood puts voices in “Story Of Blood”, a piece where the piano of Cale gets entangled in intricate electronic arrangements in a kind of dream pop glacial. More mutant electronica graces the adventurous “Time Stands Still” with the majestic voice of the Scotsman along Scott Walker which contrasts with that of Amelia Meath of Sylvan Esso. Beautiful song with verses of autumnal beauty.

the memory of his beloved Nico in “Moonstruck (Nico’s Song)” is revealing: “So afraid, of your own shadow/Following close behind/How did you cover, so much territory/Eating up the miles”. Devotion to the person and the artist, and that tension flows through the backbone of the song, that hieratic drive that the author of Desertshore. Magic.

At the equator of the Animal disk Collective bring psychedelia to “Everlasting Days” where the companion of fatigues of Lou Reed it narrates the restlessness and confusion of those strange days of confinement (or of this now). Jazzy accents topstitch “Night Crawler” which is like sitting at the same table at Miles Davies abyssal and the Talk Talk.

En “Not The End Of The World” la artista multimedia TOki MONSTA creates a cinematic landscaping close to the chill out in one of the least successful songs on the album, but things go up again with “The Legal Status Of Ice” along with Fat White Family which is something like a dark gospel song tangled in layers of loops floating.

Cale In “I Know You’re Happy” he addresses a person who knows that he is only happy when he is sad, although the fatalistic tone of the song is compensated by the light transmitted by the voice of Tei Shi. This great album ends with “Out Your Window” with the solemnity of the piano in the foreground, and some string arrangements that make the melody jump through the air. There, in limbo, all these songs seem to stay on. Perhaps in time they will come back to teach us different meanings.

Listen John Cale – Mercy