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By Daniel Dylan Wray

The overwhelming gut-smack of disappointment felt from John Cale’s last release, 2011’s EP ‘Extra Playful’, led to real feelings of trepidation when approaching this record. However, the oddball, rather manic collection of songs gathered for that release make way for the slow burning yet delicately coherent and brooding ‘Shifty Adventures’, an album that has simultaneous clouts of pop-smattered genius and dark, ominous wonder.

At 70 years old Cale’s voice still resonates profoundly, so rich, piercing and forceful – his brief screech at the end of ‘Hemmingway’ is a glorious recall to the more deranged end of his spectrum – it’s a shame a large chunk of the record is clouded in crass auto-tune. However, personal taste aside, it does ask fundamental questions about what constitutes experimental music in the current mind of John Cale, which, it seems is a plunge into mass popular culture (albeit one ensconced by his own warped take). Cale’s own production for the record is largely flawless, displaying a rich grasp in consistency and plunging deep into gloriously murky sonic ethers, with the irrefragable and melancholic ‘Mary’ being just one testament to this, while the gloom-laden hum of ‘Vampire Café’, with Cale’s relentless viola drone in the background, almost traces back to the misunderstood genius of 1982’s ‘Music For A New Society’.

This is a record that requires work and perseverance; it can initially appear cold, confusing and somewhat alienating, but time well spent in the hands of Cale opens up avenues, textures and wormholes that initially seemed filled in and smoothed over upon first listens. The fact that at this late stage in his career Cale is still pushing and forcing his listeners to work this hard is an unbridled testament to his endless proclivity for innovativeness.

Read all of our new album reviews here, in this month’s Loud And Quiet

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