3 stars (out of 4)
“I’m trying to keep the noise down,” John Cale sings on his 15th studio album. Fat chance of that happening. “Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood” (Six Degrees) finds the Velvet Underground cofounder still in an unsettling, forward-looking state of mind. At age 70, Cale brings the collage style aesthetic of contemporary hip-hop and R&B recordings to his latest batch of songs. Melodies emerge from a grid of electronic glitches, Auto-Tuned vocals and distorted percussion.
The classically trained musician’s love of the drone and experimental music has always stamped him as something of a modernist and an outsider in a career that stretches back to the ‘60s, and he’s in no hurry to repeat himself now. The freshness of “Shifty Adventures” owes to his love of surprise and subversion; it says something when the sole track not produced by Cale, the Danger Mouse-helmed “I Wanna Talk 2 U,” is the most straight-forward of the bunch.
In the chilling “December Rains” he delivers a futuristic eulogy to a planet choking on information and an erosion of basic human rights. In the midst of this digital dystopia, relatively fragile tracks such as “Living With You” and “Mary” feel even more poignant. But the Cale of 2012 is hardly a gentle beast, as the chaos that overtakes “Hemingway” affirms.
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