Cale has been releasing records under his own name for just shy of a decade. Duskland, the title of his latest record, is a work of craftsmanship full of elegant lyricism and mysterious imagery; a collection of songs that look directly into the face of darkness yet drive beyond it, forging new paths.
Allegorical in nature, Cale’s songs move away from the inward reveries of his last album, Blue Rider, and divide outward into the voices of others. The album projects images of wide-open spaces and landscapes constructed from half remembered dreams. There isn’t always a clear resolution, characters remain in a state of twilight, wandering from place to place in search of an undefined illumination. The lyric: “So many lifetimes I lived in one / I’ve got to bury them now / No surprises this time around / Not beneath this crown,” taken from “I Left The Old Cell”, aptly captures the human complexities found throughout the songs.
Taking cues from artists like Oh Mercy/Time Out of Mind era Dylan and Nick Cave’s work with the Bad Seeds, Duskland evokes a restless spirit, one that is informed by American myths and tall tales. There’s a Western flair to many of the album’s songs with nods to soundtrack composers such as Morricone and the dream-laden noir of Badalamenti. Many of the album’s highlights maintain a ceremonial grace. “Sundowner” opens the album with a lush organ progression played over a plaintive march. As the tension builds, Cale muses “Branded as a fugitive / Dressed in the clothes of an innocent / Sirens ricochet / From bloodless lips I hear them call my name”. From there the album moves forward like one long processional; Cale leads his band through up-tempo folk rock and charming country waltzes to minor key dirges and atmospheric instrumentals until ending with a horn section dragging over a funeral beat in the long form ballad “Low Light Serenade”.