John Cale

Quick, name an artist that began their career in the Sixties and is still pushing the parameters of popular music in the new millennium. Once you check off Dylan, Bowie, Richard Thompson, Neil Young, and Lou Reed, the choices wind down rapidly.

John Cale, Reed's onetime partner in the Velvet Underground, should be on that list, too, if not for consistency -- it's been eight years since Cale's last set of songs, Walking On Locusts, was released -- then for imbuing his recordings with a challenging and occasionally subversive subtext. HoboSapiens, an arch, adventurous series of ominous, atmospheric soundscapes that incorporate techno, trance, and undulating ruminations underscored by tension and foreboding, is in keeping with that tradition. The emphasis is on the unexpected, from the beat-steady incantations of "Bicycle," "Things," and "Things X," to the percolating undertow of the aptly-titled "Zen" and "Twilight Zone."

Despite occasional aural similarities to Bowie (the stately "Set Me Free"), Roxy Music (a rocksteady "Reading My Mind") and Peter Gabriel (the exotic, Eastern influenced strum-along, "Letter From Abroad"), a daringly adventurous approach gives HoboSapiens its singular sound. Nearly four decades on, Cale's still cool.

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Lee Zimmerman