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Becalmed

June 11, 2010

Here’s a case of the eeriness of a song being brought out magnificently when accompanied by a vision of (un)homely and dated-looking superchildren, with subtitles in a language I can’t read (Dutch) added for good measure.

It only recently struck me how many John Cale-related gems there are on Youtube. There’s his 1963 appearance on I’ve Got A Secret, an American gameshow that ends up with Cale playing a fragment of Satie’s Vexations on the piano. His 1981 version of Heartbreak Hotel is a thing to behold. What I’m really into at the moment, though, is the video below.

I’ve admired this piece for quite a while – though it’s probably not the sort of thing that Cale will be most well remembered for, belonging neither to the deadpan minimalism that Cale presents po-facedly in the game show video, nor the meeting of rock history with avant-noise exhibited in the Heartbreak Hotel performance. Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed, from the Words For the Dying record, belongs to Cale’s ‘Falklands Suite’, a series of Dylan Thomas settings separated by wordless compositions. Here Cale really settles down snugly with Welsh tradition, and quite indulges the classicist in him. The suite, as the title suggests, was put together in fairly oblique response to the Falklands War.

Lie Still… is a fine and haunting tune. It’s all a whole lot more haunting, though, if you pay close attention to the Dutch kids in the choir.

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