Prepare to be haunted and hypnotized by Duskland, the new record from Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Zachary Cale. Its moody tone and eerie nuances are thought-provoking and heavy, and the slow burn from start to finish on Duskland is enough to keep you longing for more. Cale’s got a soft, sensual voice that he uses ever so carefully, creating the slightest details. This skill allows Duskland to sway easily between foreboding and serene, dark and light. And though it’s technically a solo album, Cale’s band is outstanding and the arrangements are full of intrigue and subtle beauty.
Cale falls somewhere between a folk, rock and country artist, blending the three with such ease and smoothness, and transitioning between them with grace. There’s an old Western aesthetic that oozes in here and there, but then quirky horns show up unexpectedly, too. No two songs are alike on Duskland, making it a thrill to listen to all the way through, but also making it the type of record that allows you to pick and choose which songs suit a particular mood. For instance, powerful opener “Sundown” is a little badass and rough around the edges, while “Blue Moth” is a littler airy and softer.
Perhaps it is Cale’s Louisiana roots that help him tap into a kind of gothic sound throughout, like a dreamy nightmare. Some songs, like the pretty “Basilica”, move fluidly like cool, blue water, and others, like “I Forged the Bullet”, play out like a slow trot to a sun-drenched desert stand-off. Duskland is at times so atmospheric it’s actually easier to listen to with closed eyes. It’s a visual record that requires many listens just to absorb everything it serves up. In this case, the title says it all. It does always seem to be dusk on every song on Duskland.
Cale’s touch is so delicate, he manages to create a haze over nearly every song; a gauzy layer of smoke that adds a romance and strangeness. “Low Light Serenade” is the strongest example of this. It’s sexy, but also a little trippy and loopy, as if Cale is in an enchanted stupor. It’s an elegant song, too, though, with its clean and multidimensional guitar melodies (acoustic, electric and steel) highlighted with some truly breathtaking steel guitar-playing. And clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s as if it’s so dreamy it gets lost in itself.
An artist and storyteller as unique as Cale should be explored and shared so that he doesn’t fly under the radar. Duskland is a special and defining album from an artist who has obviously taken the time to hone his voice.