Even before you hear his guitar’s golden drone, Zachary Cale’s mesmerizing Louisiana drawl will suck you in. At 36, Cale is no stranger to his own singing voice, yet he manages to sound a little surprised by each warm, slurred phrase. Even this far into his career, Cale’s still got the element of surprise working for him. He’s been quietly running a Gowanus-based artist collective and record label called All Hands Electric since as early as 2008, releasing his second album Walking Papers through the label. Cale’s next three albums all came out through All Hands in some fashion, but his fifth and latest release, Duskland, is set to come out in August via No Quarter Records. If you’re paying attention, this is the same label who quietly and kindly gave us the Houndstooth record earlier this year — but I digress. In 2014, The Village Voice crowned Cale as songwriter of the year — perhaps it was that distinction that caught No Quarter’s attention and prompted them to snap Cale up.
Duskland seems like an apt album title for an artist still lurking on the outskirts even after establishing a decade-spanning career. We’re premiering the lead single “Sundowner” today, a low and slow dirge that rolls in like the twilight insect buzz and sits there, basking in nightfall’s inevitable procession. There’s nothing hurried here — no cloying folk tempo-building, no ringing, copper choruses. He dwells in the same darkness as Cass McCombs, punctuating the cobwebbed stillness with lowing organ and severe, almost pagan imagery. The Crimson moon, the city of refuge: These would be hapless signifiers in another singer’s mouth. Cale’s drawl molds them back into tremendous figments, floating in a skyline somewhere just beyond the dusk. All of Duskland possesses that same fantastic self-assurance, really, filled out by a huge cast of contributors, including current band members: bassist James Preston, drummer Ethan Schmid, keyboardist Phil Glauberzon, and percussionist Ryan Johnson. Other guests include Alfra Martini, Otto Hauser (Vetiver, Cass McCombs), steel guitarists Phil Sterk and Brady Sansone, jazz/classical pianist Robert Boston, and trumpet player Carter Yasutake (St. Vincent, Beirut). Despite this supporting cast, Duskland is Cale’s twilight, an album of fleeting, thorny significance. Stream “Sundowner” below.
Duskland is out 8/7 via No Quarter Records. Pre-order it here.