Music » CD Reviews

John Cale

Stainless Gamelan: Inside the Dream Syndicate Volume III (Table of the Elements)


Once again, time turns back on itself and yields an artifact of great cultural and artistic importance, and once again the agent of change is John Cale. The intrepid musician and explorer returns from the New York of the 1960s with a three-CD set that provides dazzling insight into what was really going on behind the facade of the Velvet Underground (read: "Lou Reed"). Audible in these long-lost experiments and tangents are the forces at work in the Velvets' first two albums, as well as the musical building blocks of countless other bands.

The unwieldy 27-minute excursion "At About This Time Mozart Was Dead and Joseph Conrad Was Sailing the Seven Seas Learning English" could be the codex for everything Cale and company attempted. Strings stretch taut until they scream, scrape across one another in howling figures, then snap and realign into alien, almost familiar wails and hums and growls. How is it that the ideas Cale and his friends played with 30-odd years ago are evident and even rampant in the work of so many people who never heard this music? The answer is just another fragment of the secret history of the 20th century, and its mystery only enhances Stainless Gamelan's otherworldly beauty.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.