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John Cale worked up these flattering, serious soundtracks for a performance at the Warhol Museum in 1994, then expanded the 15 movements—each dependent upon a thoughtful sustained note—for this live recording. Cale is one of the great pop composers of the 20th century, which isn’t to say he writes pop compositions so much as brings composition—its structure, limits, and possibilities—to an audience accustomed to music primarily as sensation. He is more populist and more genuinely talented than Warhol, who of course was infinitely more popular and probably a genius of a sort. Cale pays tribute to Warhol’s skewed accessibility with this intelligent, though elitist, recording for the films Kiss and Eat. There are zombie-movie gloomings, plangent violin work, a performance art-parody reading (from Swedenborg’s “Melanethon”), and a punishingly tedious eight-minute movement (No. 12) that would make the most dedicated bohemian wish he’d hung up his beret. It’s easy to see where Cale’s musical sympathies lie, even with a group as large as this—the John Cale Orchestra’s strings are almost impossibly beautiful, while the box office-ready return of ex-Velvet Underground bandmates Maureen Tucker and Sterling Morrison does nothing for the recording, although the performance audience was surely wowed. Despite the melancholy allure of Cale’s measured compositions, the transcendent moment comes as early as Movement 2, with a ghostly rendition of Nico’s troubled “Frozen Warnings.”

—Arion Berger