4 a long time after rising because the seething frontman of the Birthday Celebration, Nick Cave has currently been making among the most difficult and rewarding music of his lengthy profession. His current albums, each with the Dangerous Seeds and as a duo along with his right-hand Seed Warren Ellis, unfold in lengthy contemplative stretches, slashed via often with Cave’s previous menace. The tune types have grow to be progressively extra open-ended; the narratives extra diffuse and dreamlike; the instrumental preparations softer and blurrier; the subject material extra overtly preoccupied with questions of affection and demise. With every successive launch, Cave’s work grows extra distant from rock’n’roll and nearer to spiritual music. The faith, admittedly, is an idiosyncratic one, whose excessive priest might also be its sole practitioner—a songwriter-mystic for whom intercourse, monsters, and bloodshed are as vital as eternal grace.
In distinction to the grand statements that Cave has produced on this vein, Seven Psalms is a self-consciously minor work. It consists of seven spoken-word items of 1 to 2 minutes every, with vaporous musical accompaniment from Cave and Ellis, and ends with one longer instrumental that’s primarily a medley of the earlier backing tracks, incorporating components from every. The format and launch technique additionally encourage listeners to consider it as one thing apart from the brand new Nick Cave album: a limited-edition 10” EP offered through Cave Issues, a webstore that Cave has set as much as promote artwork prints, Polaroid pictures, T-shirts, and the like—what he calls the “incidental residue” of his artistic follow. If he have been a visible artist primarily, you may think these seven items hanging in a small and rushed-through anteroom to an exhibition of this distinct interval in his work, included as fascinating however inessential context for masterworks like 2021’s Carnage and 2016’s Skeleton Tree.
Cave flirted with spoken phrase on Carnage, in performances that have been wealthy with drama and irony, taking breaks from his extra conventional singing to persuade, plead, and intimidate. On Seven Psalms, the speeches are the primary occasion: The actual fact there may be music enjoying in any respect appears largely incidental. Cave is a way more dependable narrator this time round, ditching the earlier album’s flashes of mania and hilarity in favor of solemnity and sobriety. You get the sense that that is the true Nick Cave delivering these strains, not some mad-eyed character he’s inhabiting. The music—a mix of synthesizers, gospel-inflected piano, and occasional wordless vocal harmonies, all swathed in heavy reverb—establishes a stately and ceremonious temper and by no means wavers from it, reinforcing the notion that Cave means what he says.