John Cale News is a neat and sharply designed site and does what it says in the title. Photos of Mr.Cale if that’s your thing. Right now I’m listening to Inside The Dream Syndicate Vol.1: Day Of Niagara, a first release on Table Of The Elements of some of the legendary music made by Cale, Angus MacLise, Marian Zazeela, Tony Conrad and La Monte Young in the early 60s before Cale went off to co-found indie rock with some band or other. Frankly the world would be a much different place if all those mid-80s indiepop bands had been listening to this stuff and not “She’s My Best Friend”.

La Monte Young has reacted with predictable squawkings to this release, predictable because of the lengthy dispute between him and Conrad over who owns the rights to the tapes, made between 1962 and 1965. Young says the music was all his composition, Conrad says it was improvised by the group. Since Young owns all the tapes and has them locked in a big old safe somewhere, the argument has been somewhat moot until now, with the “re-discovery of a fresh cache of tapes”. Conrad and his ally Cale have had the best of the argument in the media thus far, because historical interest in this music is obviously pretty high: this release is an opportunity for them to put their case further, and an opportunity for us to hear what the fuss is about.

If you buy Niagara for historical reasons only, you might well be a bit of a wanker. You might also not like it: on first listen I personally like it a hell of a lot, and I’m trying not to think of the contextual stuff because the implications are too boggling. This is heavy drone music. Heavy not because it’s unchanging – as is often the case with this stuff, initially monolithic sound just teems with movement once you’re deeper inside it. No, it’s heavy through its high-minded intensity. A lot of ‘minimalist’ music, no matter how enveloping, comes off like one person’s attempt to express or simply reach some transcendent reality. But this group minimalism, whether improvised or composed, feels different, like these five people are trying to overpower reality, or for a half-hour’s time replace it. Very highly recommended.