Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years (4AD)

April 13, 2011 by  

With a name that conjures thoughts of gloomy coastline dampness, we ought to be thankful that the music of synthpop project Cold Cave is, in contrast, incredibly inviting. The brainchild of former Some Girls vocalist Wesley Eisold, this extraordinary New York outfit first introduced themselves with debut LP Love Comes Close, a dazzling robotic affair. Artfully blending an apparent love for 1980s new wave and tight-lipped boogie, the release boasted highlights such as the subtly sensuous The Trees Grew Emotions And Died and Life Magazine, which, like a sunnier Crystal Castles, was a starry spiraling beauty featuring glistening vocals from sometime Xiu Xiu member Caralee McElroy.

Latest release Cherish The Light Years does, as the monochrome album art suggests, signal a change in direction and tone, with a heavier emphasis on an admiration of the punchy, ebony-tinted histrionics pioneered by acts such as Bauhaus or Siouxsie And The Banshees. The album also offers a shift in direct human input, with the intriguing vocal talents of Eisold appearing on every track. First noted on Love Comes Close?s startled moon landing soundtrack Heaven Was Full, vocals that answer any musings of what Stephin Merritt might sound like had he been locked in room with Ian Curtis in 1979 are a fitting accompaniment to tracks so laden with theatrical melodrama they?d make the steady-eyed clomp in Fun Boy Three?s Tunnel Of Love squeal with delight.

Vocals of such deadpan drama work best on album highlight Confetti, a near-flawless track that mixes bright, glittering synths with an atmospheric inhale-exhale quality that bewitches instantly. The third of the album, this track is the first of many to incorporate a step-ladder progression and hefty kicks New Order would be proud of. Similar in values is Icons Of Summer, another track in which Cold Cave are at their most charming. Into the musical mixing bowl Eisold drops cleverly weighed ingredients; a steady yet skittish parade of worker ant frequencies and flashes of the murderous mania usually expected from Crystal Castles. More power-robotics can be found on Underworld USA, a potential futuristic triumphant fitness video contender with flutters inspired by The XX.

Opener The Great Pan Is Dead takes heed from the pulsating claustrophobic glory of Fuck Buttons, tightly wound and uplifting in the same instance. A boisterous track that is subsequently disconcerting, our introduction to Cherish The Light Years is a thrilling excursion into the unidentified. Midway through is Catacombs, which features rippling bass and a jaunty shaken excellence reminiscent of The Cure. While it is well considered in Catacombs, the one glitch with Cherish The Light Years is an often lazy awareness of vocal placement. Though an infrequent occurrence, this becomes irritating when strong vocals are let down by an attempt to stuff too many words into one verse.

Yet the ambition of Cold Cave clearly has no bounds, stretching from slow-riser and potential alien discovery accompaniment Burning Sage to Alchemy And You, a sunny dissatisfied party groove that includes a brass section. Their latest release is an altogether impressive piece, merging several musical values in a manner that is skilful and appealing.