Monday, November 2, 2009

Album: Cold Cave - Love Comes Close

Love Comes Close (Cold Cave)
Album: Love Comes Close
Matador, 2009
Rating: ******** (8/10)

I'm not sure what to make of the Cold Cave debut album, to be (re)released on Matador this week. Though I normally scoff at press releases, the one accompanying this album actually put a finger on a quality of the music I couldn't quite describe myself: "equal parts of romance and nihilism." That's the essence of Cold Cave and what sets them apart from any other band around.

I first heard Cold Cave nearly a year ago, when I caught the tail end of a set they did opening for someone or other at Bowery Ballroom. I enjoyed them, especially because their sheer volume threatened to make my ears bleed, but I didn't think they were anything special. It wasn't until the spring, when I stumbled upon the track "Sex Ads," that I came around to thinking of Cold Cave as something outstanding.

"Sex Ads," which is not featured on Love Comes Close, is one of the noisiest tracks I've ever heard. It sounds like a synthesizer apocalypse and in its unforgiving attack, reminds me more of the no wave movement than of anything contemporary. The most obvious reference point is Suicide, for those who are familiar with the history of synth music, but ultimately, the splintering shards of static and roar of icy, inhuman noise burying a desperate and inaudible vocal melody - well, they aren't much like anyone else at all.

Sadly, no song on Love Comes Close is quite as as bold as "Sex Ads." The album contains a collection of nine rather more accessible tracks which, if not as striking, have a similar intrigue. The opener, "Cebe and Me," creeps forward at a morbidly measured pace, while synthesizers blink unnerving squalls of dissonance and a distorted voice mumbles an undecipherable speech. The tension breaks over the dark pop of the title track. The somber-yet-catchy baritone melody is reminiscent of bands like New Order and Depeche Mode, but stripped of all hints of 80's polish.

There aren't any bad tracks on the album, so picking highlights is a little tricky. "Heaven was Full" is a classic centerpiece, with a memorable title, a heavy, full sound and single-worthy tune. However, the real highlight of the middle stretch is "The Trees Grew Emotions and Died." The simple, rhythmic vocals and ascending synth riff seems too basic to be the album's best track, but it had me on my knees.

From the dance pop of "Life Magazine" to the would be 80's radio hit "Youth and Lust" and the krautrock-inspired "Laurels of Erotomania," the album is mysteriously refreshing. The sounds are dated and could come straight from the earliest digital synthesizers of the late 70's and early 80's. This is cheesy and gives the whole album a campy sound. Further "campiness" is added by the fact that the actual synth parts are, for the most part, incredibly simple and obvious. But that's not to say the band is just some sort of Duran Duran throwback - the level of noise and the indie rock-influenced imperfection are distinctly modern. Couple this with great songwriting, and you've got something very worth listening to.

Check it out! [MySpace]

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