Cold Cave: Full Cold Moon

Cold Cave: Full Cold Moon - As Cold Cave, Wesley Eisold’s sophomore effort, Cherish the Light Years, was a surprising direction for the coldwave standout–the synth-driven noise experimentations seemed to be completely left behind in favor of a straight 80′s synthpop/dance aesthetic. The debut Love Comes Close certainly had that strain of pop within it, but mingled between tracks full of love-hate tensions, muttered violences like “I will pity you til you’re pretty / What’s a love without some struggle / You’re a slut / I’ll stitch your knuckles up.” Not that Cherish the Light Years is unlikeable–it’s got an insane pop to it, a Franz Ferdinand kind of freneticism, but it seemed to spurn all my favorite characteristics of Cold Cave. Well, Eisold apparently agreed, calling it the “Cold Cave I can’t even stand to hear.” After being dropped by his then-label Matador, he went on to release a string of singles throughout 2013, tracks that solidified his stake on trademark territories, but also saw him adding new districts to his sound.

That Full Cold Moon is a collection of singles rarely detracts from its efficacy. In fact, I came to like the demo roughness, and the uneven production values just add to the album’s status as a reflection of  Eisold’s vagrant year, like we’re looking at a snapshot of his growth. The slight haphazardness also heightens the impact of his more experimental, ambient pieces, which really comprise some of the record’s best tracks.

“Tristan Corbiere,” for example, shocks even more than Cherish the Light Years did, and for entirely different (and undeniably more intriguing) reasons. It’s a three-minute instrumental piece full of slight, wet, tapping beats, overlaid with a flute-like melody and touches of keyboard, altogether like being in the foggy upper-strata of a rainforest. While the sophomore album can incite parties and dance floors on its own, it also leaves you thinking about Cold Cave’s limitations, with the unshakeable feeling that the more digestible direction might signal a dearth of ideas. ‘Tristan Corbiere’ instead explodes your conception of what Cold Cave might be capable of.

Similarly, ‘Meaningful Life’ is a slow, organ-driven piece unlike much of what Eisold’s attempted before. Tenderly and solemnly, he muses on what precisely makes for a meaningful life while interjecting with tangential thoughts about a lover’s memory, the simple image of a tree in her yard. It reminds me a lot of my favorite Brian Eno track, “Golden Hours,” in the lovely agony of sluggish time and the richness of expression. If there’s one time I disliked Full Cold Moon‘s haphazard selection, it’s the placement of skittish dancer ‘God Made the World’ right after ‘Meaningful Life’–excuse me, but you’re dancing all over my brooding space.

Even the throwbacks to straight 80′s pop feel more lively than the somewhat forced drama of Cherish, as in the 90-second taste we get in ‘Young Prisoner Dreams of Romance’, that encapsulates everything great about groups like New Order, from the pounding drum machine, to the intoxicatingly fuzzy synth, to anthemic lyrics like “I could change / Break the Chains / and I will / at night I will think of you still.” ‘Nausea, the Earth and Me’ is a more ambitious take on Cold Cave’s poppier moments, as a six-and-a-half minute epic through seas of choppy percussion and staccato synths that harrow the listener a bit more than it inspires dance moves.

If there is a lull in the album’s energy, it’d be the tracks that feel closer to Cold Cave’s oeuvre, like opener ‘A Little Death to Laugh’, ‘People are Poison’, and ‘Oceans with No End’, but only because they lack the strangeness of the standouts–they’re still incredibly strong, synthy headbangers in their own right, and it bodes very well for the record if these muscular cuts are the weak underbelly. Full Cold Moon might lack the cohesive punch of an album recorded as an album, but it’s still packed with hits, though not in a cheesy best-of kind of way. It covers a very good breadth of textures and moods, and repositions Cold Cave as an act without clear-cut limits… 8.0/10

‘Meaningful Life’

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