Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

Photograph by Shawn Brackbill

I’m never sure what to think when a band is labeled “experimental”. In my opinion, music is rarely interesting if it doesn’t push some boundary of our preconceived notion of what music is: traditional chord progressions, the bridge, lyrics with conventional rhyming schemes, etc. Thankfully, most bands dabble with at least a few new, untried elements with sometimes exciting results, but experimentalism loses people when it crosses that invisible line and gets too, well, downright weird (think Lou Reed on his Metal Machine Music). Where does the line get drawn on the “It’s art, dad!” defense? Within electronic music, the experimental label is especially perplexing. With technology making creative expression seemingly limitless, why not take advantage and create something different and unique?

Cold Cave are a Philadelphia-based band that strike a perfect balance between enjoyable music and electronic experimentalism. This crew features former members of Xiu Xiu, Parts and Labor, Prurient, and in the recent past frontman Wesley Eisold was vocalist for hardcore band Some Girls. Cold Cave’s debut album Love Comes Close, re-issued by Matador Records on November 2, straddles intriguing no wave with enjoyable synthpop.

Once I heard ‘The Trees Grew Emotions and Died’, I was hooked. Contrasting Caralee McElroy’s layered and distorted voice (‘Life Magazine’) with Eisold’s deep, Stephin Merritt-esque directness (and occasional bellow, as heard on ‘Heaven Was Full’) creates an atmosphere of darkly danceable and wistfully head bop/bang-worthy tracks. With lovely layering and growing density, the songs found on Love Comes Close lose the cheapness of a standard dance-punk track. It’s challenging and engaging, but so full of melodic hooks that it never turns into self-isolating, over-thought music that leaves listeners wondering if they just don’t get it or if there is anything to get in the first place.

Cold Cave – The Trees Grew Emotions and Died
Cold Cave – Life Magazine
Cold Cave – Heaven Was Full


— , November 6, 2009    2 Comments

Listened to this a few days ago, really didn’t like it. I can’t exactly put my finger on why.

Kevin Kania, November 7, 2009

Have listened to this album in its entirety probably ten times in the last week. I can’t seem to enjoy anything else while these tracks are stuck in my head.

Daniel, November 7, 2009