Cold Cave are an experimental electronic pop group from Philadelphia and New York City who make melodic synthscapes with jackhammer beats. They acknowledge the dark roots of synthesizer music as well as its potential for making the brightest pop with their hard songs celebrating the contradictory beauty of the human condition.
As with their ancestors, for Cold Cave the synthesizer is as much about mayhem as it is melody. It is a means of conveying, via dissonance, ideas about disturbance and decay as effectively as the harshest guitar rock. It comes as no surprise to learn that mainman Wesley Eisold is a writer with a past in hardcore punk and noise bands. Caralee McElroy has spent the past few years performing and recording with the acclaimed Xiu Xiu. Manhattan-based Dominick Fernow is known for for performing as the noise group Prurient, and as the owner of the NYC record store and label Hospital Productions.
Cold Cave strive for balance, between the ugly and the beautiful, between rupture and rapture. The songs on Cold Cave's debut album Love Comes Close have an immediacy that belies thought-provoking titles like "The Laurels of Erotomania" and "The Trees Grew Emotions And Died". In this way they mark that transitional moment when synthesizer music went from a subversive device for sound collagists to a serious commercial force. They are cerebral and savage, yet sweet and seductive.
And their mainman Wesley Eisold is an absolute new young god of nihilism and despair. He says things such as, "I couldn't understand why people were wearing watches, because they seemed like hourglasses of death, keeping track of how much time was running out". He talks of his "absolute fixation with nostalgia and the idea of people and loves that never happened, so much that I can't function properly with the people in my actual life". And in two pithy sentences - "I dread clubs but I love the music they play in them," and "I find it all so disheartening, what we hope to find when we leave our homes," - he brilliantly captures Cold Cave's aesthetic: the Morrissey of "How Soon Is Now" wailing over Nitzer Ebb beats.
According to Eisold, if anything, their music reflects what it feels like to live in the present. Eisold, whose baritone is as rich and resonating as that of Phil Oakey, Nick Cave or Iggy Pop, says "Of course we love the lineage of the genre, early experiments with machines to convey human emotion; the marriage between pop and industrial music. At the time it was documenting the early stages of a new world, and we are recording what it feels like to be alive in that world."
When asked whether there is a set of guiding principles at work here, a Cold Cave aesthetic that runs from the artwork to the music, he answers: "We spend a lot of thought choosing what we do. The artwork is as imperative as the music. It is the only imagery attached to the recording. We judge books by covers everyday and it is my hope to have the sleeves represent the emotion, or lack of, in the music."
He concedes that even though there are few explicit references to the heart of darkness on Love Comes Close, there are hints in the language used in the song titles at depravity and desolation. And he agrees that this makes Cold Cave heirs to the synthpop noir of New Order, Throbbing Gristle, Soft Cell and Muslimgauze.