Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years

Cherish The Light Years is the second studio album from New York electronic pop outfit Cold Cave. Comprising of nine tracks of brilliantly crafted panoramic 80s darkwave, frontman, songwriter and stylistic visionary Wesley Eisold creates a tantalising melange of the keening, melancholic vocal sensibilities of The Cure’s Robert Smith and a spirit and style of music that channels the introspective synthpop of New Order and the flamboyant and melodramatic new wave of Duran Duran.

The record opens with the euphoric and massive sound of The Great Pan Is Dead, a huge anthem to kick things off in epic fashion. The opening line of the record, ‘Tell me when the world is ending/You won’t be there still pretending’ sets the scene perfectly for a record of heartbreak and despondence, while the dense, layered instrumentation and propulsive, insistent beats race through at breakneck speed and instantly grab the listener from their seat and tear them into the world of Cold Cave.

Things continue in grandiose fashion with the brilliant Pacing Around The Church, driven by a high bassline recalling New Order’s Peter Hook and a lush, breathtaking soundscape formed by sweeping synths and glistening delayed guitars. An aching Eisold sings ‘You can seldom count on love/You can often count on hate/You can always count on death as your fate’, a sense of heartbroken resignation quivering through his rich baritone delivery.

Confetti recalls the widescreen nostalgic pop of Eisold’s compatriot Twin Shadow and once again echoes the sounds of a certain Manchester dance band, while Eisold tells a dark tale of alienation and detachment driven by the hook of ‘You look so good on the outside/I feel so good on the outside’. The airy, shimmering melancholic pop of Catacombs sees Eisold lamenting his mortality – ‘The procession’s ahead/The horde is behind/The future is fleeting/I’m out of time’ – and referencing real life experiences of despondence in New York – ‘The midnight city walks on wretched blocks/Sick on humiliation’, ‘You said that one day you’d come back for me/That is the only reason why/I’m still a part of this dreadful scenery’. The moody, tense build-up of Underworld USA explodes in a chorus complete with squealing guitar-emulating synths and religious allusions in the form of the infectious sing-along hook of ‘I’ll carry your cross now baby/It’s a blasphemous world today/We are the tender missionary/From the Underworld USA’.

The epic Icons Of Summer wears its Krautrock and Euro dance influences on its sleeve and slowly unfolds into a monster chorus resplendent with electronic blips, arcade game keyboard lines and static noise beneath bell-like synths and another killer hook from Eisold – ‘I don’t wanna die/Until a little light inside is found/Every time I lift my eyes/The sun is going down’. The post-punk of Alchemy and You showcases bombastic brass stabs and a contribution from Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, constantly building up and breaking down throughout and featuring a Eisold’s trademark existential musings – ‘There’s no hope above me in the broken promised land’. The track moves along with a confident swagger, driven by a propulsive bassline and garage rock beat.

Burning Sage is an ominous slow-builder that explodes into life at the 2 minute mark, transforming from a simmering, spiky keyboard bassline into a sweeping synth soundscape with immense crashing drums. Static fuzz and low bitrate digital crunch are used to excellent effect as the track exudes a haunting industrial, almost production line feel, evoking post-apocalyptic mental images of mechanisation and automation. Closer Villains of the Moon rounds things out with another expression of resignation from Eisold, who sings something of a duet during the chorus with band member Jennifer Clavin, which becomes a poignant moment of romance and despair as the pair coo ‘Angel, I do not know how long we’ll last/We have barely just made it through the past’.

With Cherish The Light Years, Cold Cave have clearly set out to make a brilliant record and their bold ambitions have been backed up with a resounding success. In equal parts flamboyant and introspective, Cherish The Light Years combines everything that was great about 80s electro pop and new wave and yet sounds unmistakably forward thinking and progressive.

This is no slavish Gothic affectation – everything here is inimitably authentic, rich with a sense of melodrama and emotional depth, and the lush soundscapes, shimmering production and dark, theatrical vocals of Eisold set it apart from other records of its ilk. Feelings of desperation, lament and existential resignation permeate the record with Eisold tapping into a vast emotional palette, and the stylistic variety is just as diverse – references to industrial metal, Krautrock, chillwave, 8-bit, shoegaze, rave and post-punk are all here.

Cold Cave cannot be pigeonholed as darkwave revivalists, but Cherish The Light Years can comfortably be labelled one of the best releases of 2011 so far, a high compliment in a year which has seen its fair share of brilliance. It is one of those records that takes hold of you and never lets go, allowing one to immerse themselves deeply and take a thrilling and captivating journey with every listen; a rare quality indeed.