Cold Cave – Live

The Deaf Institute, Manchester 10/05/2010

By Lara Williams

Silently ambling around the stage, the carefully choreographed theatrics of their set up builds a tense anticipation. Meditatively laying out their various keyboards, fastidiously arranging synths and thoughtfully plugging in effects pedals – Cold Cave set a sombre mood, taking what feels like hours orchestrating their various electronic instruments. And then… nothing. Departing the stage, the lights dim and we are left wondering whether this ballet of sound checks and synth leads was indeed the show itself. The pause for dramatic effect works in their favour however, as the shrill reverb they enter stage right to serves to set a darkly surreal tone – a tone that is present throughout their set.

Each manning their own sort of musical work bench (with the exception of their drummer) Cold Cave line up like a less parodial Kraftwerk. Every member of Cold Cave is clearly enraptured with their various contributions, moving independently of one another yet completely in time with the music – it is an entrancing image.

Frontman Wesley Eisold’s deadpan, Ian Curtis-esque vocals (a comparison his cropped hair and khaki parka suggest he is not unfond of) and wry delivery fits perfectly within the processed percussion and programmed blips.

The sugary sweet vocals and melodies overlaying the dense, scuzzy electronics of former Mika Miko singer Jennifer Clavin, provide an entrancing contrast. It is during their most danceable moment Clavin shines, cutting through the thick repetition and feedback offering a harmonious, sugary warmth. Cold Cave’s drummer demonstrated machine-like capabilities, with a controlled and meticulous style.

Tracks from last year’s Cremations were moody and intense, brimming with foreboding. Life Magazine, Cold Cave’s most ostensibly poppy song, offered a Disco-y reprieve from the distortion and was certainly a high point.

A hypnotic almost shoegaze overtone to their output divides Cold Cave from bands otherwise comparable to them – Fuck Buttons, Former Ghosts and HEALTH all make similarly fuzz-laden, experimental synth-pop, though none match the dreamy whimsy of Cold Cave.

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