Review of Cold Cave live at The Corner in Manchester.
On record, Cold Cave are a confusing prospect; equal parts early Depeche Mode and New Order, smothered in an often disorientating pulp of Mary Chain-meets-Telepathe noise-electro. It's this difficult mish-mash of influences and sounds that makes them so enticing live - given their already extensive released material (numerous EPs, now collected in Cremations and debut LP Love Comes Close, re-released on Domino this Monday) touch every base from shoegaze and lo-fi to industrial and techno, their stageshow could easily go any which way it pleases.
Stripped of the abrasive layer-upon-layer of reverb and fuzz present on Cremations, the band take on an almost disco edge tonight; the beat-driven likes of mid-set pairing Life Magazine and The Laurels of Erotomania scrap the processed, stifled vocals of their Love Comes Close LP, with the vocal pairing of hardcore/noise stalwart Wes Eisold and ex-Xiu Xiu keyboardist Caralee McElroy far more expressive and, vitally, human than their recorded equivalents; as the pair mull over the chorus of closer Theme From Tomorrowland - 'I don't know where I'm going to / and I don't care if I never ever get there' - the lyrics appear genuinely heartfelt, rather than the inadvertently artificial facade of so many of their contemporaries. Where the electro movement of late has fallen flat on its face for lacking even a whiff of emotion or personality, enveloped in pretence and empty posturing, Cold Cave's often dreamy output - Life Magazine is a Casio-corrupted Luna, for example - is rarely less than thrilling, and certainly rivals Maps and Gang Gang Dance in the trance-indie stakes.
While the early EPs that made up Cremations were coarse, uncompromising blasts of aggression, their most recent effort catches them at their most accessible. Indeed, tonight's set abandons the noise roots of their early calling cards entirely, drawing mostly on the arpeggiated sheen of Love Comes Close, and reshaping the two tracks they do take from the more shoegaze-orientated end of the catalogue into dancey bastardisations of their former selves: I've Seen The Future and Poison Berries lose the soft hums that cloud them, mutating into a strikingly minimal techno. Proof Eisold has finally mellowed, in ditching the punk aesthetic of yore? Crossing the floor, keyboard in hand, could well have been the most move he's made thus far.