You & Me & Infinity by Cold CaveRelease date: April 30, 2018
It’s a strange irony that art which attempts to outline the future often becomes the most dated, most quickly. This is true of few musical styles more than synth-pop; a genre that, with the prescient appearance of “The Heaven Seventeen” in A Clockwork Orange (almost two decades before a duo from Sheffield would take the name for themselves), arguably preceded the music it described and then moved swiftly from forward looking, to introspection, to a strange kind of looping looking-back.
Wesley Eisold, in his guise as Cold Cave, has been exploring the various angles of this Penrose triangle for over ten years now, sometimes noisy and sometimes more melodic but always under the banner of what can still quite happily be described as synth-pop. You & Me & Infinity is very much at the melodic end, albeit suffused with the suitably glacial melodies more often associated with the dry-ice and white strobes of the most austere goth clubs.
The EP’s title track, the first of four, is a stentorian blast of minimal synth lines and arpeggiated basslines, with Eisold’s richly drawling voice flowing out of the speakers like Andrew Eldritch doing his best Elvis impression. All the synth-pop motifs (some might say cliches) are here; a rousing chorus, single note break-down and coldly disinterested female vocals that take us to the song’s conclusion. It’s perfectly executed but, equally, it is every song at every cyber-goth night ever. It could have been released at any point in the past decade and not feel out of place.
It’s no real surprise that music like this keeps being created, ‘machined’ might be a more accurate term, by the deeply hauntological genre of synth-pop. It embodies a kind of nostalgia that’s becoming increasingly popular; not just a longing for the past but for the utopian futures that past promised us. Remember the brief period when synth-pop morphed into future-pop, all Neo-Deco skyscrapers and atomic airships? That was the vanguard, VNV Nation at its head, of this all-pervading suspicion that somewhere, somewhen we were cheated out of a better tomorrow.
Turbulent times always look to the past, either as a golden time in itself or as a point of divergence where things could’ve been better “if only…”, but in synth-pop this wallowing has become almost obsessive.
Even the EP’s stand out track, the very wonderfully forlorn ‘Glory’, is an archetype of this obsession. Not only was it released under its own auspices as a single in 2017, making its inclusion in this EP a too-rapid form of retrospection, it is also even more New Order than New Order ever were. If Gillian Gilbert’s ears aren’t burning at the sound of these drawn out, choral synths and the bouncing, ‘True Faith’ bass then it’s because she’s too busy looking up copyright lawyers.
This sounds like a negative review. It’s not. I really like this EP a lot for both the music in itself and the memories it makes me think of; a cold dawn rising over Manchester, night-time bus rides through unwelcoming suburbs and the glow of neon through rain.
I also think that, crucially, Eisold is hugely aware of his music’s place in time and space. Cold Cave are a purified distillation of synth-pop, not a mere pastiche. He specifically evokes the idea of a better future that we have no way of attaining to add the kintsugi crack of emotion that creates beauty in an otherwise sterile genre.
“There’s another world and it’s waiting for us / I’ve waited so long for so much more.”