Cold Cave – ‘The Great Pan is Dead’
Cold Cave’s new album, Cherish the Light Years, is pretty different to what’s come before.
Gone – mostly, at least – are the static-soaked ghosts of first Cold Cave album Cremations, and the minimal synth anthems of breakthrough record Love Comes Close. Cherish the Light Years was recorded in a studio with a healthy dose of session musicians and production by Chris Coady, and it sounds like it. It’s Cold Cave’s first ‘big’ album, but it’s still a Cold Cave album, and under the surface are the same themes of sordidness and romantic desolation.
We caught up with bandleader Wes Eisold to talk about what inspired the new album, sculpting ugliness into something beautiful, and why he doesn’t feel the need to hide behind minimal music anymore.
It probably goes without saying that the gulf between Love Comes Close and Cherish the Light Years, musically, is pretty big. Bigger than that between Cremations and Love Comes Close, I’d argue. Are you worried, or at least self-conscious about that at all? There are guitar solos, trumpets – I don’t think many people saw that coming.
“I didn’t want to repeat myself with similar songs to the old ones. To me it’s an album of honesty as are the releases before but this time with confidence. In many ways it’s the record I’ve always wanted to make and I am satisfied with it, for now. So there isn’t anything to be worried about. I feel allegiance with those who have followed me and supported me, and I also know that the aesthetic and vision that Cold Cave represents is not for everybody. Growing up I loved the random song on an album that had horns or something I didn’t expect… maybe some aspect I didn’t even necessarily like at first listen. The lineage and change may not make sense to everyone but to me it’s all related and makes sense. Now I couldn’t imagine the songs without the solos or horns or strings.”
Was it always your intention for this album to be a lot bigger, in that sense, or was it just how the songs you were writing started to shape out?
“It was the intention. I was able to record in a studio with Cold Cave for the first time. Before it was all done via computer or at home. It was important to take advantage of the means because I was feeling burnt out by the sounds in the modern climate of records being released, by my own and others. I also don’t think most of these songs would work any other way.”
The press release says the lyrics to the record are inspired by night time walks after you moved to New York. Can you elaborate on that? Any particular specifics that keep popping up?
“That’s true but I don’t mean to glorify NYC or anything like that. It is a wonderful place for walking alone and I would do that with the demos of the songs. I think really it was about reflecting over the years and headphones and walking in NYC just happened to be my method this year. I enjoy being here mostly but maybe only because I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. In the past I often ended up living in cities where a lot of people had been living their for their entire lives, they had foundation and friends and history and I always felt a bit like I was trying to infiltrate a cast that didn’t really need another role so much.”
How long ago did you move to New York, and was the whole album written there?
“About two years I guess. It was written here, except ‘The Great Pan is Dead’ was started in Philly. It was the first song I wrote after the group of songs that make up Love Comes Close. I’m settled here enough for now, but I end up traveling a lot so it can still feel like a place to crash. I grew up moving pretty often, different schools and towns and people and drastically different environments. Touring can relieve some of the anxious feelings I get when I’m in one place for too long.”
You’ve talked about a seedy underbelly to the album. Love Comes Close was pretty seedy, but the music seemed to compliment that – is the plan with this one to create a gulf between the music and the content?
“I think Cherish is just an extension of that, a new found confidence. I really hid behind the minimal music on the earlier releases. When I started to sing I was nervous and unsure of myself. I didn’t want that to represent me forever, though it was right to do so then. It was meek but honest at least. To me success in creation is void of the outside world. Of course I want people to feel me as I hope to feel them, but ultimately If I can shape all of the ugliness I feel into something beautiful then I am content for a while.”
There’s a lot more musicians on this record than the last one, so I wanted to ask about the specifics of how the album’s music was written. Is it all written by the three of you that seem to be at the core of the operation, or just you, group sessions, or what? I guess to an extent what I’m asking is what does your role as bandleader exactly entail?
“Well I write all of the songs, except when I work with a friend, like Sean Martin. The way the recording usually goes is either I do everything myself or do as much as I can do and then ask for help from friends or friends of friends. It has been a little confusing publicly in the past, who does what, what is Cold Cave, is it a band or a person etc… This is my fault because I was uncertain of myself, my music, being negatively judged or not taken seriously as a musician because of the background I come from. I was very protective and shielding of the idea of Cold Cave. By not putting myself on the covers really, or giving any credits in the albums, or by not singing or by manipulating my voice, I had hoped to have the music listened to with less pretenses. Now I don’t care. I feel ownership and I’m proud of the material.
“I am by no means trying to compare what I do to what Eno would do earlier in his career, but I do relate to his idea of being a conceptualist in that he knew what he heard in his head, and knew who to work with to make the songs and ideas come to life. This resonates with me as someone who is physically incapable of creating the full pieces I want to make. In the sessions for this album, my saving graces were Daryl Palumbo, Sean Martin and Chris Coady, who I feel and felt comfortable enough with as people and friends to work out and explain what I was hoping for. And Dom and Jennifer are my live collaborators and foundation.”
Likewise, how are you doing the Cherish the Light Years songs live?
“Cold Cave will be a five piece live for now. We won’t be bringing a brass or string section, however.”
There’s been a steady ascent through the three Cold Cave albums to date, in terms of how grand they are in scale, the range of musicianship, the mood (on the surface at least), everything really. Is that a trajectory you think will continue upwards through future records?
“It’s hard to say but I feel the same as I did when I first started making records and I don’t think that will change soon. I’ve been working on new songs and they just seem like an extension of these, to me anyway. If anything I feel even less engaged to any genre or sound now.”
Is Heartworm still your day to day? How has running that changed since Cold Cave really took off?
“Heartworm still exists but it is hard for me to devote time to other artists and myself at the same time and Cold Cave is what I’m interested in for me now. Max G. Morton is still running it with me and we have some releases in the works for 2011.”