Sage darkwave teachings sevenfold
Cold Cave is a single musician. Much like how Kevin Parker is better known as Tame Impala, Wesley Eisold goes by a moniker that sounds bigger than a solo project but channels all the powerhouse of a multi-membered group. But where Parker exists in the lighter, cloudier regions of old psychedelia, funk and pop artistry, Eisold is a purveyor in and of the shadows of darkwave.
But Cold Cave’s latest LP, Fate In Seven Lessons, isn’t totally black and depressive. Like Parker, Eisold has an affinity for the dance beat, which undermines the album’s gloomy undertone, making it more victorious-sounding than sullen as if the catharsis of dance lifts itself out of its own darkness. “Night Light” aptly describes this conflicting mood it manufactures. Eisold’s lyrical delivery is as dreary as ever as some morose, palatial synths play between a high-BPM dance drum track and a poppy synth arpeggio. The mood begins to lighten, and there’s a feeling of gathering confidence, which comes out in the proceeding track, “Psalm 23.” It sounds markedly cool—the type of music that envisions a double agent on a resolute mission, outsmarting their target with consummate aplomb. Moreover, the song’s title jogs to the concept behind the album—each of its seven songs proclaims a lesson. Alluding to the bible is a surefire move to summon some potent didactics. The bible verse is one of the more famous, commonly quoted (you know, the one that reads: The lord is my shepherd…). The song seems to teach humility as one of the keys to unlocking the mystery and mastery of your own fate, according to the album’s overarching theme.
The message the fourth song/lesson, “Love Is All,” delivers is pretty unequivocal. In it, Eisold repeats a titular refrain atop a looping synth arpeggio that sounds like helicopter blades varying in speed and proximity. “Happy Birthday Dark Star” intimates a more elusive lesson than the others. It’s not as direct as the previous “Love Is All” or “Psalm 23” but is closer on the semantic field to “Night Light,” seeming to present the underlying idea of an object, its intrinsic significance rather than its base use. Eisold’s cadence is uncannily similar to Robert Smith and even the music is semi-derivative of The Cure in its midlife. It’s more romantic and accepting of inconsolability, lending it a brighter, more dignified reframing of sadness as a sort of voguish, inevitable look to own and wear than a dysfunctional imbalance to be feared.
“Honey Flower” slows down the propulsion of the previous tracks, settling in after adjusting to its environs. A rudimentary guitar plucks out low overdrive-laden notes as a synth offsets with proportionately higher, luminous chords. The last and seventh lesson, “Promised Land,” opens with a catchy classic piano that’s all disjointed, “I get a little too high, I get a little too low. Take my hand to the promise land,” sings Eisold, and Fate In Seven Lessons ends on an ellipsis. Where might be that promise land? Were the lessons hard won for its entry? Who knows. The destined reward was probably nothing but a pipe dream.