Contemplate, for a moment, the metaphorical significance of caves. A cave can symbolize the womb, a place of warmth and sanctuary. It can also represent the unconscious, a mysterious and unexplored part of the self. So what does it mean if that cave is cold?
For Philadelphia's Cold Cave, the answer is probably a lot. There's no shortage of deep thoughts buried beneath the icy sheen of the band's brooding, minimal synth-pop. Call it the music of existentialist angst on the distorted after-hours dance floor. And chalk up the cerebral heft to frontman Wesley Eisold.
“Do you know the winter ruts we have here?” asks Eisold, formerly of the infamous San Diego hardcore outfit Some Girls. “Everyone gains this horrid weight and drinks indoors and excommunicates themselves from the outside world. I was one of them.”
That was during his early days in Philly, which the still-slender musician described as “emotionally drab” to Fader magazine, just one of the chroniclers of hip to catch on to his band's hooky, lo-fi philoso-pop.
“There isn't much to do in Philadelphia, and I had recently relocated here and realized this. I was bored with myself, really, and the cause of it was just me being unproductive.”
Eisold's early attempts at productivity meant messing around on the synths and mixing board. Those solo efforts yielded a series of limited-edition records and cassettes: Painted Nails on Hospital Productions, The Trees Grew Emotions and Died on Dais and Edsel and Ruby on What's Your Rupture.
Eisold explores a thematic tug-of-war, pitting love, lust, innocence and obsession in a fuzzed-out battle that has flitting moments of balance. But all other notions bow down before the nihilistic despair that's so marked in Cold Cave's music.
And don't go thinking Eisold is looking for some kind of death-chase catharsis.
“I think music can be cathartic for a moment, but no longer,” he explains. “I certainly don't think it deters the reality of death in the day-to-day. You still have to see yourself in the morning getting older. If anything, music is working out the inevitable and is just a way of saying to the world: ‘I think I understand now.' It's like how people are always wanting to ‘soften the blow'—but that doesn't derail it; it just dilutes it. This is a common theme with Cold Cave.”
Today, Eisold is doing his deep, danceable thinking with a cast of collaborators, like Caralee McElory of XiuXiu, who started with Cold Cave in February as a guitarist for live shows and is now a full-time member. She collaborated with Eisold on the band's debut LP, Love Comes Close, which was originally released through Heartworm Press. It quickly sold out and will be reissued in November on indie stalwart Matador.
Heartworm Press is the publishing house Eisold launched to release 'zines, tapes and books and since has expanded to include Boyd Rice, the experimental artist who works under the moniker NON, among others.
“We keep our world insular, but available,” says Eisold. “For example, last week we curated a show in which NON, Prurient and Cold Cave performed, and Genesis, Kid Congo, Chris Leo, Eric Paul, Jonathan Shaw and Jamie Stewart read. Heartworm is a living testament to and celebration of the works of artists that have molded our view of the world—and a way to continue verbalizing that.”
The recent Matador deal was a good fit for Cold Cave, Eisold says, and the upcoming California tour with San Diego's Crocodiles came from a chance encounter with the local buzz band.
“I walked into Astro Burger in L.A. and saw these beautiful rascally boys arguing with Cameron Diaz and Timberlake,” he recalls. “I gave them my number and we stayed in touch.”
It just goes to show: Every time life seems meaningless, the stars align for something reaffirming.Cold Cave plays with Crocodiles, Strange Boys and The Anasazis at Soda Bar on Thursday, Sept. 3. www.myspace.com/coldcave. Would you like your online comment to be considered for publication in our print edition? Include your true full name and neighborhood of residence.