Record Review: Cold Cave – “Life Magazine” US 12

cold cave life magazine cover art

Matador | US | 12″ | 2010 | OLE -941-1

Cold Cave: Life Magazine US – 12″ [2010]

  1.  Life Magazine (The Arthur Baker’s Not Going Back Remix)
  2. Life Magazine (An Optimo (Espacio) Mix)
  3. Life Magazine (Pantha Du Prince First Flash Remix)
  4. Life Magazine (Prurient Remix)

I was an immediate convert to the charms of Cold Cave upon hearing their track “The Great Pan Is Dead” from their 2011 album “Cherish The Light Years.” While that cut thrilled with the electric charge that I’d last heard in 1981 in the music of Glenn Branca, the rest of the album certainly looked to New Order as setting target to hit, and hit it, they did. In many ways, “Cherish The Light Years” was the New Order album I had been waiting 30+ years for. When I saw this Cold Cave 12″ from their previous album, sealed, in 2017, I snapped it up. Especially since I saw that Arthur Baker Himself® had remixed the first version of the A-side. Seeing how Baker had contributed to a fertile period in New Order’s career, how could this be bettered?

The Baker remix of “Life Magazine” began with a stuttering warning claxon of synths and dramatic stabs. That [way over] lasted for 2:30 before resolving into the perky synthpop banger at the heart of this song. It sported a great bass line as good as anything Hook would have come up with but the unnamed female vocalist gave it all a stronger whiff of The Other Two than that New Order itself. The vocal melodies were strong and, uh, hooky, but the over reliance on repetitive tritones made for a remix where less could have been more. As I had not heard an Arthur Baker production in almost 30 years by this point, it was only peripherally related to what I considered the classic Baker electro sound.

The Optimo Mix actually came closer to that expectation in its diverse hybrid of several eras of dance music with tightly sequenced eight’s notes redolent of Baker, but more to the point, Cabaret Voltaire in their mid-80s majesty rubbing shoulder pads with acid bass lines and the wildcard here; the squelchy analog sounding synths ripped straight from late 70s Space Disco. Quite a tasty blend and the best of the mixes here. When the classic New Order synth strings made their appearance it was like coming home. The vocal was nearly doubled with reverb but there was a lot of it here; not the dreaded Repeated Vocal Sample®.

The Pantha Du Prince First Flash Remix also revealed a Cab Volt influence to these ears. Unfortunately, it was the 90s post-Mallinder minimal techno version of the band that I had little time for. The dreaded repeated the dreaded Repeated Vocal Sample® used here was as reductive as possible with about a second of reverb [forward and backward, from the sound of things] and the expansive melody had been forced into a minor key; never a fun thing to listen to… if you’re me. It lasted an interminable 9:12 when a third of that might have been bearable.

Finally, the Prurient remix was incredibly echo laden and remote sounding; as if a club 5 miles away was playing it. Extremely loud. The volume levels to the track were mostly low but the sound was distorted any way. Just another example of this modern horror of brickwall abuse. When the volume levels spiked for the last third of the song then it fully embodied the worst sort of mastering possible in today’s audio horrorshow.

cold cave life magazine brickwall wave form

Yaaaagh! THE worst brickwall mastering I’ve ever seen.

The nightmare in sound above is what the waveform of the Arthur Baker mix looks like in my wave editor. Practically a solid black rectangle. The second mix here was rather good and I think I could make a better edit of the Baker remix than the repetitive overkill we got here, but I would have to fire up the turntable and see what I could extract from the vinyl. The MP3 files given as a download with this disc were among the worst digital files of any kind I’ve ever heard. I suspect that the original 3:02 version on the “Love Comes Close” album may be what I need to hear. Perhaps from vinyl only. Damn it.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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4 Responses to Record Review: Cold Cave – “Life Magazine” US 12

  1. michaellomon says:

    C. T. L.Years was terrific wasn’t it! Main man Wes has somewhat distanced himself from elements of that era, suggesting that some involved parties were hoping to mould cold cave into the next rasmus/bravery mass marketed stadium indie in eyeliner act. While recent releases are fantastic in a more stripped back way, the cherish material really felt like, as you suggest, synth pop version 2.0. Poetic, pummelling and really… ambitious/inspiring in a way lacking in so much 80’s aware releases.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      michaellomon – “Cherish The Light Years” was one of my favorite albums of 2011 and I wanted to see Cold Cave live at the highest level of interest, which thankfully, happened at Moogfest 2012 the next spring! I’ve not heard a note from CC following that though. Probably having everything to do with his leaving Matador for indie land again. And the lack of physical goods certainly played into things as it was buy from Heartworm or nothing, and they are completely vinyl oriented.

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    • Toast says:

      Long time lurker, first time poster…
      Fully agree that CTLYears is an absolute classic of contemporary synth pop, I was lucky enough to see the tour for this album which was a full band including Tonie Joy formerly of Baltimore emo legends Moss Icon on guitar, Dominick Fernow aka Prurient on keyboards and a drummer who played like an absolute machine. I’ve seen CC on several subsequent tours and it’s usually just Wes with his partner Amy and a couple of keyboards, and the bulk of the material they play is still from those two albums from a decade ago. I would recommend picking up the Full Cold Moon compilation from 2014, which came on CD and vinyl, that collects tracks from five 7”s released post CTLYears, the sound typically falls somewhere between the two Matador albums, some tracks are almost Jesus and Mary Chain-esque to my ears.

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      • postpunkmonk says:

        Toast – Welcome to the comments! Yeah, that’s a hard CD to source. The Heartworm store seems to be vinyl only, but I see evidence of “Full Cold Moon” on CD format, but no one is selling it on Discogs.com right now. That doesn’t fill me with confidence. Plenty of LPs out there to buy but I really don’t want that format.

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