“Flat Earth” and “Prism,” the first two singles from Mother, San Francisco post-punk band Cold Beat’s DFA Records debut and fourth album overall, set a pretty high standard for the album to follow. Without growing too smoky or clustered, they radiate a kind of dream pop comparable to the Cocteau Twins. Written while drummer and vocalist Hannah Lew was pregnant, the album contemplates that world we live in and the ideas that come with bringing a new person into it.
“Prism,” the album’s second track, gets the beat going. It’s easy to imagine a visual accompaniment with shots of a car turning corners about the Big Sur highway as well as flashes of the guitarist strumming on his strings. There is a nice electronic tone as well that layers with Lew’s chilly vocal delivery. The single captures a fascinating return to ’80s/early ’90s pop—think Eurythmics or Depeche Mode. The retro vibe is an acquired taste, but it really works well.
Many of the tracks like “Paper” or “Smoke” have a muffled lyric effect, which is not unusual for this style of music. At times, it gets annoying because I lyrics are paramount to the notated music itself, but then again, I also like the echoing effect that this provides. I found these two tracks paired well with “Pearls” and “Gloves,” which find the band incorporating aspects of techno. The application of putting a “technologized” spin on the process of music making (as the industry is sometimes compared to a factory rather than the slower organic workings of real human artists) is made creative and poignant with the heavier electronic noises. It provides a solid contrast and steps away from airier instrumental-based sounds by brandishing a harder edge.
The title track returns to what “Prism” started with its harder beat and bass drive. The spacey vibe returns, as is the lack of lyrical clarity. And Cold Beat make the most of relatively brief song lengths. “Mother” is only 2:34 and gives the listener enough of a potent fix without wearing out its welcome. The final track, “Flat Earth” is a gentle lullaby with smooth instrumentation. There’s a tenderness and thought given to the composition, little riffs of chiming sounds adding interesting texture to the repetitive beat and lyrics. Though repetition can have its limitations, the song once again seems to wrap up well before it’s become overdone. If anything, I wanted “Flat Earth” to continue.
Cold Beat’s Mother is a gripping, replayable set of songs. Songs like “Crimes” and “Prism” and “Flat Earth” mix slightly different tempos and arrangements, adding up to an album big on surprises without losing its cohesion. The meshing of pop, techno and new age is nicely handled and gives each composition its own space.
Born in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Konstantin Nicholas Rega currently attends East Anglia's famous MA in Creative Writing with the Ink, Sweat and Tears Scholarship. He is a professional musician, the former host/producer of Jazz Jams on CSRfm 97.4, and twice a Dan Veach Prize for Younger Poets finalist. He is the Fiction Editor for Crack the Spine and a contributor to The Black Lion Journal. He also blogs.