Release Date: Aug 19, 2016
Record label: Gringo Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In the four years between Persistent Malaise and The Hanging Valley, Cold Pumas had several members move to London and added bassist Lindsay Corstorphine. They also seem to have figured out the important things about their music. At times, their bracing mix of post-punk guitars, Motorik beats, and shoegaze atmosphere on Persistent Malaise was a little too blurry and blase; there is a fine line between transcendent repetition and merely being repetitive, and they didn't always land on the right side of it.
Whereas more straightforward subgenres of rock challenge their listeners (and sometimes compete with each other) with 'heaviness', Cold Pumas opt for the shoegazey version of intensity on and challenge their listeners instead with dissonance, duration and repetition, stretching out musical ideas and letting them lead into more ideas, and into more from those. On their new release The Hanging Valley it works really well, creating an intense yet surprisingly accessible album. The harmonies they create using suspension and dissonance are often beautiful, from the sus 2s and major 7s of ‘Slippery Slopes’ to the minor 7s of ‘Open Mouth of Dusk’ to the dominant 7 sus 4s etc of ‘A Human Pattern’.
Cold Pumas’ debut full-length, ‘Persistent Malaise’, arrived in 2012, and pointed to a lot of obvious touchpoints; claustrophobic post-punk was very much the name of the game, with the likes of Joy Division and Can clear influences. Bursts of melody, from both the vocals and the guitars, would occasionally fracture the the thick, doomy atmosphere, although perhaps not often enough. They return now with a second effort, ‘The Hanging Valley’, having expanded the lineup to a four-piece and swapped Brighton for London.
Ah, yes – indie pop. Swirling guitars, motorcycle bass, twee (in places) but also beholden to liveliness (and therefore life-affirming), zipping along beneath floppy fringes and a fuzzy take upon melodic intent. And should that sound formulaic, well yes; it can be, at least without that extra unquantifiable ingredient – ingredient X, let’s call it – to provide the intrigue.
Adding an additional member is a common move when bands want to change things up, but fans will be pleased to hear that recuiting a new a guitarist hasn’t resulted in a massive shift in sound on Cold Pumas’ second album The Hanging Valley. Four years after the release of their debut Persistent Malaise, the 'Pumas still straddle a tightrope between post-punk creativity and reliable, Motorik-led grooves. There’s been no grand evolution in sound, but instead a fine tuning of their lo-fi hugging bursts of controlled noise.