Cold Pumas – Persistent Malaise

Released – 05/11/2012 (Faux Discx, Gringo Records & Italian Beach Babes)
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Cold Pumas - Persisten MalaiseBrighton-based Cold Pumas have been around for a while and have recently released their debut long-player, ‘Persistent Malaise’. Their sound is rooted in dirty guitars, looped riffs, inaudible vocals, and all of it aching with cool. It’s difficult to listen to this record without making some very big comparisons with the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain and just about any of the bands associated with the early ‘90s Shoegazing scene. There are many similarities to be made, but Cold Pumas have managed to create a sound all of their own. In keeping with the bands who clearly inspired them, they take themselves very seriously, and they personify the type of lazy cool you don’t often find these days.

First up, ‘A Versatile Gift’ grinds into action with steady-paced loop of guitar fuzz with vocal mutterings that will shape the rest of the record. It’s stark, stripped-down stuff, which only just affords a key change when it really needs one. Building to a livelier crescendo you can hear Cold Pumas have more in the bag than meets the eye. A lot of their tracks are about building from seemingly random sounds into something more epic. It’s compulsive listening.

Single release ‘Fog Cutter’ is hypnotic from the beginning. Its introduction pulses relentlessly while an (eventual) guitar riff cuts in and slays the listener. Vocals are muffled and lyrics are completely lost behind the drums and guitar fuzz. It’s a track you will want to hear at full volume and get lost in over and over again. Cold Pumas have a knack of generating a wall of sound from some very simple beginnings. It’s a skill that not many bands live to perfect. They’re noisy, but none it is misdirected. All of the buzz and hum eventually forms part of a much bigger idea. It’s all about the build, and payoff is always worth the wait.

This isn’t an album to be listened to casually. It demands attention from beginning to end, and most of the tracks weigh in at a seriously packed five or so minutes. You can see how a lot of these tunes stemmed from jamming sessions, and I like how they’ve kept that same aesthetic for the album. None of their song structures feel clipped or produced to sound more commercial. It’s raw sounding, and the production is very light touch. I imagine they would destroy a venue by playing these tracks as loud as they sound on the record.

Instrumental ‘Variety Light’ taps its way in without any clear direction. A drum track teases out the beginnings of a guitar riff before the bass line brings in some structure – feeling very cautious and ad-hoc. After a key change and some more hypnotic repetition, the track slowly winds up into a much faster beast. It’s this kind of creative development that consumes the listener, as you can hear ideas come and go with only the strongest making it through to the end.

‘The Modernist Crown’ probably owes as much to bands like Lush, Ride, Pale Saints and My Bloody Valentine as much as it does to Cold Pumas own sound. Upbeat in tone, but still with their hypnotic guitar riffs present; the guitar fuzz is much dirtier here. It’s a more mature track, one that could almost approach something vaguely commercial, which is saying a lot for this band. It’s clear that Cold Pumas play for themselves, and they’re all the better for it.

‘Puce Moment’ brims with rockabilly tempo and relentless drumming where the vocals are clearer. But by this point, you’ll be so wrapped up in the music, I guarantee you won’t even try to listen to them. As Pixies frontman, Black Francis, described his own music, ‘the lyrics are completely secondary to the music’. They don’t make sense. You can’t really hear them, and who cares what they’re saying. It just sounds very cool, and that’s all that matters.

The final track on the record is ‘Vanishing Point’ which sounds like it was recorded in a cathedral, with airy tones, scratchy guitars and insanely loud reverb. It’s epic in scale and wraps things up very nicely for ‘Persistent Malaise’.

This is a record which will surprise many people. At a time when of a lot of bands are putting out records aimed at commercial success and press acclaim, Cold Pumas clearly don’t care about any of those things. They know how good they are. As with the initial comparison with The Jesus and Mary Chain, their music reeks of the same self-assurance the Reid brothers always had of themselves. I’m sure Cold Pumas will develop into one of the most interesting acts in years to come, and I think they’re the kind of musical shake up we need…badly.

Cold Pumas – Persistent Malaise can be purchased directly from Faux Discx

Mike Conyard