# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Cold Spells - The Cold Spells

  by Adrian Janes

published: 1 / 3 / 2018

Cold Spells - The Cold Spells
Label: Gare du Nord Records
Format: CD


Folk at heart but with psychedelic hints, the Cold Spells’ first album works a fitful magic.

The debut of East London and Essex-based trio The Cold Spells is a carefully wrought affair, both in terms of the lyrics and the sparse but subtle arrangements that mingle folk roots with psychedelic outcrops. Reportedly it took about four years to make, and perhaps it’s the sense of musical risk aversion that makes it feel somewhat tepid - that, and Tim Ward’s limited and fairly colourless vocal range. This is a pity, because many of the songs have melodies that a stronger singer could make more of, without going to the other extreme of ‘X Factor’ emoting. After the brief, intriguing ‘Introduction’ of looped guitar and harmonium, comes ‘Terry’, the tale of an alienated TV viewer for whom what happens on the screen is more real than his own life, but which ultimately always disappoints (“No news today/But what else could television have to say?”) It’s conveyed in the downbeat manner that largely holds true for the rest of the album, like a listless ‘Arnold Layne’, though arguably it’s quite fitting for this character. What chiefly makes it listenable – and this goes for the album in general – is the interplay of Ward’s guitar and Michael Farmer’s synth and their effective harmonies, qualities that could definitely be given freer rein. Grounded in folk tradition (Shirley Collins and Martin Carthy are among their cited influences), it’s the tracks which subvert that template that are the most interesting and distinctive. ‘The Ghosts of Them What (sic) Didn’t Make it’ swims in reverb and distorted voices floating in and out, and which coupled with an accordion makes the whole thing resemble an underwater shanty. Even more aquatic is ‘Maelstrom’. Yet despite its theme of being lost at sea (in every sense) and resigned to that fate, the blend of slow electronic rhythm, vibes, gentle guitar and melodica achieves a feeling of luxuriant drifting rather than being caught in a storm. It’s one of the most attractive tracks, but this apparent contradiction of lyric and musical setting leaves behind a slightly unsettled wake. All the tracks are linked by strange, evocative soundscapes, which tantalisingly hint at a bolder Cold Spells. In a different way so does ‘Thomswood Hill’, where for once Ward stretches out with some intricate acoustic guitar and towards the end Farmer adds an edgy, reverbed keyboard phrase. Yet this same song remains broadly folk in style, and tracks like ‘Same Old, Same Old’ and the tedious ‘Twinkletoes’ even more so. So in the end I may be wishing for the Cold Spells to expand in directions they don’t themselves desire. As it is, they do go far enough to satisfy the folk fan with a yen for something a bit different, who should warm to this album.

Track Listing:-
1 Introduction
2 Terry
3 Wooden Horse
4 Roll Me Over
5 The Ghosts of Them What Didn't Make It
6 Thomswood Hill
7 Twinkletoes
8 Same Old, Same Old
9 Maelstrom

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