Review: Cold Electric Fire – The Mule (No Rent, Sep 1)

After an agonizingly long hiatus from new releases—by their standards that is; for a prolific label with near-inhuman efficiency, that put out over 30 tapes in 2018, nearly 40 in 2019, and 17 just in the first four month of this year, five months is an agonizingly long time—the beloved No Rent Records is starting over from catalog number one with a reimagined logo. And what better pair of artists to start things off than Darksmith, who’s never released anything on No Rent and makes for a captivating aesthetic collision, and Cold Electric Fire, whose long-forgotten work was revived in 2018 by the reverently crafted The Alchemist discography double cassette. The Mule is Gary Tedder’s first recorded work since 2002’s In Nights Dream We Are Ghosts, and falls somewhere further along the more abstract, processed trajectory hinted at by the last three tracks on The Alchemist, yet retains everything on that album’s slightly alien but no less comforting warmth. Cold Electric Fire has always been about detail and layers—his work is often, if not all produced by meticulously tracking hundreds and even thousands of separate elements to conjure shifting, lush, kaleidoscopic phantasmagorias of fluid sound—but there seems to be more versatility here, from the dense spacial concrète of “Ferrier” to the seismic, subterranean siren songs of the title track. The Mule, especially at those aforementioned times, can be cold, removed and abstract even, but beauty is never far away from drifting in and hovering naturally like it’s always been there. Tedder conceivably could have made this album at any time, but I like to think of it as a product of the conditions in which we find ourselves now; there’s a peculiar loneliness to this music, not at all unwelcome or discomfiting, but instead the solitary, knowing solace of knowing you’re both alone and not alone.

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