Cold Beat

War Garden (Like Ltd.)

Contact Jacob Daneman about Cold Beat

War Garden, the title of Cold Beat’s new record, is both a reference and a revelation. Although it gets its namesake from the self-sufficiency of World War II civilians to plant and grow their own food, in a more metaphorical sense it sprouted from a sense of connection, during a time where it was physically impossible to do so. The distance caused by the pandemic strengthened the bond between members Hannah Lew, Sean Monaghan, Kyle King, and Luciano Talpini Aita, resulting in an album that’s a remarkable leap from their earlier guitar-forward work. Following multiple albums and EPs, plus collaborations with notable contemporaries and icons such as Los Angeles artist Cooper Saver and Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder, War Garden presents Cold Beat as a fully realized unit. They openly embrace a synthesized landscape with rich harmonies and 80s pop flourishes, all while maintaining a complex emotional depth.

Rather than the sound reflecting the surrounding despair, the music is often suitable for the dance-floor, driven by steady, machine-like rhythms and ethereal vocals. War Garden calls to mind some of the greats: The melodies of Human League, the syncopation of Oppenheimer Analysis, and everything about New Order. Lead single “See You Again” reveals a new confidence and sophistication in the band’s emotional expression. While Lew is the front person, all members all contributed to the songwriting. “See You Again” was written via zoom, like the rest of the album. This particular track was created in the first three months of lockdown and chronicled the feelings that came with the realization that they wouldn’t see each other for an unknown stretch of time. After Lew sat a shiva for a family friend, Monaghan sent another version of the song, and it developed into meditation on the unknown possibility of reconnecting with loved ones in the afterlife. “I had spent many months toiling in the dirt, tending to my War Garden,” says Lew. “Working with the soil is so hopeful, but also morbid. I had to bury some bulbs instead of being able to be present for the burial of a close friend. It became almost fetishistic to bury seeds, like a physical way to be there without actually being able to be there.”

On “Year Without A Shadow,” Lew sings of a crumbling will in the face of hardship. Despite its somber lyrics, the instrumentals swell, cushioning Lew’s floating voice. Album opener “Mandelbrot Fall” is decidedly more hopeful. Lew intones “There’s nothing to explain / I’m trying anyway,” which could act as a group motto, a philosophy that doesn’t turn away from the upheaval of reality but instead a desire to continue at all costs. The song largely has a synth backbone, and as it oscillates, it reflects into sound the urgency to persevere.

The album closes with “New World” the oldest composition of the collection, which set the stage for the creation of War Garden. Much like the rest of the album, its complexities reveal themselves piece by piece—an instrument at a time. While the song deals openly with death, there is a sense of optimism in the final beat build-up and fading choral and keyboard arrangement—a harbinger of much better things to come.