Review Summary: If Kid A and Neon Golden had an affair, Cold House would be the accidental offspring.
In that case we’re fortunate the hypothetical parent albums didn’t use a condom, because while overlooked in this particular neck of the interspaces, the Adams brothers’ Cold House
is considered by many critics to be a first-class kid and heir to its father, Radiohead
’s electronic-rock statement, Mr. Kid A
– or at least it was at the time in 2001, anyway. Indeed, in retrospect the album hasn’t had all that much of an impact since its release, and as it stands now, it largely exists as a fairly obscure gem that is most often negated in genre features and best-of lists by big-name publications.
This is okay in a sense, though, as Cold House
resigns and plays itself out to be quite obscure
, dark and delicate, cold and melodic. This marks the first time that Richard and Chris Adams incorporated a hip-hop influence into their music, with a few breakbeats running through the basements of the tracks, and even quick guest appearances coming from rappers Doseone
on tracks “They Removed All Trace That Anything Had Ever Happened Here” and “Branches Bare”. It’s a move that extended the appeal of Hood in 2001, while at the same time kept the core of the Adams brothers’ electronic-does-rock sound intact and working at the center of things.
The theoretical combination of its aforementioned parent albums makes for a good summation of what you will hear on Cold House
– although it bares mentioning that The Notwist
’s Neon Golden
wouldn’t be released until later in 2002. Chris Adams' vocals have an innocent, wispy, and delicate feel about them, not so unlike Yo La Tengo
’s Ira Kaplan in his very own delivery, and work as the ideal commentator's piece for Hood’s decidedly more solemn and chilling mood for the album. “Enemy of Time” is a standout for the vocalist, in which nostalgia-evoking electric-clean guitar arpeggios are used to carry the singer as he suggests a regretful mood, but he ultimately leaves the job to the entering horns, piano, and electronic flourishes to fully bring it about.
This happens often on Cold House
, where Chris Adams in his singing duties takes on the role of an outside player, dropping lines to begin solemn moods that the music then solidifies and makes poignant throughout the course of the tracks, effectively creating a cold
atmosphere for their residence, as well as your own. “The Winter Hit Hard” is the most extreme example of this, where what starts calm over cycling synths and shaking crackle sounds turns slowly tumultuous once Adams enters, breathing, “you can hear the winter approach
”: the instruments then begin to build and crescendo into loud echoing drums and eerie off-placed bells.
The natural and cool flow that has sustained Cold House
up until this point is abruptly lost on the very next track, “I Can't Find My Brittle Youth”. The album’s most poppy song is also its most jarring and conventional in terms of its layout, quickly bringing to mind Hood’s rougher early 90s material. “This Is What We Do to Sell Out(s)” picks up from where the preceding build-up of “Winter” left off, though, re-instilling the album’s cold-house feel for the remaining four tracks. However, it’s not until Cold House
’s final five minutes that you hear the best of what the Adams brothers have to offer you with “You're Worth the Whole World”:
Glitched vocals play over an instrumental fit enough to close off a Four Tet
album – think “Slow Jam” or the recent “She Just Likes to Fight” - whilst mournful strings, a piano, and acoustic guitar arpeggios become an odd but effective vehicle for the spliced duel vocals of the finale. It’s a touching song that represents its title well, all without the use of any conventional singing vocals to directly speak the intimate feeling of the moment into existence. It’s another example of how Cold House
works as an electronic-experimental rock album, creating its own mood mainly by the use of the actual instrumental music, while using the vocals of Chris Adams as just a suggestive tool.
You could easily draw comparisons to Kid A
here, as Thom Yorke and his buddies worked in very much the same way with their colossal 2000 album. But to say that Hood are just copying the innovators is a little unfair. While certainly being weaker in the quality of the music in comparison to Cold House
, the brothers' output of the 90s was experimenting with various electronic and rock combinations long before Radiohead
stepped into the field – or rather, long before Yorke lost his mind. What you have in Hood’s 2001 release is something that was long overdue for the Adams brothers: Cold House
is their definite album, their best work as of now, and its strength of creating a chilling, moving residence in which you may enter and experience makes it well worth digging up and discovering its intricacies for yourself.