Founded in 2014 by San Francisco filmmaker, visual artist, and musician Hannah Lew, Cold Beat established its aesthetic in the wake of the Bay Area’s tech boom and combines post-punk and coldwave influences with its founder’s more personal experiences. But in the case of War Garden, it’s about our collective experience with the pandemic, that is, how to maintain hope in the face of imposed separation and isolation.
Despite this dark theme, War Garden is musically dynamic, with catchy melodies and a rhythm that sometimes pulses with melancholy, sometimes with urgency. The band continues to cherish those sounds that are prized by those who will forever be attached to–or have recently discovered–the danceable, synthetic, dark and ethereal sonic legacy of the ’80s. The whole album holds our attention as we move from energetic rhythms and colorful synths to more atmospheric, even shoegaze tracks. A few excerpts: on “Tumescent Decoy”, synth arpeggios overlap and flutter around a confident and groovy rhythm, and the tension builds as the piece spreads out in all its intensity. On the ballad “See You Again”, the country-style twang of the guitars blends surprisingly well with the more pop-like synths. “Year Without a Shadow” with its very coming-of-age aesthetic, could easily appear on the soundtrack of one of John Hughes’ cult movies. Finally, the rhythm is again dynamic on “Part the Sea”, and Lew’s voice continues to be just right, fine and unadorned–in a way, just like the synth sounds that accompany it.
Written and recorded via Zoom, loneliness and uncertainty were as much a part of its conception as vitality and resilience. In fact, those who purchase a vinyl copy of the album will receive a seed card to plant. What’s the point? By caring for the flowers that grow from it and owning a tangible version of the album, Cold Beat hopes to help us stay connected to the physical world in spite of the hyperconnectivity we are forced into.