Audio Mixer: Mark Jasper.
In the four years between Persistent Malaise and The Hanging Valley, Cold Pumas had several members move to London and added bassist Lindsay Corstorphine. They also seem to have figured out the important things about their music. At times, their bracing mix of post-punk guitars, Motorik beats, and shoegaze atmosphere on Persistent Malaise was a little too blurry and blase; there is a fine line between transcendent repetition and merely being repetitive, and they didn't always land on the right side of it. Things come into focus on The Hanging Valley, however: There's more melody, more moods, and more intention -- basically, more of everything that makes a band worthy of listeners' attention. Cold Pumas make their progress known immediately on the album-opener "Slippery Slopes," which gives their debut's exercises in tension and release a joyous sense of purpose. Elsewhere, the band trades Malaise's fusions of Sonic Youth and Can for something approximating a collaboration between Wire and Deerhoof on songs like the insistently melodic "A Human Pattern," one of the album's most winning tracks. More often than not, though, Cold Pumas' aggressive side wins out now that the fog around their music has lifted, most impressively on "Fugue States." Corstorphine elevates songs such as "Open Mouth of Dusk" and "The Slump," adding focus and depth. Some of the album's more delicate tracks still feel a little formless, and there are a lot of other bands mining similar musical territory, but The Hanging Valley's best moments suggest Cold Pumas are just tapping into their potential. ~ Heather Phares