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Album Review: Cold Air by Drowse

Portland shoegaze / post-punk / ambient act Drowse release their second album Cold Air on 9th March via The Flenser. This is the result of a severe mental breakdown, Kyle Bates (Drowse’s only full-time member) was prescribed a plethora of antipsychotic drugs to subdue his paranoia and suicidal ideation. Several unmedicated years later Bates’ anxiety began to resurface, and he turned to Klonopin and alcohol to blanket the intrusive thoughts, during this time Cold Air was written.

While 2014’s EP Songs To Sleep On focused on life on medication and 2015’s debut album Soon Asleep shifted focus to a near suicide attempt, Cold Air takes on big picture ideas within intimate, often shame-ridden experiences: a nose broken while blackout drunk, a seizure followed by feverish hallucinations, a father’s stroke, the death of a close friend.

Like previous output this is a deeply personal experience. A journey into the intimate and introspective. It’s a moving and cathartic listen, 44 minutes of living somebody else’s life. It’s a listen that doesn’t always sit comfortably. While Bates himself is a secular person, his lyrics were influenced by the religious writings of Anne Carson and Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose ruminations on death correlated with his own and are every bit as dark and troubling as you’d expect.

It’s not the lyrics that carry the most weight though. The music embodies the turmoil, doubt and darkness of Bates’ life, it strikes an emotional chord with more strength than lyrics ever could, the pain and anguish reverberate through every note of each of the 12 tracks.

The uncomfortableness comes solely from the sense that you feel as if you are encroaching on Bates’ experiences. That uncomfortableness shows the strength of Cold Air and how it symbolises the pain and darkness. The fact that it’s more traditionally post-punk and shoegaze-esque than Soon Asleep lends the album more a personal sound, the synths play a lesser part with a guitar sound marking the fanatical self-exploration.

This might just be the most moving and personal album you hear in 2018. Powerful stuff.

AD Rating 8/10

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