Lost classic but will they make another?
I would be tempted to describe this album as a ‘lost classic’ since it started as a minor independent release by two college roommates in 2003 and has steadily developed a cult following. People will continue to look back to this album while one half of Department of Eagles, Dan Rossen, continues to garner acclaim for his wholly different latterday project Grizzly Bear (who release ghostly, psychedelic folk on Warp). ‘The Cold Nose‘ is one of several guises and monikers for this record which was also released as ‘Whitey on the Moon UK’, the name of the band before they were forced to change it owing to copyright infringement. The various versions of this album are available, though the best must be the imported version on its original US record label, Isota, which includes a handfull of bonus tracks – experimental diversions which are worth having from a completist point of view even if they don’t quite match the strength of the album tracks.
‘The Cold Nose‘ is a strange brew of musical styles ranging from lush, partly vocal electronica, to tripped-out folk, garage rock and hip hop. Initial listens suggest these disparate styles are ill-suited but that is to ignore the overarching abstraction and sonic pallette that melds them together. Even when they are seemingly paying homage to a musical style they have no right to be messing with, the music seems imagined from afar, from some weird shared sense of perspective. There is some extra-terrestrial electronic doodling that is part early Mo Wax, part CLOUDDEAD, but adds little to the album except – perhaps – the sensation of changing stations on a space shuttle radio. However, it’s not just an exercise in genre-hopping goonery; but by turns playful and sonically daring, psychedelic and emotional. Department of Eagles seem to excel at every genre they tackle and still manage to make it seem like a legitimate part of the whole.
‘Sailing by Night’ builds on a melancholic guitar loop and a beautifully crestfallen vocal that recalls a low-key (or less histrionic) Thom Yorke. Set to a scuttling lo-fi drum & bass break, it swells into something subtly grandiose, replete with frenetic orchestral samples. ‘Noam Chomsky’ is fine Warp-style electronica that builds brilliantly around some splices of found vocal. ‘The Piano in the Bathtub’ betrays some of Rossen’s more folksy leanings, displaying the closest affinity to his Grizzly Bear project. Spectral voices hover over a blurry, kaledoscopic swirl of organs, guitar and other sonic ephemera – like an acid sequence from some lost 1960s film.
‘Romo-Goth’ is garagey rock but sounds somehow reprocessed, broadcast back through time and space from some post-rock tradition and distorted in the transmission – both abstract and irresistably catchy. ‘Origin of Love’ is Pavement-esque lo-fi folk, and may be the only time you will have tapped your foot or chanted along to a song about incest, while ‘Forty Dollar Rug’ is a head-nodding rap parody with a role call of crap student furnishings. Both are much better than my descriptions make them sound.
‘The Horse You Ride’ revisits the melancholica of ‘Sailing By Night’ but peaks with an unlikely cacophony of sped-up sub-continental exotica into an outrageous breakdown – a peerless sonic curveball. Finally, ‘Ghost in Summer Clothes’ is a drifting somnabulant closer, the perfect end to a great album. If you like Animal Collective, Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Boards of Canada, Caribou or the Notwist, you will love this. Unmissable.