Clearly, Cold Cave is a band that appreciates the value of mystique. Nearly all of their releases—of which there have been many—have been available only as extremely limited vinyl and cassette editions. When they perform, they turn off all of the front lights and crank up the smoke machines, so that they appear as dark silhouettes. They rarely utter even a single word to the audience and spend the bulk of their time on stage hunched over synthesizers.
And yet, there’s something undeniably compelling about their live show. Blame the songs—many of which belie the band’s stone-faced solemnity with some seriously catchy hooks. When the band launched into “Life Magazine” at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Friday night, Caralee McElroy took the microphone in hand and bounced around the stage like a pop singer, inciting many in the audience to do the same. Meanwhile, “Love Comes Close,” the title track from the band’s first full-length, was near perfect in its emulation of late-period Joy Division/early New Order, save for Wes Eisold’s vocals, which were badly off-key for much of the song. Despite such missteps, the crowd was gradually being pulled into Cold Cave’s orbit until, a half-hour into the set, the band abruptly walked offstage and the house lights came up. Eisold has stated in interviews that, as a rule, Cold Cave never plays for longer than half an hour. I suppose that’s one way to preserve an air of mystery: always leave them wanting more.