Hot Thoughts on Cold Earth

Hey guys, D again. Wanted to float some thoughts about Cold Earth, probably my fav track on TH.

First, some structural matters (check my work!):

Drum loop A enters at 0:42 and and continues through the melody’s introduction, repeating for 24 measures i.e. 4 phrases (save for dramatic pauses and sfx–sound of an old telephone being slammed at 1:23). Loop B then enters at 1:24 and repeats for 12 measures/2 phrases ending with a (radio-esque imo) vocal sample (1:42). Loop C then begins its 12-measure run, and at the midway point we hear that weird sound (1:54) [1]  heralding the introduction of the voices. Then we drop back into loop B (2:07–voice also says “zero” here), which plays again for 12 measures, then we’re with loop A again for 24 measures to the conclusion.

So A-B-C-B-A, roughly. Yet another palindrome.

Thematically this evokes evolution and devolution, perhaps the effect of planetwide communication on human society. The introduction of electric media was a relatively sudden event in human history–voices traveled through air that was empty just a few decades before. In the geological blink of a fly’s eye, everyone could hear everyone else, and good or bad, it was a point of no return for this species.  [2]

To approach it from another angle, the structure of the drum loops and transitions–especially the abrupt, thunderous turnaround at 1:54–also reminds me of the system of historical “ages” (think iron, stone etc) as poetically outlined in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.  [3] Each human age–separate in time, but paradoxically involving the same characters and situations–is punctuated by a great thunder which ushers in the next. Relate that to the shifting drum patterns and unchanging chord progression as you like.

[1] Ever since I read in this interview of the mysterious piece of gear that “cost [the boys] a lot of time and road miles to source” and resulting one-second sample, I’ve suspected the screechy groan at 1:54 is it.

[2] Anyone who hasn’t should check out the very important work of Marshall McLuhan–for more on the advent of radio, check out chapter 30, “Radio: the Tribal Drum,” from his Understanding Media.

[3] For a thorough if offbeat explanation of this, see here (timelinked to the relevant segment, though the whole lecture is a solid intro to the Wake). Ol’ BoCcast Mikey is a known fan of the Wake too, and we’ve discussed how it relates to TH in the past, so keep your ears peeled if pomo lit is your fancy.

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