It’s always cold somewhere, so this shivering release may need to move away from the equator to find a home. Tropic of Coldness is an American/Italian duo living in Brussels, so a sense of dislocation is already apparent. The association of commuting with coldness adds to the EP’s bleak allure. Commuting is the sound of things happening slowly, yearning for warmer days, more colorful environments, surroundings determined by will rather than by assignment. While listening, one has the sense of being trapped by circumstance, riding the rail cars day after day, dreaming of change and revival. There’s just enough hope present to keep one going, but not enough to intimate that relief will come any time soon: light flickering in the eyes, neither shining nor snuffed. This is the very nature of coldness – to freeze, to place in stasis, outcome indeterminate. The thaw may bring reawakening, or the ice may retreat to expose bodies preserved at the time of death.
Tropic of Coldness is extremely effective in transcribing mood. The duo leans toward the dark ambient of Cold Spring Records, but doesn’t quite topple over. While synths and guitar loops form the basis of the recordings, the other sounds lend a frozen texture: hangers and boilers, sliding and knocking, echoed percussion, and the ever-present rail: here again, back again, one more day. Commuting is a lonely set of songs that looks for catharsis, but never finds any. It’s a reminder that even as much of the world turns to spring, some places and hearts are stuck in winter. And if the world leaves them behind, will they ever find their way to the light? (Richard Allen)