A spring thaw seems to have visited the Brussels duo Tropic of Coldness: a break in the cold, allowing the snow to melt and drain away. Not that unrelated causalities is warm; six of its seven tracks are located just above the freezing mark. The surprising seventh, “ce samedi au port”, rests in the direct center of the album and contains the sound of gulls and pleasant conversation. As shadowed strings and moody bass swirl, one can sense the seasons shifting, battling for dominance. The question is not which will win, but which will win here.
Tropic of Coldness’ last release, Commuting, benefitted from a clear concept: the ennui of a daily rail commute. The concept of unrelated causalities is a little harder to grasp; the title implies fate, while the cover may or may not be a stylized sunflower. But these tracks do seem to be related, not only to each other but to the previous work. Traffic noise is again evident, as early as the first track. On this piece, a child yells in loops, implying that what seems like free will may actually be predestination. Slow guitar and strings reverberate in a series of vast sonic spaces. By taming what was meant to be live, Tropic of Coldness creates a sense of foreboding. The title of the second piece, “when routine bites”, implies that little has changed, although the sound – scuttlings and a thick western drawl – implies that it has.
By the end of the album, the duo has ducked back into its cave, as though once again finished with the things of this world. Yet this time, for a few shining moments, they have glimpsed the difference created by direct light. If the duo really believed that “at every step it’s emptiness”, then they’d lack the wink needed to close with the endearing “setting up the P.O. appreciation society”. The flocks that earlier seemed but momentary visitors may soon be returning to the fold. (Richard Allen)