Cold Pumas’ debut full-length, ‘Persistent Malaise’, arrived in 2012, and pointed to a lot of obvious touchpoints; claustrophobic post-punk was very much the name of the game, with the likes of Joy Division and Can clear influences. Bursts of melody, from both the vocals and the guitars, would occasionally fracture the the thick, doomy atmosphere, although perhaps not often enough.
They return now with a second effort, ‘The Hanging Valley’, having expanded the lineup to a four-piece and swapped Brighton for London. Not that any of that seems to have had a particularly profound effect on their sound; for the most part, we remain in similar territory to ‘Persistent Malaise’. There’s a host of new ideas, but not all of them succeed in reinvigorating the last album’s formula - the breathy, partially-spoken vocals that run through ‘Open Mouth of Dusk’ only really serve as a distraction, while the anxious ‘Severed Estates’ never quite captures the intensity that it shoots for, and you can see ‘A Human Pattern’’s soaring chorus coming a mile off.
Some of the fresh efforts do work; the standout by a mile is the sprawling ‘Fugue States’, which puts an industrial spin on the band’s krautrock influences, whilst the taut ‘The Shaping of the Dream’ is an exercise in tension. Cold Pumas peddle a kind of post-punk that’s long since been done to death by this point; it takes real ingenuity to find a way to imbue this particular template with genuinely new energy, and on this evidence, they haven’t found that yet.