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Music, Print, Reviews February 3, 2020

Album Review: Cold Reading – ZYT

by Kevin Johnston

Precision has long been one of the favorite descriptors the world uses when talking about the Swiss, and Lucerne, Switzerland-based indie rock quintet Cold Reading certainly don’t break the mold set-forth by the neatly ticking clocks their ancestors meticulously crafted. 

Their newest concept album, a three-part guitar-drum-bass-keys opus called ZYT is literally an homage to the concept of time in its lyrics and musical composition (and the title if you speak Swiss German). But the long-running Swiss ideology Cold Reading also exemplify on ZYT is that of staunch autonomy and independence.

Any concept record is lofty, especially in an era of corporations pushing the release of mere singles. Cold Reading own up to their independence on the release by maximizing multiple shades of the time concept. Each slice of the album’s pie is actually a separate EP: Past Perfect, Present Tense and Future Continuous, clocking in 12 total tracks.

Michael Portmann’s vocal screams on “Mono No Aware” are the dark peak of Past Perfect, the first and most distorted back-in-the-day emo-rock chapter. Sparkling arpeggiated guitar tones (via Christian Limacher and Alain Schurter) shimmer like the inner gears of a Swatch on the wrist of a pumping fist at a Brand New concert.

Drummer Marc Breitenmoser delivers the driving click of the record with the dead-on delivery discerning listeners should expect from such a rich concept, while Arthur Londeix’s bass matches up with the pulse of the album’s beating heart. This look-back chapter ends with “Escape Plan Blueprint / New Domain,” which pours out the driving rain of distorted down-tempo guitars in a deluge of pure emo slog.

Present Tense, the middle third of the record kicks off with a stunning break-beat pattern courtesy of Breitenmoser on “Stay Here Stay Now,” though this section of ZYT is more highlighted by Portmann’s keyboard work and more echoey, wide-set stereo production. Lyrics like “what are we now – what are we waiting for” evoke the desire to move forward, while more hook-like falsetto vocals keep things fresh.

The outset of Future Conscious, the final movement in the collection, blips with even more synthesized soundscape than the previous sections. Nuanced guitar tones and cinematic imagery fill the lush instrumental opener “Oh Sweet Hereafter,” followed by the lyrics “everything I see in front of me will be past one day” on the EP’s title track. 

“Tree Diagram,” the album’s single (accompanied by a gorgeous time-travel, Doppelganger-themed video) is up just as the album’s hour-hand is about to reach twelve. Centered around Portmann’s ethereal and reverberated voice, it’s the most Matthew Caws-like vocal delivery on ZYT – delicately elocuted and vulnerable, like a distant, future re-telling of Nada Surf’s “Inside Of Love.”

Embarking on a tour of Germany, Switzerland and Austria beginning February 7, 2020, the five members of Cold Reading will no doubt recreate ZYT with impeccable accuracy live. The beauty in the album’s complexity proves that the depth of concept, craft and emotion, while honoring history and looking forward is truly what makes them tick.