After the quirky sweet pluck of You Think It's Like This, But Really It's Like This, hearing Mirah's latest EP is a trip into a different frontier. Literally. The armed cowgirl on the cover, cocking her gun from the back of a galloping horse, clues us in to the runaway sound of the EP's title track, while the blurb inside describes Cold Cold Water as a "hell-for-leather Western tragedy; masked cowgirl tells of lawless heartbreak in her own words. With embellishments of famous open-range rustler Phil Elvirum [the producer]."
The sleeve's allusion to cinema isn't too farfetched "Cold Cold Water" unfolds like an epic tale, and the many "excerpts" from the song that book-end the EP work like a behind-the-scenes peek at how the narrative was constructed. This may seem like a cynical move to plump up the track listing (there are 12 "songs" on the EP), as some of the individual song segments are extremely short Track 11 is 24 seconds of dirgy bass and percussion isolated from "Cold Cold Water"'s body. Track 12 notches up a mere 46 seconds, but it's 46 seconds brimming with diversion and drama furious handclaps, marching-drum fervor, soaring voices and theatrical strains of violin. Most of the "excerpts" do illuminate and highlight the intense stagework of "Cold Cold Water" as a whole.
As for the song itself, it kicks off with a deceptive calm: "I saddled up my pony right/ and rode into the ghostly night," Mirah sings over a lazy strum, before the stampede of percussion and violin swells greets the listener head-on. A morose organ serenade is truncated by the monumental pounding of drums; sweet plucking turns into engine drones, and the mammoth charge of horses is evoked once more through the storming drums and violins. Mirah illustrates her melodramatic tale with gunfire-like handclaps, charged yells, high-stakes violin melancholy, and a percussion section as cutting, intense and well synthesized as a war strategy.
In contrast to the symphonic thunder and intricate tension of "Cold Cold Water," the two other songs (yes, actual songs) on this EP are acoustic numbers with the winsome Mirah hooks the lo-fi hi-melody trademark that was minted so finely on You Think It's Like This, But Really It's Like This. If anything bundles the disparate-sounding set together, it's Mirah's emphatic, gorgeous vocals. The title track, however, is the one that really leaves you besieged. Watch that gunsmoke.