Release Date: Oct 15, 2013
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia
Listening to CAVE’s fourth psych-funk odyssey, Threace, is a bit like watching a washing machine stuffed with Day-Glo fabric. The instrumental set is hypnotic in its repetitions, and just as your patience nears its end, you’re rewarded with clean clothes—or in this case a spring-loaded burst of meaty guitars, rock-solid rhythms and even horn-accented Muscle Shoals vibes. Threace systematically rides grooves to their breaking points, until a change just bold enough to make it all worthwhile appears.
Over the course of more than a dozen releases since 2007, Chicago-based four-piece CAVE have established a reputation for repetition, stretching single riffs and rhythms for minutes at a time across extended compositions that, depending on who you ask, approach either tantric levels of instrumental discipline or the static recursion of a turntable’s needle caught in a lock groove. The band’s concordant reputation for revivalism casts their repetitions as present-day manifestations of the German “Krautrock” movement of the late 60s and 70s. CAVE channels the compositions and production strategies of bands like Neu!, Can, and Faust (i.
Chicago-based instrumental expedition unit Cave have never shied away from the collage elements of their sound, often channeling the cut-ups of Krautrock staples like Faust or Can on their sprawled-out, modern psych wanderings. Following a long series of smaller-scale releases and several potent, heavily experimental full-lengths, the five expansive songs that make up Threace lean heavily on pinpoint precision in editing, locked-in group playing, and a sense of restraint, patience, and focus not seen on earlier albums. Lead-off track "Sweaty Fingers" is a testament to all of these factors, with its almost 12-minute running time seeing the band progress from a snaky minimal funk figure into an almost motionless one-note groove.
Chicago psych-rock troupe Cave have always been capable of striking a middle path between free-sailing wah-pedal-fueled abandon and good taste, but the quartet’s third album, Threace, finds them exercising even more restraint than usual. Formed in 2006, Cave has cycled through two cities—relocating to Chicago from Columbia, Missouri—and a number of musicians, but its sound has remained fairly consistent. The quartet draws heavy inspiration from German experimental rock music of the late 60s and early 70s, particularly rhythm-driven outfits like Can and Neu!.
To hear Chicago’s CAVE is to hear a fascinating study in simultaneous control and exploration. Over its discography, the band has slowly but surely wound itself into a tighter and tighter coil, moving from the more open-ended early work, to the taut propulsion of Neverendless and now, on Threace, that tense movement continues to swell with unassuming but no less vital energy. The band, as its moves have gotten subtler (and its overall movement more fluid), is not much for cheap tricks.
Chicago’s CAVE are a shifty group. Back when they were called Warhammer 48k and lived in Columbia, MO, they played noise rock and psych metal. Through cassette releases and wild shows, they garnered a cult following in the Midwest, eventually moving to the big city and trading lo-fi for clean production and jazzier arrangements. The transition did not affect their adventurous creativity, rejuvenating the band who eventually signed to Drag City and became CAVE.
The riff and how to shape it to its will has been the primary obsession of rock since its earliest days. The evolution of riff patterns and their primacy within the evolution of rock music has seen it become the signature sound of popular music for more than a century. That is a burden that can lay heavily upon a band; not so with Chicago group CAVE, who have transformed over a succession of releases into one of the most potent riff-based instrumental outfits of the new millennium.