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Cave - Neverendless

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Artist: Cave

Album: Neverendless

Label: Drag City

Review date: Sep. 20, 2011

Chicago’s Cave works the thin line between inertia and epiphany. Its four members lock in on brief, unvarying themes until they drill through the crust of tedium into an ecstatic understrata.

Not for nothing is their third full-length called Neverendless. Cave’s songs, if you can call them that, stutter and pulse across the same rhythmic and tonal measures for seven, 10, even 14 minutes at a time. There are brief flares of rock aggression (an onslaught of guitars in the midst of “This Is the Best” sounds like Thin Lizzy dropping in for a couple of chords between smoke breaks) and wavering glimpses of psychedelic tunefulness (the florid bursts of keyboard “Adam Roberts”). Yet for the most part, Cave follows an austere, relentless path through minimally adorned, minimally varying landscapes.

There’s more than a shadow of Neu! hanging over opening salvo “WUJ” in the steady percolation of rhythm, the clipped, diffident lyricism of guitars, the abstract way that melody is subsumed by machine-like forward motion. Drummer Rex McMurry’s cadence has the same dry, snare-accented intensity that Dinger enforced on “Fur Immer,” though guitarist Cooper Crain is less a melodic counterpoint, more a source of additional rhythmic tension, than Rother was. Additional instruments, a pulsing organ motif (keyboardist Rotten Milk), a bumping undertone of bass (Dan Browning), accentuate the track’s restlessness. A blare of guitar sound breaks the tension, briefly, but there is no real space for rest or contemplation. Neu! was able, sometimes, to implant a stillness into the center of its most frantic rants. Cave is either in motion or at rest, but never both at once.

Cave is primarily an instrumental band, but its members use their voices as an additional rhythmic element. “This is the Best,” the 14-minute center to this album, doesn’t really crest until about halfway through, when a series of shouts punctuates the track’s relentless assault. The shouts are barely discernible above the din of guitar and drums, but they transform the cut from a restless, twitching, pushing effort into a result. “We’re here,” they seem to say (though the shouts are wordless, really), “we’ve arrived at the top of the mountain.” Later, voices trace out the title phase of “On the Rise,” giving the cut a warmth that is missing from the rest of the album.

As the album goes on, you begin to feel that Cave’s music is a process, a bit of hard, repetitive work that must be performed diligently, with focus and commitment, in order to reach some sort of spiritual resolution. Similarly, listening is an effort, one that requires following each reiterated riff and motif into the next and waiting for that transformative moment when stasis turns into alternative states of knowing. Cave never quite summons the lyrical beauty that Neu! was capable of, nor do they rock with the blithering, obliterating tension that Oneida brings to its hardest bangers, but once or twice during Neverendless, they do turn locomotive precision into something transformative.

By Jennifer Kelly

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