CAVE: Release

This collection of the Chicago psych rock band's previously released non-album tracks adds up to more than the usual rarities compilation.
Drag City

The product of a smattering of now legendary German groups in the 1970s, Motorik has in more recent years grown considerably in its influence on a range of indie artists who have used its metronomic rhythms and repetition as a jumping off point or even a modus operandi. CAVE, themselves avid practitioners, went more from the former to the latter between their last two studio albums, taking almost something of a purist tack with their most recent, Threace. Approximating the atmosphere as if they had hopped in a time machine and recorded in the same castle that Can jammed out Tago Mago, Threace‘s level of retro-futurist loyalty was up there with the likes of Dungen’s Ta Det Lungt.

One could even cite certain actions of theirs as being conceived under the conceptual influence. To promote the release of their 2011 album Neverendless, the Chicago (by way of Columbia, Missouri) mostly-instrumental psych rockers took the notion of Motorik to a kind of logical conclusion by playing on the back of a moving vehicle. It wasn’t the first time a rock band had performed on a flatbed truck (the Rolling Stones and U2 have both done it, in front of more video cameras), but it might have been the most apt instance of it. Of course, last year they celebrated the release of Threace playing on a boat going along the Chicago River, so they might just be showing a general love of transportation.

Collecting six years worth of different non-album tracks from 2007 to 2013, Release ties up loose ends for fans who can’t get a hold of all the separate 7″ singles and mix tapes they first came out on. Beyond that, it can also serve as a fine primer for newcomers, capturing the breadth of CAVE’s shifting shapes without the extended lengths the four members occasionally push themselves to. The smoldering — if also somewhat unfortunately named — “Butthash (harshmellow mix)” grooves like a Krautrock drum circle, with tribal gathering hand percussion coaxing a frayed guitar riff into contortions. Drummer Rex McMurry and a chirping organ finally jump in fully armed, but, once the jam feels like it could have half an hour’s gas in the tank, the whole thing comes to an abrupt halt with what sounds like the recording itself tape being stopped and rewound faster and faster, spinning off into infinity — a kind of admission that things could indeed have carried on indefinitely.

“Bobby’s Hash” follows so seamlessly that if not for the aforementioned tape sound the transition would be practically unnoticeable. Sounding like Neu!’s “E-Musik” hopped up on PEDs, guest star and fellow Chicagoan Bobby Conn injects his namesake song with an otherworldly howl before a live wire guitar solo fries the back half to a crisp. The sense of continuity persists when “JIM” echoes the start of “Bobby’s Hash” by breaking in with a rapid-fire drum roll, after which the song wrings everything it can out of one thrashed, jangling guitar chord.

One thing that Release reflects in its track sequence and captures especially well overall is CAVE’s mastery of momentum. Witness the build up of tension on side A that bursts forth from the psychedelic buzzsaw guitars of Jeremy Freeze and Cooper Crain in “Boneyard”, the album’s thrashing axis. True to its name, Release doesn’t share much of the same sense of restraint that marked Threace. No surprise there, of course, as most of these tracks pre-date the material on that album. However, after the panicking, drone-on-bad-speed blur of “The Ride”, the remainder of the flip side is relatively mellower – notably the two most recent cuts here, “Party Legs” and “Thai I Am” (which came out on 7″ in Spain on the Giradiscos label). “Party Legs”, especially, gives bassist Dan Browning room to breathe a little funk into the frantic energy while the organ and keyboard tangle over the lead. It is a direction that CAVE would do well to keep venturing down as they see fit.

RATING 7 / 10