Chicago psychedelic rock outfit Cave know their way around a groove. That’s not all they know—the group’s members have put in time in avant garde metal outfit Warhammer 48k and progressive electronic spiritualists Bitchin Bajas—but theirs is a highly infectious, accessible specialty, which isn’t as easily said about those other projects. Cave isn’t pop music, and they’re by no means purveyors of a sound that has broad, mainstream appeal, or even indie-famous appeal, necessarily. But to hear a song like “San’Yago,” the hypnotic Afrobeat-inspired funk-jam standout on the band’s new album Allways, it’s hard to imagine anyone not being able to get lost in its scratchy one-note guitar licks, organ drones and deeply mesmerizing bassline.
Allways follows a similar progression as the band’s previous albums, building up the kind of psychedelic progressions as their krautrock influences in bands such as Neu! and Can, infusing them with the improvisational techniques of jazz fusion and taking a tour through various global reference points. They’ve been called a “jam band” in the past, which has a tendency to evoke some fairly uncool associations; the efforts of Lady Bird and Ryley Walker aside, Dave Matthews Band still isn’t a go-to band for winning anybody cred. But in the sense that Cave swirl together all of these various influences amid loosely bound structures and an ever-expanding musical frontier without much concern for reining themselves in too much, then yes, Cave most certainly jam. Their jams are funky (“The Juan”). Their jams are breezy (“Aharaha”). Their jams are cosmic and strange (“Dusty”).
Over their past handful of records, Cave have reined in some of their wildest tendencies, and more than ever their sound is marked by a tastefully funky restraint. Even on “Dusty,” which offers the promise of a Comets on Fire-style freakout—something they’d likely pull of brilliantly—the group eventually settles into a laid-back funk scratch that’s warmer and progresses slowly into something more raucous. And on the nine-minute standout “Beaux,” the group give themselves the amount of real estate needed to truly allow their grooves to take off into the upper stratosphere. The warmth and spaciousness of Cave’s sound on Allways is refreshing, comfortable, and ultimately an easy-to-like sound. It takes a rare talent to take minimalist song structures, imbue them with a deep sense of funk and carve out that groove until the listener achieves a sort of meditative, transcendent state.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.