Chicago band Cave, over their six-year history, have earned themselves a reputation as being the torchbearers of the contemporary “Krautrock” sound. Locked progressions and riffs that repeat just long enough to be irritating to hear, or fascinating to immerse into, depending upon the listeners’ proclivity. In many ways it would be too simplistic to make reference to such seminal, and oft cited names such as Can, Faust, Neu and Amon Duul. Reference has also been made to the similarities between their style of playing and bands such as Stereolab. Sadly comparisons such as this can a hindrance in putting contemporary music such as this into context. Far from harking back to a golden era of repletion in music, Cave brings motorik right up to date.
The five tracks that make up “Threace” each clock in at around the nine or ten minute mark, and palpably push the listeners perception of what may be possible with repetition. The compositions themselves are in no way particularly complex or angular in structure in the way that some “post rock” outfits take on the hypnotic. ‘Sweaty Fingers’ for example is laden with a funky groove, which owes as much to early 1970’s Miles Davis and the relentless momentum of “Rite” by Julian Cope, as it does to the German experimental scene. The repeating motifs genuinely get deep inside the listeners psyche, as sparse guitar and bass lines scratch away for four or five minutes. Again, depending upon the listeners’ point of view, this repetition is absurd, or a deeply spiritual experience.
‘Silver Headband’ quickly puts its’ cards on the table and lets the listener know that what you will be hearing here is unadulterated repetition, with no obvious change in dynamic and no significant layering of sound. Here we have music that is trying its hardest to be interesting and different, but music which is giving the listener space to immerse themselves and allowing them permission to indulge. It could be argued that compositions such as ‘Arrows Myth’ and ‘Shiaawka’, with their suggestion of mystical jazz-rock, do benefit from, and become more accessible because of, layers of instrumentation, which bring to mind the mid-1970’s jazz-rock of Frank Zappa on albums such as “The Grand Wazoo”.
There is obviously too much going on in these pieces to refer to them as “minimalism”, but not enough to refer to them as “progressive”, but when you have music that is giving you space to contemplate, who needs labels and genres? The album closer ‘Slow Bern’ introduces a new side to the theme of repetition, that of the cyclical motifs we hear in artists such as Steve Reich. Here we have a piano riff simmering gently under relentless percussion, which is in some way more suggestive of the traditional “Krautrock” influences. The production on “Threace” is dry and clinical, and could be said to deprive the music of a certain soulfulness, but that may be missing the point, as that dryness may be exactly what this form of music requires. Hopefully a new generation of music enthusiasts will hear “Threace” and have the motivation to explore their influences.