Posts Tagged ‘math rock’

Cave – Allways

Posted: 5 December 2018 in Albums
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Drag City

Christopher Nosnibor

Allways represents an evolution for Chicago-based psychedelic droners Cave. Perhaps not an evolution in spelling, having delivered an album I can’t help but squirm at whenever I see its title, but that’s not the point when assessing its artistic merits. But nevertheless, Allways is very much a different work from its predecessor, Threace

As the press blurb explains, ‘during the making of the last album, Threace, CAVE was in the process of becoming a quintet. They toured the world afterwards, playing on four continents and eighteen countries – as close to everywhere as they could get. Then they took a minute. They recorded it over time, in Chile and then Chicago. You can hear all of this, the energy of liveness, the reps, and consolidating expanded possibilities within their new alignment, the time away, the distance, and the freshness of returning to recorded sounds, everywhere on Allways.’

And here I find I’m torn. The skewed angles of the previous efforts – which admittedly always alluded as much to jazz as math-rock – have been sanded down a bit, so while there’s still a heavily psychedelic aspect to the album’s compositions, they’re very much predominantly of the jazz persuasion. And this is where I get twitchy. Sure, the nine-minute ‘Beaux’ pushes the space-ruck groove, but there’s some ultra-anal wah-wah action that’s pitched at precisely the level marked ‘irritation’.

There’s nothing to match the epic build and driving sustained crescendo of ‘Sweaty Fingers’, for example. And while they pitch Allways with the enthusiastic babble that ‘their inspiration comes from everywhere – Miles, psych, beats, exotica, library music, rock, punk, the Germans, the New York guys too, minimalists, the Dead, music from India, everywhere!’ I mostly get a lot of jazz here. And you know how I feel about jazz, man. Or if not, then maybe you ought to dig that while I don’t hate jazz per se, I’m on the top flight of picky when it comes to how I like it.

Allways kinda slips to the wrong side, the muso side. It gets mellow, and it gets introspective – not in the analytical, self-aware sense, but in the looping grooves with funk-tinged licks that nag and gnaw beyond insistence to irritation. ‘The Juan’ starts off promisingly enough, a bit of a prog riffing and a bold, strolling bassline that then meanders into more math-orientated territory, and then… well, some intriguingly expansive passages are marred by just too much jazz vibing that makes it an album that requires a beard to stroke to be eligible to listen to.

AA

Cave – Allways

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Karisma Records – 3rd June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

When an album contains only six tracks, and is housed in over art like this, there’s a certain degree of indication of what one may reasonable expectancy. Memento Collider fulfils some of those expectations, but confounds just as many. For a start, it isn’t a drone / doom / metal album, although it is heavy and it is dark. And the tracks are on the long side.

Sure enough, the album’s ten-minute opener is a tense, dark and expansive affair, built around an interlooping bassline and uncomfortable, – guitars that bounce contra to said bassline to build an uncomfortable dissonance. It’s heavily steeped in the post punk / proto-goth tradition in the vein of acts like The Danse Society circa 1983, the flat yet portentous, nihilistic vocal delivery only accentuating the awkward and uncomfortable atmosphere, a sonic dystopia.

‘Rogue Fossil’ again works a groove centred around looped motifs, a hectic, nagging bas coupled with urgent, stuttering jazz drumming hammers insistently while the guitar clangs and chimes at obtuse angles against its claustrophobic shell. The theatrical enunciation of the lyrics, in particular the hook (i.e. the song title), which accentuates the ‘i’ in ‘fossil’ adds a peculiar, alien slant to the track’s angular discordance.

‘Dripping Into Orbit’ melds together theatrical goth-tinged art rock and hectic, angular math rock to forge a bleak and uncomfortable sonic space. The rolling tempo changes re disorientating, accelerating and decelerating bar by bar in a fashion that evokes the spirit and sound of Shellac.

As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly locked into an inward-facing mesh of difficulty, an aura charting increasing stress and crackling cognitive disorder. The effect is cumulative, but each song brings with it new layers of dis-ease.

Listening to the jarring post-punk of ‘Gravity Seeker’, the track which features the album’s title buried in its lyrics as guitars trip and trail all over a lugubrious and repetitive groove, I find myself being sucked into a vortex of bleakness and begin to wonder just what kind of hell the and members have endured to produce music this unflinchingly bleak. The recording sessions for Memento Collider can hardly have been a laugh a minute. But perhaps it was a lot more fun than the music suggests: it’s a mistake to conflate the art with the artist, and equally, catharsis can often be the means by which mental equilibrium can be maintained. Its’s healthy to channel all of the ark stuff the weird stuff and the negativity into something creative – and this is indeed dark and weird.

The final track, ‘Phantom Oil Slick’ spans a full nine minutes and fills it with jangling guitars which bounce every which way over a bass that surges and swells before it breaks in a tidal frenzy. It’s dark, intense, and borderline psychotic in every aspect. A collision indeed. Strap in and go for it.

 

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