Chicago’s repeato-psych troupe of the decade open Release, a bits-and-pieces collection spanning several years of recording, with about nine minutes of music dedicated to hash that was initially released back in 2008. It’s a decent ideological summation of CAVE.
Next year marks the ensemble’s 10-year anniversary. And while it has purposefully remained as esoteric as possible—not releasing full lengths in any sort of concerted manner, playing sporadically and mostly eschewing vocals—figuring out how to properly pummel any one circular riff into the ground seems to come naturally. Sure, Cooper Crain, the group’s anointed figurehead, has taken time to nurture his Bitchin Bajas project, easily gaining more traction than this rock-oriented endeavor. But the subtlety to CAVE’s work ethic and utter uncaring about pushing itself on listeners, on tour or in the studio has created a mythic (if not subterranean) adoration for the band. Be sure, though, Release wasn’t cobbled together to sate those eager fans. It’s just versions of stuff someone might want to hear—stuff CAVE thinks is okay to release.
After the first pair of tracks, “JIM” shows up. And its relatively pristine guitar sound makes the track a surprise. The composition, which starts out all jangly and includes a bit of singing, does eventually make its way to an almost repressively repetitive section. But along the way, there’s a touch of overtly jazz-inspired soloing that, much like the tone of track as a whole, presents itself as a foreign stance for CAVE.
Another 10 minutes of music gets dug up from 2009 and finds the band coming off more mechanical and exacting prior to Release offering up tracks from 2012’s “Party Legs” single. CAVE’s development and continued interest in rhythmic interplay finds the troupe embracing international sounds, mirroring the broadening Neverendless and Threace albums from the last few years. CAVE doesn’t suddenly turn into Dengue Fever, but a slinky Southeast Asia vibe courses through “Party Legs” in obvious fashion.
Time falls back into itself, though, as Release closes out with “Machines and Muscles,” a track cropping up on at least three tapes dating back to 2008 and 2009. CAVE’s international flair’s gone, replaced by a martial pacing and a 2-bit video game aura. Regardless of its wavering intent, though, even a CAVE compilation digs out a reasonably significant trench in underground music—one more deserving of attention than U2’s business practices or some producer’s first release in a decade.