Cave Pure Moods [EP]

[Drag City; 2010]

Styles: Krautrock revival, post-punk, psychedelic
Others: Devo, Neu!, Japanther

I don’t like to go nuts on titles as nose-tapping theses for reviews, but I think we can all agree that “Pure Moods” is a fucking great name for a record — an invitation to a real face-melter, if it’s as sarcastic as it sounds. The title’s also very thin ice for any group of Krauty chums who know their latter-day Tangerine Dream and Can. “Pure Moods” is so much more than just a compilation series: it’s like some kind of a creepy axis that sneaks up when Pandora’s left on too long without feedback, that bites the asses of even the artiest. It makes us think of automated nurture, overaged greatness, our parents by Freudian extension. I love me some Enya and Dream Academy on proper occasion, but it’s understandable that that complicit warmth carries a certain dread for most people.

Huzzah to Cave for feeding off that dread. Ostensibly. But what we’ve basically got on this EP is a flatlined version of what came before it — 2009’s still-writhing Psychic Psummer — with a smattering of tricks that can simply no longer fight the groove. And it’s a mightily sick groove, folks, but if you thought they were going to up the ante with a cheeky title like Pure Moods, keep listeners on their toes or whatnot, you’ll be surprised to find that Cave are progressing almost exactly as you’d expect them to. That is, they like to get together and play — Kraut revival’s dirty little secret is that its constituents are basically socially-sanctioned jam bands — and if they decide to put it to tape every once in a while like they did here, they’ll have stumbled upon a ‘career.’ The throb is resignedly samey compared to the spazzy Oneida shit they had going last year, and the sonic density takes a backseat to cleaner instruments of melody. What fucking melody? I’m asking. Isn’t that the point? The jazz-guitar and lite-prog synths don’t do much to drown me out.

Which is why the eerie vocal monotone of “Teenager,” for example, is so much more successful when it first rises out of the mix than when it strays into barkier post-punk territory: it actually seems to be messing with your head. Speaking of “Teenager,” I know these guys are instrumental by reputation, but it still nags me that the lyrics here get piled onto such a stale cultural lexicon while adding as little (“grow grow grow”; “show show show”) as possible — like, they wanted to write a song about a teenager, but the entire history of pop music has done all the work for them. “Teenager”: that’s all they have left to say, and they do, every two bars. Despite being like clockwork, I can’t help but admit that it serves its head-bobbing function, and I couldn’t be happier if any permutation of this stuff hit it big. Yet by the end of finale “Brigitte’s Trip (White Light/White Jazz),” which ducks out into ambience five minutes early and makes the vinyl-only (total gimmick by the way — this stuff disappoints ritual and flatters shuffle) EP feel even shorter than it is, one can’t help but feel like one has strolled into and out of a jam session. Pure Moods is neat in passing, but once you’ve exited there’s no real reason to turn back. ’Cause nothing says the long haul like inertia.

Links: Cave - Drag City

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