Cave is a five-piece psychedelic group that originally formed in Missouri in the mid-2000s. After a few years of formless outre jamming with a constantly shifting lineup, the band settled into its current form, relocated to Chicago, and released a series of EPs, singles and albums on zeitgeist-attuned underground labels like Permanent, Important and Trensmat. The band’s latest full-length, 2009’s Psychic Psummer, was its most cohesive work to date and presumably led to its signing on with the renowned Drag City for its latest EP, Pure Moods.
Pure Moods clocks in at 25 minutes and three songs, opening with the relatively terse “Hot Bricks,” which showcases the group’s knack for conventional song form with a catchy melody and a hypnotic rhythm section. Traditional notions of rock music begin to dissolve on “Teenager,” whose repetitive chorus is a direct nod to Cave’s acknowledged forebears Oneida. The tune steadily builds throughout its seven-minute running time, and it’s easy to imagine the effort being a hypnotic, head-banging revelation live. The production is refined enough to allow individual instruments to shine but retains the signature warm and fuzzy atmosphere of this brand of muscular jamming.
Closer “Brigitte’s Trip (White Light/White Jazz)” has an unwieldy title to match its 13-minute running time, and although it never fully derails it can be a tedious listen at times. Despite being technically expert, the predictable deployment of synth squiggles, wah-wah peddles cascading out into space and the notoriously fickle pleasures of the buildup and release dynamic fail to come together. There’s no question that the quarter-hour jam is meant to signify a new evolution in Cave’s sound, but unfortunately the track sputters rather than explodes, at times bordering on indulgent prog wankery.
Although Cave’s skill at expansive jamming can’t be questioned — the band’s exemplary full-length record is a testament to this fact — it is the poppier material on Pure Moods that I kept coming back to. Opener “Hot Bricks” is notably satisfying, a studied survey of the appeal of krautrock maneuvers expertly condensed into a hummable rock tune. It is the potential of this new direction that is most thrilling about the new EP. Pure Moods is a typical stopgap, but the members of Cave hold their own as representatives of the Midwest contingent of the new American psychedelia currently exploding coast to coast, from Wooden Shjips to White Hills.