On the surface, it appears as if The Cave Singers' No Witch is a standard folk record, where the vocalists slather their stories of life and love over scant drums and gentile guitar chords. However, that would be too typical for the notable Seattle trio, since its previous project -- the fidgety Welcome Joy -- merged folk's sullen sparsity with rock 'n' roll's energetic aggression. And while the blending of genres certainly isn't new, The Cave Singers' folk/rock fusion brings a decent perspective to an otherwise esoteric brand of music. Maybe that's why the group did not stray too far on No Witch -- an adequate, yet uneven recording that builds upon the foundation of its previous work. But while the group's dedicated listeners will find solace in the new album, it feels somewhat safe when compared with the underlying psychedelic grit of its predecessor.
In some ways, No Witch feels like an easy continuation of Welcome Joy, an opus widely acclaimed and chastised for its rural approach and common-man feel. That simplistic focus is part of The Singers' charm, since Derek Fudesco, Pete Quirk and Marty Lund take the most direct route possible to arrive at the point. The concern, however, is that the no-frills approach doesn't always equate to the most interesting listen and some of the songs fail to resonate long after consumption. That's not to say the trio doesn't have mass appeal, but the overwhelming twang and raspy pangs feel repetitive, eventually overshadowing the album's bright spots. "Outer Realms" and "Faze Wave" are tribal mixes of African drums, acoustic and electric guitars, adding a much-needed charge to the recording. The same goes for the concluding track, the grungy "No Prosecution If We Bail," with its insistent guitar riff and distorted vocals.
Listening to Cave Singers you get the impression that there's more to the band than meets the eye. Unfortunately with No Witch, there just isn't enough excitement to hold the listener's attention for long. And while the group is to be commended for their artistic efforts, it could benefit from a more aggressive fusion of sounds on its next album.
After Pretty Girls Make Graves broke up in 2007, Derek Fudesco wasted no time in starting his next project, The Cave Singers. Since then, they've put out two albums on Matador. No Witch is the third LP from The Cave Singers and their first for Jagjaguwar. The switch between labels certainly wasn't unexpected--Invitation Songs was produced by Colin Stewart, who had worked with Black Mountain, and Welcome Joy featured a collaboration with Amber Webber of Black Mountain and Lightning Dust. The label calls this outing the band's "rock record," which probably has more than a little to do with producer Randall Dunn (Black Mountain, Sunn O))), Boris).
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