Always by CaveRelease date: October 19, 2018
Label: Drag City
When a group is labeled as a jam band, for some reason people get a general notion it is a loose group of musicians that have come around to ‘boogie down’ or do a ‘space jam’ usually with very little sense or purpose. And, of course, they are usually wrong.
They forget that The Grateful Dead have set a standard of musicianship and quality for jam bands that requires not only quick and skilled limbs but vast musical knowledge and imagination and the ability to follow and react to the ideas of all the other musicians in the studio or on the stage. That vast range of ideas can cover absolutely anything – from the much-maligned boogie to… space exploration. That is why you can actually divide that loose category of jam bands into splinter groups.
Currently, one such splinter group could consist of two outstanding bands – Bay Area collective Mushroom and Chicago quintet (which used to be a quartet) Cave. Both work with closely woven rhythms that combine Funkadelic/Miles Davis style funk with Krautrock motoriks, over which they lay everything – from jazz improvs to The Beach Boys vocals.
Cave has not been around as long as Mushroom, but haven’t had any releases in five years, with their latest Always, being a perfect showcase of not only how good they are, but also how hard it is to perform ‘jam space rock/funk’ as some would like to call it.
With Cave, everything revolves around a set groove which evolves in slow cycles which can also be slower but still pumping enough beat and punch like ‘San ‘Yago’ to beg dancefloor remixes. There are constant layers of rhythm and instrumentation like on ‘Aharaha’, which sounds like anything Miles Davis’ Agartha stripped down to its (guitar-led) basics.
What this kind of music requires to sound remotely listenable and enjoyable is that constant shifts an layers require the union of musical minds, or otherwise, it all falls apart and sudden introduction of surprise elements makes it even worse. That is why, on Always when at the close in ‘ShaSha’ the band brings in wordless vocals as if The Beach Boys walked into the studio to join the fun sounds not only natural, but essential.
With Always, Cave prove one more constant with ’space jam’ bands – if they are really good, their music just keeps growing on you. Cave are that good.