By Lliam Easterbrook
[creative arts bureau chief]
Indie folks the Cave Singers third full-length installment, No Witch—recorded in our very own Vancouver—leaves virtually nothing to be desired; it leaves no stone unturned; no genre untouched (except rap, which I’ll comment on a little later). Influences abroad, the Cave Singers reinvent themselves on every song, yet manage to keep their unique brand of Seattle folk in tact.
—I know what you may be thinking—the purpose of Vinyl Dust-Off is to figuratively (and more often than not literally) “dust off” old albums that maybe haven’t seen the light of day for a while and offer some hindsight insights from the 21st century gaze; but sometimes I just like to loosen a few bolts on this tightly-wound music machine and watch the whole thing fray and bust. What I mean by that cheap metaphor is, essentially, I’m going to review, at any time, whatever I do literally dust off from vinyl bins in and around Van, and also any band that is, in short, radical. If you feel engaged, if you dig the tunage—read on my brothers and sisters! —If not, be my guest to go sift through your dusty dad’s old dusty record bin and find whichever bunk Ricky Skaggs LP he used to bang your mom to back in the day and listen to that healthy pile of auditory gunk to get your dust-off kicks. Sound good?
Anyhow, I digress; back to the task at hand: the Cave Singers and No Witch:
Currently on tour supporting fellow Seattle folk revivalists Fleet Foxes, the Cave Singers aren’t as chipper as other Rain City groups of late. Their catalogue is undeniably more brooding, more primal than most rock acts in Seattle at the moment, aside from say, Soundgarden or Modest Mouse (Pearl Jam having unfortunately sobered and softened commercially as of late). Utilizing musical archetypes from the eastern world as well as the punk and new wave sensibilities of their previous collaborations, the Cave Singers have crafted an eclectic album that initially sounds undirected, but with repeated listening reveals its diverse yet remarkably cohesive luster. From ambling folk ballads to dirge stomps, tribal beats to bluesy reckonings, east-tinged trips to gospelesque hymns, the Cave Singers’ expand and yet strip their sound even more when compared to previous outings.
No Witch, unlike its two predecessors—Welcome Joy and Invitation songs respectively—just refuses to be categorized as a predominantly folk record; there is just too much going on in its simplicity. The only genre I can think that is not represented here at all is rap, and that is because rap music as an art form has changed its face, since the death of Tupac Shakur 1996, more than that ghastly Heidi Montag. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, but no nobody covers rap except other rappers—those guys are always stealing—er, I mean “sampling,” shit—but artists don’t not cover rap because it’s uncoverable—no, no—it’s because there’s just more challenging (and more fun) shit out there to cover. That being said, I’d still love to see the Fleet Foxes try Tupac’s “Hail Mary” on for size.
But I digress… again—much like this album constantly digresses. So, then—just to conclude this little ditty of a review so I can go smoke some tea and play with my dog—No Witch best showcases evident influences of various genres on the band. Immediately I hear echoes of Neil young, George Harrison, Ryan Adams, The Doors, T.Rex, and Mudhoney among others. But The Cave Singers don’t steal or pervert other sounds; they take them, craft them; make them their own. If reinvention is the theme, the most interesting cut off the record—the intensely trippy “Faze Wave”—is the best example, with singer Pete Quirk snarling, “I ain’t the man I am/ I ain’t the man I was/ Can’t teach the past to walk a line,” amidst hypnotic, droning guitars and booming tribal rhythms.
Play It Loud. Play It Proud.
About the Author: In sum: rock 'n rolller-riding on a board.
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