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Threace Kevin Mccaighy , October 28th, 2013 07:33

The riff and how to shape it to its will has been the primary obsession of rock since its earliest days. The evolution of riff patterns and their primacy within the evolution of rock music has seen it become the signature sound of popular music for more than a century. That is a burden that can lay heavily upon a band; not so with Chicago group CAVE, who have transformed over a succession of releases into one of the most potent riff-based instrumental outfits of the new millennium.

Not for them the glazed garage rock attack or the arpeggiated flourishes of their label mates Ty Segall and The Fucking Champs. However, CAVE are just as committed to the revitalization of the riff as their esteemed counterparts, eschewing four-square rock for some seriously intensive displays of supreme compositional chops.

The tight motorik groove of leadoff track 'Sweaty Fingers' is aptly named, a taut funk-oriented workout with brutally synchronized rhythms that could easily find itself at home on Soul Jazz’s legendary Nu Yorica! compilation series. The precise, hard won interplay is more than mere vamping – there can be no quibbling at the length of such a killer groove. The oblique use of chords and relentless strut of the guitars are redolent of varied influences: the evergreen rhythm section/engine of Chic, rock/soul pioneers War, and the percussion frenzy of early Santana. This is no set of retro stylings from Cooper Crain and his crew; in their gifted hands these tools are reshaped and sharpened for the 21st century, turning their well-worn tropes into a fresh arsenal.

The cool, spare tones of 'Silver Headband' place CAVE onto the territory occupied by the mighty Circle: its compelling, revolving riff is akin to the Finnish group’s illustrious Prospekt / Tantaamus era, where languid opening patterns were let loose, only for a set of searing guitar attacks to savagely resolve them. The funk swamp of 'Arrow’s Myth' is another brilliant hothouse strut, bringing to mind vivid memories of combos like Tower of Power, and even the fizzing ambient streaks located within the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Threace possesses a wholly immersive sense of itself, and a free floating kinetic energy that is out of step with most contemporary riff-based music. Its command of sonic hypnosis is all the more impressive considering its brevity. In emptying out the riff of its weight, opting instead for ambience and endurance, CAVE demonstrates just how vital the riff remains.