Wooden Shjips, Cave, Rabble Rabble | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Wooden Shjips, Cave, Rabble Rabble Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Nov. 8, 9:30 p.m. 2013
Price: $14
After I heard the first Wooden Shjips record, a ten-inch that they started out giving away to anyone who asked, I figured that the only way the band would ever touch down on solid ground would be in fiery pieces; on its title track, “Shrinking Moon for You,” bandleader Ripley Johnson practically detonates his guitar while the other three members bear down like they’ve never considered how they’ll get back home. But on their fourth and latest album, Back to Land (Thrill Jockey), the good Shjips achieve a smooth, three-point landing. Johnson gives as much space to his mildly opiated croon as he does to his smoking leads, and his bandmates have perfected a merger of easy-rolling boogie and slow-burn psychedelia that feels like it could go on forever. —Bill Meyer

Two years ago, Chicago instrumental combo Cave perfected their take on Krautrock with Neverendless, a model of lean precision, hypnotic grooves, and driving rhythms. It was so clearly a high-water mark for the band that it raised the question of where they could go next without repeating themselves. Cave provide a magnificent answer on the recent Threace (Drag City), maintaining the taut grooves and fat-free arrangements while pushing the music subtly into the realm of funk—albeit an airless strain of funk that’s at least as concerned with warping brains as it is with moving asses. The record is Cave’s first with Jeremy Freeze (also of Jerusalem & the Starbaskets) as a full-time guitarist—he replaces synth player Dave “Rotten Milk” Pecoraro—and he gives de facto leader Cooper Crain a lot more to work with. Right from the opening track, “Sweaty Fingers,” they calibrate their guitars in irresistible lockstep rhythms; the song’s pulse is unrelenting, and the groove only evolves a bit during its 11-plus minutes, but the guitar parts constantly, gradually change. Crain tells me that Cave aimed for the kind of studio process made famous by Miles Davis, recording loads of tracks, some of which focus on single textures or lines, and then editing them down and refining them in postproduction. “Silver Headband” rolls out its twitchy groove over a feedback drone, building tension across six minutes before the guitarists hit the distortion pedals and let the riffs explode like Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.” Rob Frye, Crain’s bandmate in Bitchin Bajas, guests on flute and tenor saxophone on “Arrow’s Myth,” thickening the rhythms and later adding melodic improvisations when the song breaks open into free-form Davis-style fusion. (He’s also playing live with the band tonight.) As usual, though, Cave’s secret weapon is the rhythm section, bassist Dan Browning and drummer Rex McMurry: their imperturbable sense of time and motion gives the rest of the band all the room they need to make such sensual, patiently crafted music. —Peter Margasak Wooden Shjips headline; Cave and Rabble Rabble open.

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