Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The Cave Singers have a different blend of folk than most of the more traditional stuff coming out of the East. No Witch is their third proper album, and it continues to further the band’s sound, this time adding some newer elements that give a bit of a twist to their sound.
Beginning the album is “Gifts and the Raft,” which has an extremely quiet whispering element to it, perhaps reinforced by placing vocals atop vocals. String arrangements give the song more depth, especially when they sound like a shimmer, rather than the more pristine parts that come later. Quiet folk presides with the second track, “Swim Club,” barely changing things up from the first track. This isn’t a knock by any means, as this song uses some more production twists that enhance The Cave Singers on this adventure.
“Black Leaf” gives No Witch a bit of a lift, with a grittier bit of guitar. For the whole of the song, you can feel a bit of a folk-stomp building, and this allows for some differentiation before the sound is swallowed up. However, this song shares so many sonic similarities to “At the Cut” from Welcome Joy that it’s hard to get past the track as a bit of a rehash from the previous record. Still, it allows the group to go beyond just this gentle folk with raspy vocals, moving into a slightly haunting “Falls.” Here, the pacing alone forces you to fill in the empty space. Pete Quirk definitely shows off a bit more range here, or at least a bit more technique. And then suddenly the band heads off into a bit of a psychedelic folk groove mid-track, even using some organ.
It is, of course, great to have some of the past living here, especially with songs like “Outer Realms,” but one would be mistaken to call the rest of the album more run of the mill Cave Singers tracks. For instance, you have “Clever Creatures,” a song that uses a more present drum track than I remember the band utilizing in the past. Put that alongside Quirk giving more of a forceful vocal performance throughout the entirety of No Witch, and you have the band moving in a more complete direction. In the past, while I’ve loved everything, there’s always seemed to be just one thing missing, but this is not the case here at all. “Haystacks” is one of the record’s stronger offerings, beginning with some harmonica to open it all up. But, in the middle, you get the feeling of a gospel-influenced folk song, much as they’ve all been traditionally. It now seems that band have completely moved from being labeled as just a post-punk folk outing.
Whether or not you’re familiar with The Cave Singers is probably irrelevant by this point, as the band seem to have really pushed themselves forward on No Witch. Yes, you’ll find pleasurable, yet traditional, tracks like “Swim Club” to keep around old fans, but there seems to be so much more within the folds of these tracks. Just take the brief shrieks on closing track “No Prosecution if We Bail,” and you’ll see that a more rocking element is beginning to emerge. In the end, the band seems to have grown, filling out their sound with new elements, giving us a record that is anything but incomplete.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/02_Swim_Club_1.mp3]
Download: The Cave Singers – Swim Club [MP3]