Cave Threace

On their fourth full length, Chicago neo-jammers CAVE continue to refine and focus their energies and explore the sea of possibilities beyond the great barrier riff. Leaning more heavily on a minimal bass and drum pulse that draws from '70s jazz fusion and Krautrock, the band settles into a variety of effective but ultimately locked grooves over the album's five spacey tracks. On opening epic "Sweaty Fingers," which is replete with bongo and echo chamber wood block, they seem to be reaching for Bitches Brew-era Miles but only manage a Can/Santana (Cantana?) hybrid that's funky enough, but lacks an interesting through-line to carry it. When the keyboards are unleashed, notably at the central point of "Arrow's Myth," an extra dimension opens up and swallows the tedium for a time, but it's only when the coiled energy unwinds and the instruments begin to really converse in the excellent, meandering jam of "Slow Bern" that the aforementioned sea becomes truly interesting. Sadly, that happens to be the last track on the album. (Drag City)