[Drag City; 2011]

Chicago-based psychedelic quarter CAVE has been floating just under the radar for the past few years. The band’s discography thus far has found them shifting from the sludgy krautrock of their 2008 Hunt Like Devil EP to a more electronically-inclined sound on 2009’s Psychic Psummer. On Neverendless, their transition to a sleeker sound continues; from start to finish, this is the cleanest record they’ve made to date.

“WUJ” opens with a driving bass line and motorik rhythm that’s quickly joined by a yawning Moog and the understated strums of an electric guitar. It sounds like a mellower Neu! jam until the three-minute mark, when the cymbals clang and the guitar finally lets loose with crunchy zeal. The climax is short-lived, however, and the members of CAVE spend the rest of the track trying to recoup their momentum. Like the rest of the album, it’s nondescript but fun nonetheless.

CAVE take krautrock’s love of repetition to new levels of infatuation. This works to their advantage on shorter tracks like “Adam Roberts,” where a glorious organ rides a shuffling beat towards a sound that falls somewhere between mod, drone, and psych-rock. But longer cuts like the 14-munute “This Is The Best” struggle to maintain the listener’s attention; after a certain point, the band’s repetition starts to seem less like a conscious stylistic decision and more like a sign that they’ve run out of ideas. Nine minutes in, the track finally does something; everything goes staccato as a hyperactive (almost caffeinated) mood provides welcome relief from the droning stoner-psych we’ve had to endure. “OJ” ends the proceedings with more organ-drenched vigor, though “vigor” is of course a relative term; after yet another round of generic psychedelia on “On The Rise,” even a simple chord change would sound vigorous.

CAVE don’t make bad music, and they’re clearly talented musicians with the ability to play something approaching drone metal and more peppy prog-rock with equal aplomb. But what distinguishes this band from the many other kraut-indebted psych bands tuning their six-strings in dingy basements across the country? I couldn’t pinpoint a “signature sound” if you asked me to. CAVE have clearly done their homework in terms of musical influences, but I’d love to hear them spend less time droning in their footsteps of their forebears and more time actually crafting something new. And mind the spelling — that’s something new, not something Neu!. CAVE already has enough of the latter.