CD Review

Cave Singers, Invitation Songs (Matador)

Cave Singers get the prize for most accurate band name. Listening to their patchy, shoestring folk, it's easy to imagine them in fresh-tanned hides, swapping songs around a waning fire while tucked away in the mountains somewhere. Actually, though, they're from Seattle, and Invitation Songs was put to tape in nearby Vancouver. And yet there's an alien quality here that no number of listens can shake.

Much ink will be spilled over Pete Quirk's weirdly squeaky vocals, which mutate on every song until it seems impossible to make a comparison stick. (One last try: Clap Your Hands' Alec Ounsworth coming off a Vic Chesnutt binge.) "Seeds of Night" is one of the best album openers in recent memory, with an incidentally poppy shuffle that takes its sweet time while Quirk sings in his prettiest voice possible. Horns sneak in during the final seconds, but by then, we're already caught in a trap and can't back out. The following "Helen" is all suspense, the guitar playing so repetitious and disciplined that it sets us more on edge with every second. Relief, in the form of the expected climax, never comes; instead, the song just finishes, like a night janitor doing the last of his sweeping.

All three members of Cave Singers—Quirk, Derek Fudesco and drummer Marty Lund—play guitar on the record, although Fudesco, formerly of Murder City Devils and Pretty Girls Make Graves, uses bass pedals and tends toward the low end. And Lund is more a percussionist than a drummer, utilizing tools seemingly found around the house to sew up the band's rickety rhythm section.

A mighty little folk record that manages to re-define the genre, Invitation Songs unfolds in odd shivers and epiphanies, sounding utterly like nothing else.


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