Video Savant: Liquid Liquid's “Cavern”

New York City in the early '80s boasted one of the most vital music scenes in the history of vital music scenes. In fact, British label Soul Jazz has released three compilations (and a book!)—titled New York Noise—of the Big Apple's underground music, all of which I highly recommend.

One of the major catalysts of NYC's fecund sonic playground were Liquid Liquid. You probably know of them through “Cavern,” whose irrepressible rhythm the Sugar Hill house band replicated for Melle Mel and the Furious Five's club standard “White Lines (Don't Do It).”

Unfortunately, Liquid Liquid's sparse output has been very hard to obtain during the quarter century since the group's 1980-1983 lifespan. Mo'Wax and the defunct Grand Royal reissued Liquid Liquid's EPs plus four live cuts on CD and vinyl in 1997, but that release, Liquid Liquid, has since gone out of print. Luckily, Domino Records is issuing an upgraded version of that collection on May 19, called Slip In and Out of Phenomenon, on CD and triple LP. Hot damn! The songs were taken from Liquid Liquid's three EPs originally released by the 99 Records, plus 10 previously unreleased bonus tracks.

For a change, we'll be obvious with our selection for this Video Savant, because “Cavern” is so infectious and seminal, it can withstand daily airings for decades and not lose its warehouse-gray-lighted luster. The track stands as one of the definitive early-'80s NYC aural signposts. “Cavern” (off 1983's Optimo EP) is minimalist funk at its best, imbued with healthy dollops of that quintessential Lower East Side tension and paranoia. Yet it's also sexy as a motherfucker, thanks largely to a tightly coiled bass line that's ribbed for every species' pleasure.

Tens of thousands of breakdancers have busted moves to this deathless groove over the last 25 years, and if planet Earth can hang on in there for a while longer, tens of thousands more will similarly unleash their repertoire of spins, uprocks, windmills, etc. to “Cavern”'s stark, functionally fundamental bump.

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