Cave: Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, Rex McMurry, Jeremy Freeze, and Dan Browning Credit: Michael Vallera

If you’d asked me earlier this year, I would’ve assumed Cave was done. Multiple members of the Chicago-based five-piece had moved out of town. Guitarist and organist Cooper Crain was busy with Bitchin Bajas (where he’s joined by Cave multi-instrumentalist Rob Frye) and the Haley Fohr collaboration Jackie Lynn, not to mention his work as a recording engineer. As far as I knew, the band had only played one local show in three years. They hadn’t put out any new material since the 2013 album Threace—the 2014 odds-and-sods collection Release was all hard-to-find but previously released music.

Some of those members’ moves turned out to be temporary, though, and Crain wasn’t too busy after all. In July, seemingly out of nowhere, the band released a music video for “San’ Yago,” a love letter to Chicago-style hot dog shacks—and just like that, Cave were back.

Cave formed in Columbia, Missouri, in 2005, and by 2008 they’d relocated to Chicago, where Permanent Records released their first LP, Hunt Like Devil/Jamz. That album and its 2009 follow-up, Psychic Psummer (on Important Records), were full of long, fried, psychedelic jams, driven by complex, repetitive rhythms and colored by blown-out guitars, organs, and chanted group vocals. Cave really caught my attention with 2011’s Neverendless, their first for Drag City. On that album they retooled their formula with laserlike focus, creating lean, hypnotic drones and trading in the psychedelia for Neu!-inspired Krautrock.

Cave welcome the brand-new Allways (out on Drag City this Friday, October 19) into the world with two release shows at the Hideout this weekend. After Neverendless, recorded with the slick quartet of Crain, bassist Dan Browning, drummer Rex McMurry, and synth player Rotten Milk, Cave adopted the lineup they used for Threace and stick with on Allways: Rotten Milk left, replaced by guitarist Jeremy Freeze and multi-instrumentalist Rob Frye, who added percussion and woodwinds. Gone was the streamlined Krautrock, and in came the expansive funk.

That aesthetic reaches its fullest realization yet on the ultrasmooth, almost entirely instrumental Allways. It opens with “The Juan,” an urgent but mellow seven-minute opus built from funky bass lines, four-on-the-floor beats, wah-wah guitar riffs, and swells of reverb-drenched flute. The record’s centerpiece is “Beaux,” a nearly ten-minute jam that adds a moody push and pull to its groovy rhythms with fuzz guitar that drones and wails.
Allways is a triumph for Cave. They’ve climbed to new heights even though they’ve already been killing it for more than a decade. Chicago is lucky to have them, and I’m really glad I was wrong about their demise.

Cave play the Hideout on Saturday, October 20, with noise punks Running and on Sunday, October 21, with Matthew Lux’s ensemble Communication Arts. Saturday’s show is sold out, but you can still get tickets to Sunday’s. It’s definitely worth the trouble—Cave are an absolutely mesmerizing live band.