Cave Paintings Pen Contemplative Indie Rock on “Primitive” EP

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The beauty of music festivals is that you’re almost bound to discover new music. And while Oshkosh Main Street Music Festival had a few larger touring bands, the vast majority of acts are locally-based. This is great for fans because it means there will be plenty of opportunities to see, and hear, more from their favorite performers.

Cave Paintings at Oshkosh Main Street Music Fest. Photo by Casey Gallenberger, courtesty of Fusia Media

Appleton-based Cave Paintings are set to play New Moon on 8/10/19, providing a great opportunity for fans to catch them again – and a second chance to hear what this indie rock collective offers for those who missed them the first time around.

While the group’s music is formidable in its own right, Cave Paintings also serve as a beacon of perseverance. The band’s core consists of Levi Besaw (drums and vocals) and Brianna Phillips (guitar and vocals). The pair, along with a cast of friends, have been scheming up their forthcoming debut album since around 2015. However, Phillips spent several years in and out of the hospital from worsening kidney illness that saw the band turn their focus toward health and recovery. A kidney from her brother was huge step forward, and, while emotional pain still lingered, the band sublimated that experience into reworking their collective space and further refining their music.

The band writes and records out of their DIY art space, The Train Station. Besides serving as the band’s main creative hub, The Train Station also hosts concerts and other events with a primary focus on facilitating self-actualization.

With revitalized health and a empowering space to work in, Cave Paintings is tracking to release their debut LP, DNA Soup, in 2020. However, the band’s latest EP, Primitive, provides a great first look at what’s to come and has opened doors for the group to tour extensively around the state.

Described as a “bare bones” release, Primitive is appropriately-named: the focus here is first and foremost on the songwriting. And despite this label, the five tracks are far from barren. Four of the five tracks are at least four minutes long and the songs are a far cry from the predictable patterns of pop songs, often weaving in and out of varied segments.

The EP opens with “Pink Lady”, an upbeat track laced with falsetto. The lyrics tackle doubt and anxiety which is certainly juxtaposed by the fun veneer of instrumentation. It’s also the first example we see of Besaw and Phillip’s vocal harmonies. Arguably, some of these moments feel more like gang vocals than melodic moments – but this only adds to the energy of the track.

“Outlets” changes pace as Besaw takes lead on vocals. The track has a stronger folk core than its predecessor, but the harmonies add a degree congruity.

“You’re Good” coincidentally isn’t just what you’d say to the band in-person; it’s the EP’s third track. It’s a quiet track somewhat reminiscent of the defunct and little-known band Slow Bird. Rhythmically, the track relies heavily on cymbals to fit the overall moodiness. Throw in some pinch harmonics on guitar for good measure and you’re left with a captivating song. Add in a twist ending where things speed up quite a bit and it’s obvious that Cave Paintings isn’t afraid to defy convention in their songwriting.

Besaw takes lead once again on “Generation Anxiety”. It’s a more interesting track compared to “Outlets”, serving as the most aggressive track on the album. Ultimately, it could best be described as folk-punk, with gritty vocals and incredibly tight drumming. It’s also example of the band’s lyrical poetry, with lines like “So I can’t promise to be honest / cause the truth would paralyze / The inertia of our atoms giving voice to our designs”. It’s no mystery the band has an interest in philosophy (a quote from Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” can be found on the band’s site) and this certainly translates into their lyrical content.

“Dark Matter” closes out the EP. In some manner, it’s Besaw’s equivalent of “You’re Good”. It’s an ethereal track that largely lacks drums. This negative space only makes the track feel more pensive, and it’s a good close to the EP.

The biggest downside to the EP ultimately is that it’s merely a sign of what’s yet to come. The band’s live performance only expands upon the energy of what’s on the recording, and while Primitive is not weak in any stretch, it’s part of a puzzle that is still unfinished. Ultimately, it’s a good introductory point to Cave Paintings but you’ll need to see them live or wait for DNA Soup to get the full experience.

Check out “Pink Lady” below. The full EP is available here on Bandcamp.

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Casey Gallenberger

Avid local music fan, serial media creative, habitual insomniac. Let's make something great together.

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