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Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver

Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret photo

Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret April 20 2012. Robyn Gerry photo

Review and photos—Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, April 20 2012

– review by Ria Nevada review/photos by Robyn Gerry

On the high-rung of music’s evolutionary ladder perches Caveman, an atmospheric indie-rock band from Brooklyn, New York. Formed in 2010 by a group of old friends, the vibrant five-piece quickly established a solid following due to some generous plugging from NPR, CMJ, and countless bloggers.

Folks in Vancouver saw reason for the hype at the Biltmore on Friday night, the only Canadian stop on the band’s North American tour. They’ll soon be touring Europe as well in support of their debut record, Coco Beware. Don’t be fooled by the LP’s title (those of us who still remember Koko B. Ware and his trusty parrot) – Caveman sounds nothing like the ’80s wrestler’s cheesy “Piledriver” single.

Instead, Caveman delivers a complex and rustic tumult, warm from three-part harmonies, distorted and artful jams from Jimmy Carbonetti (who constructs his own Cobra guitars), propulsive drumming from Stefan Marolachakis, with added percussion from songwriter and lead vocalist Matt Iwanusa. What completes their sound are the haunting synths from Sam Hopkins and the droning bass lines from Jeff Berrall.

Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret photo

Caveman at the Biltmore Cabaret, April 20 2012. Robyn Gerry photo

Iwanusa and company were alert and ready for the early show (although a few of the dazed and confused audience members who had rolled in from 4/20 festivities were less present, figuratively speaking). Each musician added layer upon layer of aural texture to their first number “Easy Water”, resulting in a pleasurably murky but moving composition.

The coolheaded group went on to sing about life’s triumphs, trials, and tribulations on top of achingly beautiful melodies on tracks like “December 28th” and “My Time”. Heard live, the songs are far more confrontational and aggressive than the comparatively pristine sound and meditative mood of the record. The experimental transformation was not unlike Atlas Sound‘s performance at the Biltmore just a couple of months prior, when Bradford Cox transformed his 2011 album Parallax for a live audience.

Caveman’s performance was perfectly complemented by openers, The Albertans, creators of a similarly rich and dense soundscape, as heard on their newest 7″ release, “The Hunter”. In fact, last night’s show was their EP release, and attendees appeared to be transfixed by the band’s dark and absorbing wall of sound, similar to bands like Other Lives, minus the string section.

The evening wrapped with crashes of distortion from Caveman’s “Old Friend”, and unfortunately there was no time for an encore due to the Ice Cream Social event following the show. But the few new numbers that the band played during their set, including the upbeat “I Don’t Want To Know”, promises more compelling releases from the outfit in the future, and hopefully a return to the city.

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