Gold Cage are, in their own words, a slowcore band. Boy, saying that really grabbed my attention when i read their press release. I didn't know that people still used that term. I, for one, loved that style of music, back in The Golden Age of Slowcore (around 1999 or so), when my listening was dominated by American Analog Set, Low, Red House Painters, Movietone, Black Heart Procession ... Ah, those were the days. Slowcore, at that point, served as a sort of antidote after the delirious intoxication of Indie Rock and Indie Punk in the 1990s...
But Gold Cage are a contemporary band from Los Angeles, and apparently this is their debut record. Their music is catchy as heck, and yeah it moves at a slower than usual pace -- not the lethargic pace of American Analog Set or the narcoleptic pace of early Low, but still kind of meandering.
And the music is sparse -- drums, bass, guitars, and voices all echoey in their own space, overlapping slightly but not interfering with each other. This has the effect of making the drumming really stand out. I love what drummer Sage Ross is doing here: it is understated and subtle, but it also provides a firm underpinning to these songs.
I also really like the bass. Slowing music down makes me appreciate the rhythm even more. Alan Sparhawk once said in a concert around 1998 something like, "When you play fast, mistakes can be swept away quickly, unlike that." (Sparhawk had just hit a particularly sour note that, given the confines of the song, rang for a seeming infinity, its wrongness hanging in the air framed by the sparse, slow song, as the crowd and the rest of the band stared at him, and he cringed.) My point is: slow music is more unforgiving then, say, thrash metal or hardcore punk. Bassist Monica Gamboa-Katz does a great job.
Guitar is the third element, and i don't want to neglect mentioning it. Cole Devine plays a lovely, chiming guitar that reminds me of shoegaze or dreampop. The echoing and distortion work well here.
Repeater Kember starts the record off with that guitar chugging over a lazy shaken rhythm as the bass plucks a slow progression. Gamboa-Katz sings hazily, lightly echoed, and Devine, even more echoed, answers. In the middle, everyone stomps on a pedal, Ross pounds his kit, and they give us some slow noise a la Codeine. Wonderful.
Halcion starts with the bass picking a very slow cord, then drums come in, cymbal heavy, clattering a steady beat. Devine sings the lead here, echoed, and his guitar plucks along. This is a slow haze of catchiness, just toe-tapping and head-bopping at a slow pace. "I forgot to go out 'cause I was sleeping" he sings, then the fuzz pedals come on and Gamboa-Katz sings a line or two of chorus.
The guitar picks a fast little riff in Introduce my Mind, as the drums bounce along beside it. Seriously, this song taps along so happily, just a pleasant bouncing. Devine and Gamboa-Katz harmonize nicely.
Gamboa-Katz takes the lead vocal on What Is Left, the slowest of the slow songs on this record. Devine's guitar plucks long bent western-style notes as the drums tap lazily. Her singing is lethargic and ... off. When i first listened to this record, i guessed that she was Slavic. Her pronunciation is off, and i imagined her as an immigrant from some place with too many consonants. But looking at the name, i now guess that she is Brazilian. Huh. Well, there is an odd twist to the pronunciation that really stands out in this song. No matter.
Ross's drumming is scattered and insistent as the guitar whines and the bass drives along merrily in Shadows. This is another very catchy tune. On Ripples Gold Cage play a sort of slow new wave music or post-punk, and the way Gamboa-Katz sings here reminds me of Andrea Vaughn from My Favorite. The song kind of chugs along nicely.
I think that Spaghettify is my favorite song here, and not just for the awesome name. Ross's beat here is just perfect, tapping lightly as Gamboa-Katz channels early Peter Hook with an insistent bass riff, and the guitar tremolos over it all. And then Devine sings about falling into a black hole -- how nerdy and catchy and wonderful.
The next song has a great name as well: Harshmellow. Again there is a fun drum riff, and Devine plays his most new waveish here. On Creepfest his guitar echoes under a mass of distortion and he gets very close to Robin Guthrie's solo work, which is a great way to end the record.
A record which always seem over to quickly for my tastes. I wish there were more songs, and i wish that the songs that are here went on for longer. But instead i just play the record again.
Slowcore and dreampop make fine bedfellows as Gold Cage teach us. There are shades of Low, Cocteau Twins, Codeine, SIANspheric, Slowdive, American Analog Set, and even The Verve all blended together here.
Very impressed. This band was, seemingly, made for me.