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Cave Painting - Votive Life

Cave Painting - Votive Life

by , 17 September 2012

"During the Old Stone Age, between thirty-seven thousand and eleven thousand years ago, some of the most remarkable art ever conceived was etched or painted on the walls of caves in southern France and northern Spain. After a visit to Lascaux, in the Dordogne, which was discovered in 1940, Picasso reportedly said to his guide, "They’ve invented everything." So begins Judith Thurman's article on ancient cave paintings in the south of France, which later inspired the Werner Herzog documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams (it's better than the title suggests, pinky promise. It's in 3D and everything!)

Cave Painting, the band, are dealing with quite the similar conundrum to old Pablo upon seeing their namesakes upon his visit to the Chauvet cave. "They've invented everything." Or: There's nothing new under the sun. The music of the Brighton-born band has touchstones in about a dozen modern, popular, slightly quirky British indie-rock bands. The asexual polyrhythms of first-album Foals; the theatrical falsetto of Wild Beasts; the "tropical" sound co-copted by Friendly Fires from Vampire Weekend (who nicked it from Paul Simon, who nicked it from the actual Tropics etc etc).

"I'm not wasting time," they sing on 'So Calm', which belies the rather slow-and-steady thing they have going on for the majority of Votive Life. The dictionary definition of "votive" being:

 adjective

  1. offered, given, dedicated, etc., in accordance with a vow: a votive offering.
  2. of the nature of or expressive of a wish or desire.

So, there's another comparison: the band, and particularly this album, have a similar "cult" (in the more sinister/spiritual sense of the word) feel as Wu Lyf do (or did).

There's comparisons to be made between Cave Painting and other bands, but that's not to suggest their music is derivative of their peers. From the backing vocals of 'Only Us', halfway between standard indie call-and-response and a Church choir, to the tribal drumming (joined by reverb-heavy, high-strung guitar work) on the instrumental sections of 'Simoleon' and 'Rio', to the triumphant horns which appear recurrently - briefly - thoughout the record, Votive Life is an audacious, intimate-yet-epic, sincerely, po-facedly spiritual record, the finest (possibly the only) indie record of the year successfully guided solely by faith, rather than head or heart (or loins).

This means that, sometimes, the lyrics are a little simplistic, as are the emotions: that's what makes it different. It's not 'It's Getting Boring By The Sea'. Cave Painting's songs are more in accordance with mad, genius eighties act Talk Talk, and the shadow of Mark Hollis and co is cast widest on the album's final track, 'Forming', a gorgeous, slow-building climax of quiet strings and quieter desperation.

Votive Life is a feverish vision, apparently offered "in accordance with a vow," yet from a band boasting "no grand statements, no game plan." It's a unique, bizarre, visionary, spooky hymn book of a debut. Music to stand atop beautiful natural vistas to: beautiful, if sometimes a little too languidly contemplative.

Rating: 7.5/10

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