Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.31.09

Formerly Known As

Church was a name so un-Googleable, the Portland band’s press release immediately mentioned the impossibility of searching the interwebs for band news. Church was also, it turned out, a little too close to The Church, the Australian band behind “Under the Milky Way.” In a recent Q&A with SF Station, formerly-known-as-Church member Brandon Laws said The Church “politely threatened legal action.” 

So now Church is Ape Cave, which seems a wilfully cranky choice, almost as awkward as Church and further abusing the animals-in-band-names motif of the last few years. But ignore the name and give Song Force Crystal, the band’s 2009 album, a listen or several anyway. The atmospheric opening of “Graveyard,” the first track, gives little suggestion as to how textured, how insistent the rough-edged guitar tones and rounded synths will turn by the three-minute mark. I’m not one of those audio geeks who obsesses over the sound of analog vs. digital recording, but there’s warmth in these recorded-on-an-8-track songs, even when they feel a little distant, a little intellectual in the way the melodies break apart and reform. A mournful guitar and retro drum sound open “Opposite People,” with its eerie vocal harmonies; on another track, a distinctly spaghetti-Western guitar meanders through varied, spare percussion. Though distortion is a major part of the band’s sound, they somehow never seem noisy; the wash of distortion is often matched with a piano line that suggests space and silence, or a simple, repeating, intensifying guitar riff, and the contrast is both poppy and faintly experimental. These sometimes drifty, shifting songs take even more shapes when the quartet plays live, but that’s just all the more reason to see them when you’ve worn the record out. Ape Cave and Baitball play at 9 pm Wednesday, Jan. 6, at Sam Bond’s Garage. 21+. Free. — Molly Templeton