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Athens, Georgia’s Elf Power are a long-exploited energy concern, burning steadily for nearly 15 years with vaguely mystical and mostly reliable post-D&D indie folk. Fronting an ever-shifting Elephant 6 cast, songwriter Andrew Rieger and multi-instrumentalist Laura Carter have lately struggled to articulate that nearly perpetual motion (save the f’n supreme title track to 2004’s Walking With the Beggar Boys). In a Cave, though, is the sound of mild reawakening, aided by unsung Olivia Tremor Control hero Eric Harris, former Of Montreal multitasker Derek Almstead, and Instruments leader Heather McIntosh.
Harris is felt especially, as co-author on four of the album’s weirdest and most engaging cuts, including opener “Owl Cut (White Flowers in the Sky),” wherein Rieger’s strums are set atop a fractalized beat, and “Window to Mars,” a warbling psychedelic bauble. Elsewhere, the music isn’t as quizzical, but the band is always elegant in their dispensing of tasty T.Rex lixx (“The New Mythology”), fuzz bass (“Spiral Stairs”), and mellow garage stomps (“Fried Out”). Even on “Softly Through the Void,” where Rieger (not uncommonly) roams familiar turf, the band is right there with supportive organs, distant strums, and a stunningly subtle cowbell to repopulate the space with fauna. Though the band had mostly jettisoned dense E6 collaborations beginning with 2002’s stripped Creatures, this one is something of an affirmation of the bells-and-whistles-within-worlds recordings of yore. The more empowered Elves turning the sprockets, the merrier.