photo by Micah Mickles
"CaveofswordS is a dreampop project based out of St. Louis, led by vocalist Sunyatta McDermott. They released their lead single, “Lately” today, off of their forthcoming album, Sigils due out on 3/10. Dark and atmospheric, McDermott’s vocals are simultaneously breathy and soaring, accompanying an elegantly dreamy, sinister minor melodic synth and electric guitar. Within the track, there are nods to both 80s new wave and late 90s pop rock thanks to the seamless blend of infectious electronic drums and McDermott’s vocal prowess, underpinned by a grittier guitar line than we’re used to hearing in this brand of electro."
"Combining elements of pop, industrial, electronic, and alternative music, U.S. band CaveofswordS produces a dark, foreboding sonic aesthetic that, while menacing, also makes you want to groove. Their track, "Aviation Administration," makes me feel like I went heavy on the downers, hit a goth club in cold-war era Eastern Europe, and ended up having a great time dancing my ass off.
If that description befuddles you, check out Baeble's exclusive premiere of CaveofswordS' new video for "Aviation Administration" above, and be mystified by the subliminal semi-occult imagery and Sunyatta McDermott's beautifully haunting vocals. "
"What Sigils will not be is shallow. Fans of CaveofswordS’ first album, Silverwalks, can expect the same gloriously layered depth from the new music, in the expanse of instrumentation as well as in lyrical content. The album title itself is a signal that they’re reaching under the surface for more elusive subject matter: the title, like the band, combines a heightened sense of detail awareness with a healthy dose of informed paranoia. Not unlike the work of one of their favorite authors, William Gibson, the album concerns “this idea that there are sigils, symbols, that are everywhere you look,” says Sunyatta, who writes the band’s lyrics. “Real small. You just totally miss them. They’re on your keys, on your bookbag, on your toothpaste, your dish soap, they’re everywhere. This can of soda,” she gestures. “They’re so ubiquitous that you become blind to them. Once you become aware of them again, once your eyes open to it, you can start tracing the lines of power and ownership. You can see what’s happening in the world.”
Armbruster nods in agreement. “When you spot one, you’re filled with everything the sigil represents, because you’ve been bombarded with them your whole life,” he says. “Sigils is just a way to recognize.”
“History is written by the winners,” says KVN darkly. “They teach you what they want you to remember.”
I could point out that “Blameless” sounds more like a letter to a lost love than sociopolitical commentary, but KVN sees it coming. “Sunyatta couches a lot of what would otherwise be specific quandaries,” he says. “It sounds like it’s about a relationship. But she does a good job, I think, of pulling herself back enough that people can lay any part of their lives over it.”
Thematically, the album is a complex web of associations both macro and micro. “There are connecting themes,” Sunyatta confirms. “Some of them are very personal, but I don’t need my heart dissected. There are global systems at work. We’re on a spectrum of powerful and powerless. [We have] fears that all governments and capitalism use to control us. I take inspiration from the natural world, I like to talk about human experiences.”
“It’s like she’s able to personify things that aren’t human,” says Armbruster.
“I think of it in terms of psychedelic experiences, which are like religious experiences for other people,” says Sunyatta. “I tend to look for similarities between the smallest and largest systems that I can comprehend.” Sigils, then, may serve as a metaphorical perspective on the intersection of social reality and spiritual experience. “Yeah,” she says, “but I’m not spiritual either. I don’t believe in a soul. We’re in touch with beauty that’s right outside, right in front of you. That’s all you have to be in touch with.”"
"KVN selects the images projected over the band carefully. Though he has used flowers, guns, nudity, and other samples of the human experience, over time it has evolved into the abstract. “There’s a lot of old image sites that are just millions of pictures,” he says. “I just look for what the music looks like. Geometric architecture. How do you represent the music visually so that it corresponds sonically? How do you draw sound?”
His visual and musical aesthetics seem to spring from the same basic urge. “My approach is to create something that doesn’t leave any space for you to be thinking about what you have to do at work tomorrow,” he says. “It should be all encompassing. I want it to be visually, audibly, an overwhelming experience every time. I want people to shut their brain off for 45 minutes. The best shows are the ones where everybody’s there together and you can feel it. You’re gonna play better because they’re into it. That really is a huge thing: that reciprocation, even if you hardly know them. A lot of times we can’t even see them. But you can feel it.”"
-Grant Barnum, Eleven Magazine
"What first impresses on "Blameless," the new single by St. Louis-based electronic-music group CaveofswordS, is simply the melody: the way it flows in and out and around and through the host of percussive and synthetic textures. The melody is carried by Sunyatta McDermott's seraphic voice, but it's also absolutely inseparable from each musical element. In short: "Blameless" is glorious."
"Trying to pound through some of my 500+ emails the last couple of days. It’s interesting when you go through so much music like that in a shortened period of time, it actually takes something a lot more impactful to find its way into your subconscious. This track from CaveofswordS, a St. Louis trio, did just that. Check out the video for “Aviation Adminstration” "
-New Music Michael
"If you’re someone who hears the words ‘dub wave’ and immediately groans while envisioning monotonous beats and head throbbing synth, well, you might just change your mind on the genre after hearing this first album from CaveofswordS. Often taking sides with ’80s post punk/New Wave, these 4 from St. Louis also plant electro-pop, world music and dream-pop amid front woman Sunyatta McDermott’s glorious voice. Much like their peers, CaveofswordS are dark and mysterious, but while similar bands seem interested in blurring repetition into some form of art, Sigils spends time illustrating their many talents in a more interesting and skilled manner. Consider this an updated version of Siouxsie Sioux. "
-Tom Haugen ,New Noise Magazine
"Enigmatic lyrics, reverb-drenched vocals, and an overall cryptic mood make up the newest album by the St. Louis rock group CaveofswordS, Sigils. (On their website, CaveofswordS is described as “dubwave”.) The band latticeworks layers of psychedelic haze and synth-led soundscapes into a brooding collage that emits intrigue all throughout these ten tunes. "
-Brice Ezell, Pop Matters
"The album feels like a succession of slow burns that keep a constant peak, with sinewy riffs riding atop a bright rhythm section. Sunyatta sings with depth, conveying clear melody while concealing a propensity for wilder rock leanings. The beats feel concrete, owing to a busy mixture of booming bass and soft snares. Each song shares distinct tweaks, helping the album to feel greater than the sum of its parts — a whole built with special care to each and every piece."
-Joseph Hess, Riverfront Times
Coming from the Gateway to the West, CaveofswordS‘ debut album, Sigils, may be the gateway for many to the genre of dub wave. But their version of dub wave isn’t over riddled with electronic beats and buzzing synths. It isn’t meant to blow your mind or make you feel like you’re in a club. Instead, their music is ethereal. It is infectious. It is at times dark and spine-tingling. It is meant to stimulate your mind and take you to places only imagined in dreams.
The experience begins from the opening track, “Aviation Administration”. It teeters on the edge of being a glorified electro-pop track, but it never falls off. Instead, the band shows great restraint in creating a pretty cool, hypnotic track. “Pastense”, though, best exemplifies the St. Louis quartet’s music. It’s a mind-altering, deliriously dark track that integrates horns to add another layer of mystery.
The desire to experiment has also helped CaveofswordS develop their sound. The “Datura” takes Middle Eastern textures to create a trippy, electronic track. “Sands“ stays in the region, but slowing things down considerably to create a lush but haunting feeling.
The band, though, can also create stirring numbers. The closing track, “Stylish Woes”, ebbs towards early ’80s Depeche Mode, a dark track that builds to its stirring climax. “Lately” is a heart-racing, brilliant number where frontwoman Sunyatta’s gorgeous voice shines over top the dub beats, synths, and scintillating guitars. And then there’s “Blameless”, the lead single that was released a couple of months ago and on the January 30th edition of the Weekend Showcase. It’s a dreamy, synth-pop track that really stands out among the dub-wave tracks of the album.
Sigils, itself, stands out amongst the mass of synth-driven music of the past few years. It is an album that should not only be heard but truly experienced regardless if you like dub-wave or not. The band’s take on a genre based on over-used repetition is refreshing and at times spectacular.