Of the groups that floated in and out of the orbit of the Elephant 6 Recording collective in the '90s, Elf Power is one of the few that's still alive and productive in the 21st century, and while the onset of semi-professionalism has led Andrew Rieger, Laura Carter, Eric Harris, and their partners to abandon some of the more outré aspects of the lo-fi approach that was once their calling card, their ninth album, In a Cave, shows that they're still enthusiastically flying the flag for their own brand of gently lysergic indie pop. Despite a fondness for buzzy keyboards and carefully placed sonic anomalies, In a Cave finds Elf Power embracing a relatively straightforward approach to their music, and "Spiral Stairs," "Fried Out," and "Softly Through the Void" could pass for conventional radio-friendly pop tunes in dim light. However, the wobbly textures of "Window to Mars," the quaking false start of "Quiver and Quake," and the spectral soundscapes of "Heads of Dust, Hearts of Lust" confirm Elf Power hasn't lost touch with its playful qualities, and the songwriting confirms Rieger's vision is still sharp and colorful. In a Cave's melodies claim an air of enchanting mystery, with enough hooks to make them hard to resist and just the right amount of angles to keep them from getting too fluffy. And while Elf Power hasn't started to turn into Steely Dan on us; after a dozen years the band has a lineup that can lay down a solid groove, add tasty guitar and keyboard accents, and generally sound like a for-real band rather than a music fan's goof. Elf Power circa 2008 is having its cake and eating it too in the indie pop sweepstakes, and the dessert they serve up on In a Cave is very tasty indeed.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming