The Exchange | 25th May
Appearances, of course, can be deceptive. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised that the three casually dressed, unassuming middle aged gentlemen who make their way onto the stage at The Exchange on Wednesday evening might play such out-there music. Those in the know though, wouldn’t have made such a mistake.
Cavern of Anti-Matter, though a young band in the sense that they have only been together a few years, as individuals have been there and done it already. And the years of experience shine through during this enchanting, hypnotic display of expert musicianship and telepathic synchronisation of purpose.
Former Stereolab members Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth, plus synth/keyboard whizz Holger Zapf, whip up a heady and strange brew to a noticeably delighted and appreciative audience. Many of whom will very likely recall the mid-90’s experimental art-rock of Stereolab, who despite being a well-known and respected band throughout the Britpop era, always seemed to fly under the radar of the mainstream, a subversive antithesis to the nostalgic and ultimately conservative re-hashing of 1960’s guitar tropes that was the generally dominant trend of Britpop.
Stereolab had a 1960’s influence, sure, but they were mining a different seam to the floppy haired lads and ladettes who graced the covers of the NME and Melody Maker. And it is this melding of 60’s psychedelia and 70’s electronic influences, viewed through the opposite end of the kaleidoscope of 90’s rave and house that makes Cavern of Anti-Matter such an appealing proposition.
From the off they launch straight into a Kraftwerkian groove, all programmed beats and strafing keyboard washes, courtesy of Zapf’s impressive bank of what one can only assume to be vintage analogue synths. The beautiful phasing and warm shifting tones of these synths will be one of the defining features of tonights show, an ever present aural hug. And everyone likes a good hug right? Add in Gane’s complex, varied guitar playing, and the precise but impressionistic drum work of Dilworth, and there is always something to marvel at across the hour and half span of the set.
Much of the long-from material Cavern… play is structured in a build/release format, with calm followed by swells, and an unyielding sense of forward momentum, despite the repetitive nature of the music. At times the retro-futurist vibe of the Hammond organ style chops brought to mind grainy black and white footage of post-war nuclear tests, or even schlocky American B-movies with innocent provincial towns being destroyed by malevolent beings.
Many of the tracks played tonight possess myriad influences, which combine with thrilling results. I spotted The Field-esque dub-techno exploits, sat alongside day-glo 90’s rave melodies, all crystalline chiming keyboards, and that constant Germanic motorik backbone. At times, as those sunny rays of pealing elegiac synths peaked through the rhythmic patterns, one feels like being in the grip of some deranged and manic daydream; the aural equivalent of watching concentric circles spinning for infinity, or being inside an M.C. Escher painting, traversing endless stairs to nowhere.
Without wishing to go too metaphysical, the locked-in hypnotic qualities of this music creates an almost hallucinatory effect, to the extent that you might ponder if this is the music that plays in the spaces between atoms, eternally. The near torturous repetition has the paradoxical effect of inducing the pleasure of momentarily glimpsing a state of psychic madness; you could imagine coming out of the other side of this grinning like a loon, your mind forever altered in some way. This is the music that Sonic the Hedgehog might listen to at home to relax during his downtime from collecting gold rings and chaos emeralds. Or maybe not.
So then, Cavern of Anti-Matter; a fearless band of collaborative sonic explorers, whose optimistic, unifying post-war melodies could just be the soundtrack to a utopian future. If you open your mind and let them in.
Check out ‘Liquid Gate’ right here: