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Cavern Of Anti-Matter – Hormone Lemonade


Cavern Of Anti-matter - Hormone LemonadeTim Gane has barely rested in the last thirty years. After McCarthy was taken over by Stereolab, it was fascinating watching that band evolve into the well-loved and much imitated melder of genres that it became.

From the lo-fi hypnotic racket of “Goldenballs” to the sublime pop chemistry of “Captain Easychord”, the band were in constant motion. Since their dissolution, Tim has put all his efforts, with help from Holger Zapf and original ‘Lab drummer Joe Dilworth (who also wielded the sticks for the wonderful Faith Healers) into Cavern Of Anti-Matter… and what a lot of effort it has been. This album comes maybe not quite hot on the heels but fairly closely after two triple albums, one in 2013 and one in 2016, as well as a handful of singles spread across various labels.

Their sound is very much rooted in the electronic sound of seventies and eighties Europe, all shiny and metronomic, synthetic elements merging with the kind of propulsive thrust that real drums brings to a band like this. The way Joe drums is perhaps the band’s secret weapon, injecting a little reality into what can easily become a synthesised reverie. Also, the album, which is a thing of stylishly packaged beauty, is only a double on record (clear vinyl, it must be added), and for me I think this is the perfect length.

In fact, about a quarter of Hormone Lemonade alone is taken up by opener “Malfunction” and goes some way to showing that although the band have their parameters set to a certain extent, they can work within them to a point that injects fresh blood and new ideas. Sixteen minutes long, “Malfunction” morphs through various stages along the way, with false endings lulling the listener into trying to second-guess the band, only to be out-flanked by them. The utterly synthetic motorik beat is joined by a languorous six-note line that attempts to play with the listener’s perceptions. A drumbeat does kick in eventually, and after all these years, is Joe the new Jaki Liebezeit? The precision is astonishing.

There is no fuss and that allows Tim and Holger to build up and tear down simple buzzing seventies motifs or eighties-style teen coming of age drama themes at whim. At points, it descends almost into listlessness and at other times, surprisingly, a guitar appears and I forget that Tim is first and foremost a guitarist. The gentle lines he adds, nestled in the mix like waves lapping at some isolated shore, are a way of saying that this is a band operating from many years of shared history playing in guitar bands and those influences also are bound to appear. The song is relentless and when the drums are reintroduced after ten minutes or so, it is kind of a relief; but we also ask, where else can it possibly go? But go it does, and very finely.

Things become a little calmer from thereon in, jumping in with the Stereolab-like “Phase Modulation Shuffle” with its squelchy charm, two-tone background keyboards and smile-inducing backing vocals. We’ve missed those breezy “doo doo doos” and “ba ba bas” that graced the Stereolab records, and having them appear here and there on Hormone Lemonade adds a little more humanity. “Outerzone Jazs” goes off in a techno direction, but with a syncopated drum beat and cheesy chords that prevent the track from becoming too po-faced; and we have a positive, almost jazzy energy in “Feed Me Magnetic Rain” with its intricate hi-hat and electric drum pattern.

The sinister sounds that are plastered over the rhythm are offset by sparkly piano that appears midway through, takes the jazzy vibe and pushes it into a more drifty, early morning direction. When the drums return and a calypso guitar riff is smuggled in underneath, you realise that there is a whole lot of work gone into making these tracks as involved and interesting as possible. The resonant, radar installation iciness of “Remote Confection” is an interesting change of feeling, the portentous chords and subterranean noises lending a more isolated and less motorik vibe. This sits nicely at odds with the bleary “Motion Flow”, which takes a kind of Tortoise-like energy and drags it down with weary background effects, phased blurring and dizzying keyboard loops.

At one point I was struggling to find something here that stood this album out from the previous releases, but on sitting down and concentrating, it is definitely a worthwhile release on its own merits. The more you look into it and listen hard, the more Hormone Lemonade offers. Closer “Phantom Melodies” imagines the band playing with Angelo Badalamenti, a strange hope and optimism in the electronic mayhem, an insistence in the simplistic guitar, all tended to by a series of electronic rhythms, simple but different, stopping and drifting until the whole thing comes to a gentle halt.

It is possible to hear the influences as they pass by your ears on the first run through, but as you become more familiar with the material, the more you realise that they are transcending those roots. Cavern Of Anti-Matter seem to have the audacity to throw lots of references into one track and see what sort of soup they can boil up from it. It actually works very well and Hormone Lemonade is a satisfying, and to be honest at times demanding, album. Is it essential? It is hard to say, but seems to be more so the more often you hear it, the more time you allow it, and that is quite a skill for a band to accomplish.

-Mr Olivetti-

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