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Cavern of Anti-Matter at Exchange Bristol review

Josiah Hartley gets his fix of experimental indie as part of Cavern of Anti-Matter's first UK tour.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 9th Jun 2016

Image: Cavern of Anti-Matter

Since English indie outfit Stereolab went on an indefinite hiatus back in 2009, the highly influential bands co-founders - Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier - have both remained busy with various musical ventures. Sadier, the ‘Lab’s vocalist/lyricist, has mainly focused on her solo career and occasional guest spots, while musical mastermind Gane - now based in Berlin - has dabbled with soundtrack work, collaborations and set up his latest musical project, Cavern of Anti-Matter.

Formed in 2012, the experimental electronic band is made up of guitarist and chief composer Gane, alongside synth maestro Holger Zapf and original Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth. Over the last four years the trio has explored the avenues of electronic-orientated post rock within their Berlin studio, resulting in a slew of limited edition vinyl releases (including 2013’s Blood-Drums LP) via the likes of Grautag, Associated Electronic Recordings and Ghost Box. And in February, this year dropped their first proper album Void beats / Invocation trex through Gane’s own imprint Duophonic.

Wednesday evening saw Cavern of Anti-Matter touch down in Bristol, for the second date of their first-time UK tour, to play a dazzling set to a full capacity audience in the Exchange. With plenty of fans having turned up for the mid-week gig, it was very apparent that most were very eager to hear Gane’s latest musical endeavors in a live capacity.

Humbly taking to the stage around 9:30pm, the band immediately opened up with the dreamy twelve minute plus ‘Tardis Cymbals’. Building layer upon layer of sounds, it proved to have the desired hypnotic effect, and quickly found the entranced crowd nodding along to the off-kilter groove in a 7/8 time signature.

As Cavern of Anti-Matter are very much a band's band (likewise with Gane’s previous group), there was an unmistakable presence of musicians, music aficionado’s, and naturally Stereolab fanatics within the crowd. And clearly many of whom had no difficulty keeping time with the unconventional rhythms.  

With the opener culminating on a high of droning feedback and roaring applause from the gig-goers, they moved onto performing the dark 80s electro stylings of ‘Blowing My Nose Under Close Observation’. At just two songs in, the power trio had the temperate audience who were initially nodding, now dancing away to the clinical drum machine-driven beats.

An early highlight of the set-list was the lively motorik rhythms of ‘Insect Fear’, which went down an absolute treat. And saw swathes of the crowd bopping up and down with uncontrollable joy.

The band were clearly having fun too and seemingly on another musical dimension; with Gane strumming away on his guitar intently, eyes closed whilst simultaneously spinning his head. Dilworth was letting loose on the drums, and Zapf was rocking out behind the stacks of vintage electronic machinery. Of all the songs CoAM performed, ‘Insect Fear’ was probably the closest thing to the compositional genius of early Stereolab, and therefore appealed to the legion of avid ’Lab-heads in attendance.

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As an instrumental-based band there were no microphones on stage for any in-between chatter from the band members, as you’d perhaps expect at most gigs – by vocal-led acts. This was by no means a downside though, as it allowed the songs to flow seamlessly much like the Void beats / Invocation trex LP itself  - where most of the set-list was drawn from. And as CoAM likely intended, take the audience on an immersive journey of brilliant retro and forward-thinking and sounds.

Another highlight later on in the set came in the form of ‘Hi-hats Bring The Hiss’, an industrial techno workout that found much of the thirty plus-aged crowd having it large, like youthful club-goers in a sweaty Warehouse rave. Made up of a brutal synth riff, oscillating guitar lines and frantic drum work, it translated well live from the album recording, and proved to be a remarkable example of modern techno performed live by seasoned musicians. Like most of the songs performed there was a very loose, improvisational feel to the track, that captured crowds imagination, without relying on any vocals whatsoever.

Opting for one of the strongest tracks off their current album, they closed the set with the Kraftwerk-esque ‘Void Beats’, which caused everyone to dance energetically and end the gig on a spellbinding high.

Whether we come to ever see or hear the return of the much-revered Stereolab again (whose ardent fans range from Pharrell Williams to Tyler, The Creator), rest assured, Cavern of Anti-Matter are another strong force to be reckoned with - as demonstrated live at Exchange on Wednesday evening. And with Gane once again at the helm, assisted by the reliable talents of Dilworth and Zapf, it marks a welcome return for the visionary musician, who is clearly still oozing with wondrous amounts of creativity. 

Catch Cavern of Anti-Matter at Liverpool Psychedelic on Saturday 24th September

Or see Cavern of Anti-Matter at Hare & Hounds in Birmingham on Wednesday 21st September.