A band break-up, although it’s a fraught experience for the people involved, does not have the same ripple effect that is caused by, say, a couple in your social circle splitting up – you don’t have to work out who to spend time with, there’s not the awkward conversation when one of the party wants to find out information on the other and guilt doesn’t kick in if you find yourself favouring one over the other. When it comes to music, thankfully, there’s not the scenario where you are obliged to pick a side.
For example, if you were a fan of Stereolab, and frankly there is no reason to not be, then it’s probable that aside from feeling bereft when they officially announced they were pulling down the shutters (I think the official terminology remains ‘indefinite hiatus’), you would have been intrigued as to what the disparate former members would produce musically on their own. As the central couple behind Stereolab, it’s almost as if Tim Gane and Laetitia Sadier have split the band’s output down the middle, with Sadier’s solo work keeping the multi-layered vocals (obviously), the 60s chamber-pop influence and elements of Brazilian and French music. On the flip side, Gane has retained the driving motorik beat, the krautrock influence and most of the analogue synths.
It’s obviously not that simplistic but Gane’s new(-ish) band Cavern of Anti-Matter’s Hormone Lemonade does, quite frequently, sound like Stereolab without the vocals (case in point: “Phase Modulation Shuffle”, where even the title sounds like a off-cut from a ‘Lab release). The Berlin-based Cavern is clearly Gane’s project but the building blocks for this album stem from Holger Zapf, who had a fairly limited input on the first album Blood Drums but has considerably increased his role in the trio (with Joe Dilworth’s drums completing the line-up). This essentially laying down a groove for the trio to then improvise over; presumably, they could start, get locked in and then stop at some point between the next 60 seconds and, say, a week on Wednesday. So it is that opener, and longest track here, “Malfunction” builds up quite a head of steam before hitting the emergency brake mid-way through and starting all over again.
Like its most obvious creative precedents (Can and electric-period Miles Davis), Hormone Lemonade is an album that is borne in the edit suite, and really benefits from the discipline that introduces. There is a lightness to the music here; not in the sense that it lacks heft but rather it feels effortless. “Malfunction” glides past, easing beyond the quarter-hour with nary a bead of sweat on show; it is the longest track here but it’s possible that all the other tracks could have been twice as long. Or thrice; in the streaming age, we can surely imagine an extended version lasting three hours… Many of the tracks retain the little trick of re-booting mid-way; a technique to keep the music consistent but still sounding fresh.
In essence, though, Cavern Of Anti-Matter have produced an album that is a lot of fun, that is almost breezy at times. Perhaps importantly, for all of its tight rhythms and Berlin-centered creation, it doesn’t feel in debt to Gane’s usual influences. Instead, much of Hormone Lemonade sounds like a band attempting to replicate the style of electronic producers (“Feed Me Magnetic Rain” is a key example) with live instrumentation. And, by golly, it works. It feels, to borrow another album title, like an analogue bubblebath; light, frothy and a delight to listen to. (Jeremy Bye)