A short walk from the cultural hub at the southern end of Mare Street, minutes from the Picturehouse and the grand, reborn Empire, stands the General Browning MOTH club. An old trade hall turned military servicemen’s club (set up by the Memorable Order of Tin Hats), it was saved from impending closure to become one of London’s best – and certainly most sparkly – new venues. Still making time amid gigs, club nights and karaoke for bingo and British Legion meetings, it’s less a sign of gentrification’s creeping tendrils than a genuinely interesting repurposing of a beloved local fixture.
There are veterans of a different kind here tonight, though. Now resident in Berlin, Tim Gane formed Cavern Of Anti-Matter in 2013, alongside synth wizard Holger Zapf and drummer – and former Stereolab cohort – Joe Dilworth, whose pounding also drove Camden lurch mainstays Th’ Faith Healers. With a handful of instantly collectible releases behind them, the band have now released first album proper Void Beats/Invocation Trex. Almost entirely instrumental, its twelve tracks sprawling over six sides, here Gane takes his band’s retro-futurist kosmische drones out of the lounge, somewhere closer to techno than the twisted tropicalia of the latter-day ‘lab, on an extended hiatus since 2009.
They start with Tardis Cymbals, where shuffling, sibilant 808 cymbals replace the 2-4-6-8-motorik you might expect from the intro, with its hints of NEU!’s Hallogallo. Compared to the mostly synth-driven recorded version, here Gane’s more pronounced, choppy guitar lines lead the burbling groove towards the outer reaches of prog and psychedelia, before the taut funk of Blowing My Nose Under Close Observation brings us back to earth, like a Giorgio Moroder cop show soundtrack. The garagey Insect Fear follows, perhaps the closest that the trio come to Gane’s work with Stereolab, the chewy, resonant synth lines riding the same kind of two-chord thrash that propelled The Noise Of Carpet.
Avoiding the new album’s vocal tracks – probably the weakest moments – the set sticks to a fairly similar instrumental template throughout. Mostly, the sell-out crowd are happy to nod their way through the often lengthy workouts, although there’s an early cry from the peanut gallery for “something to look at” (as if the venue’s astonishing ceiling, a series of golden, glittering arches, were not enough). If the stagecraft is slightly lacking, though, there’s certainly variety in COAM’s selections, from the mechanised love theme of Black Glass Actions or the driving, soulful Echolalia to the acidic squelch of You’re An Art Soul, sounding here like it came careening off the chase-sequence soundtrack of a straight-to-VHS heist movie.
Thrills are there to be had, too, with the muscular, propulsive beats of Hi-Hats Bring The Hiss, the needling synth top-line jarring against the rumbling, sequenced bass while Gane hacks chords from his guitar. After leaving the small stage briefly, they return for a final, tumultuous encore of Sound-Magic’s Death Ray Destroys The Vortex And Has Union With Infinity (!), whose steady groove is punctuated with shimmering keyboard stabs, steadily growing in intensity, before exploding into a swirling wig-out of an ending that’s as wildly colourful as any light show. A very welcome return.