Anatomy of a Song: Tim Gane of Cavern of Anti-Matter (and Stereolab) on “Tardis Cymbals” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Anatomy of a Song: Tim Gane of Cavern of Anti-Matter (and Stereolab) on “Tardis Cymbals”

void beats / invocation trex Out Now via Duophonic

Mar 28, 2016 Stereolab Bookmark and Share

A song is a chance overlapping of countless variables in an artist’s life. Anatomy of a Song is a place where those variables can be dissected and examined. In this edition, Tim Gane of Cavern of Anti-Matter discusses “Tardis Cymbals.” Gane is also the co-founder of Stereolab and for Cavern of Anti-Matter he has teamed up with synth player Holger Zapf and former Stereolab drummer Joe Dillworth. The song is found on the trio’s debut album, void beats / invocation trex, which is out now via Duophonic. The album also includes “Liquid Gate,” which features Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Atlas Sound on vocals. Since the title “Tardis Cymbals” references Doctor Who (the TARDIS being The Doctor’s time and space machine), it’s not impossible to think that some of the music from the 53-year-old British science fiction show might have made an impact on Gane (such as the music of 1960s electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire). “Tardis Cymbals” isn’t a million miles removed from Derbyshire’s influential original electronic arrangement of the Doctor Who theme back in 1963. Read on as Gane discusses the musical inspiration behind “Tardis Cymbals.”

A couple of years ago I met up with the film director Peter Strickland, in Berlin for the day, ostensibly to talk about Cavern of Anti-Matter recording a single for Peter’s record label Peripheral Conserve. We got on to talking about “temp music”-(temporary music used in films for editing and atmospheric purposes but later replaced by the proper soundtrack. “Temp music” tends to be well known pieces from the worlds of classical music, soundtracks, and sometimes pop and rock. The soundtrack to Kubrick’s 2001 was originally the “temp music.”)-which I was having a moan about at the time as it was causing me problems on the soundtrack I was working on. It’s a sure fire way to get the most mediocre and confused score I railed (thumping my fist on the table). A few days later I got an email from Peter asking me if I would kindly produce some “temporary music” for him which he could listen to whilst working on a script etc. He didn’t want finished pieces of music but just little sound ideas revolving around the varied possibilities of drum machines and electronic drones. He sent me a few examples of electronic sounds and rhythms that he liked, one of which was the Stereolab cover of The Godz track “ABC (The Multitude)” recorded in 1994, which features a 7/8 time lurching four note bass riff extracted from a mass of freeform playing on the original track.

(This cover version was quite a key track in changing the way the Stereolab sound would develop in the ‘90s as it gave me the idea to use small looping bass riffs as a way to build up interlocking melodic cells. It was still based in repetition but different to before. We would use this idea a lot on the next LP Emperor Tomato Ketchup.)

Me and Holger Zapf spent a pleasant couple of days working up some pretty great drum machine sounds and electronic drones for Peter’s temp music and we included a version of the Stereolab cover with its 7/8 drum pattern played on a Roland TR 606 (which was devilishly difficult to program!).

We sent them all off to Peter and he let us know his favorites, which didn’t include the 7/8 time 606. Oh well…

Skip forward a few months and I come across the 7/8 606 sound file again. I’d forgotten about it but hearing it again now I thought what a great rhythm it would be if it wasn’t connected to its original 4 note bass riff. I set up my basic system of a TR-606 Drum Machine into a Roland 104 Sequencer connected to an Arp Odyssey Synth and finally fed into a Bel BD-80 Delay and programmed a basic riff of E,B,E,B. With the Delay off the riff sounds a bit stiff but switching on the Delay and fiddling around I discover that a delay time of 157ms achieved a wonderful rolling effect where the notes blur into each other and all the gaps in the sound disappear. I think this is what makes the track really work, a flowing, gliding pulse that hides the 7/8 accent a touch but gives the track a more propulsive linear feel. It complements the drum track extremely well. The final stage is for the band to improvise over the basic riff and arrive at some kind of rough arrangement. We played it live at a couple of gigs but something wasn’t quite right about the way we did it and when it came to the recording it still wasn’t working the way I thought it should. We had originally played it like we do on a few of the other songs on the LP where there is an organized “head” of a track which develops into a more improvised and open ended second half. This rhythm however needs space and not density to work and we were always running out of steam, floundering around like a beached whale. Somehow we ended up swapping the two halves around, with the open ended section first and the more composed part second. This is why the melodic bit occurs so late in the song, around the 8- or 9-minute mark and not after a minute and a half as we had originally done it.

The last stage was to erase all the improvised noise from the new opening section and just leave the cymbals thrashing around. The cymbals were fed into an EMS Synthi and filtered to create the “Tardis” sound that gives the track its name. Originally Sonic Boom was supposed to sing on it but his vocals hadn’t arrived yet and although we had held the track back to mix last we couldn’t wait any longer and it was mixed as an instrumental. A couple of days later his vocals suddenly turned up and we mixed the track again in a different way (re-instating some of the left out bits) weaving the voice in as best we could. This track is also on the album where it’s called “Planetary Folklore.”


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