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Cavern of Anti-Matter - In Fabric OST Music Album Reviews

Spanning 35 tracks in nearly two hours, the Stereolab spinoff’s first foray into film soundtracks balances playful electronic mood pieces with drones and nameless dread.

If you consider it negligent that Stereolab have yet to apply their otherworldly ambience to a film soundtrack, then In Fabric should go some way towards salving the wound. Active since 2013, Cavern of Anti-Matter are the trio of Stereolab’s Tim Gane, original Stereolab drummer Joe Dilworth, and synth player Holger Zapf; In Fabric, their first album in two years, is the soundtrack to British director Peter Strickland’s 2018 horror comedy, and it draws deep on their sizeable reserves of drones, charm, and finesse.
Alongside singer Laetitia Sadier, Gane was Stereolab’s songwriting engine, and here, his eye for guileful chord changes is evident on songs like “Winter Rhombic” or “Mannequin Metric,” whose ornate, slightly unpredictable melodic patterns suggest the creepy elegance of a Victorian music box. He also has a real knack for sonic texture, using just the right elements—echoing harpsichord (“Inside Luckmoore”), scratchy drum machine (“Elektro-Agitator 2”), or bachelor-pad organ (“The Retail Idea”)—to pin down an unusual mood, be it nervous classicism, strained funk, or dreamy capitalist fantasy.
The big difference between this and Cavern of Anti-Matter’s previous work is that on In Fabric the band dials down the rapid tonal shifts and rhythmic urgency of 2018’s Hormone Lemonade in favor of teasing out one idea over the course of a song. Many tracks weigh in around the two-minute mark, making them more like melodic miniatures for keyboard and guitar than full-blown songs, while even the longer numbers tend to feature only a handful of ingredients. “Queue Nightfall” is particularly minimal: A droning synth runs the length of the song spreading nameless dread, with other electronic elements periodically dropping in to further test the frazzled nerves.

As an accompaniment to the film’s Lynchian legend of a haunted red dress, the soundtrack’s kitsch and occasionally playful textures work well, delivering the kind of gentlemanly chills that stand apart from the overt gore and guts of much modern horror. As a stand-alone listen, though, In Fabric can be testing: The 35-song soundtrack runs to nearly two hours, and the very elements that make it work as a score—the repeating melodic motifs and moments of lingering disquiet—make it a difficult listening experience. Much like the film’s demonic dress, it feels at times like In Fabric owns you, more than you own it.

Still, scattered throughout are numerous examples of the melodic dexterity, genre agnosticism, and rhythmic poise that made records like Hormone Lemonade and Emperor Tomato Ketchup such shape-shifting delights. “The Dress Perspective” has a melody of such Gallic finesse that it begs for Sadier to break out her trademark bah-bah-ing melodies over its gorgeous chord sequence, while “ZinZan’s Avec Moi” has the life-affirming, slightly wonky rush of the best Stereolab disco moments. “Speaks Machine” is even better, a techno-influenced aural illusion that seems to be permanently pushing its melody up to an unscalable peak, like a Sisyphean synth jam.

With Stereolab reforming in 2019 for live dates, the dream of the groop soundtracking an Italian horror, French New Wave, or Eastern European art-house flick remains at least nominally alive. In Fabric won’t quite banish those grand cinematic visions. But it certainly scratches the band’s optical itch.


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