The 53 seconds of air raid siren wailing at the beginning of Antimatter’s Lights Out (The End Records MMIII) serve as a converse magnification of the broad-spectrum implications exhibited by the record. In some ways, those 53 seconds are the maximisation of Lights Out, all the sky and uphill the listener will see for the course of its duration. Everything that comes after is slighter, fairer and subtler, which is about the best result the party of understatement could ever hope to negotiate. Lights Out says a lot even though it hardly moves its lips.
Antimatter, as most of you will know by now, is a duo comprising of Mick Moss and Duncan Patterson. Lights Out is their ‘sophomore’ release. The most educated of you may have heard the band’s debut album, Saviour, which was released by The End Records in 2002. Lights Out is not a mindless replica of the first record. Whereas Saviour was packaged in white, had some sort of angel figure on the cover and was musically melancholic at the most, the darkly laid out Lights Out takes a plunge into the realms of dimmer material and graver motion. With acoustic guitars, keyboards, male and female voices, and a weighty sense of ambience, Antimatter have composed lengthy, trance-like tracks that step the fine line between spacious and minimalist.
Lights Out is a curious evolution from the structured music of Saviour. Explaining the progress from the first album to the second, Mick Moss goes all the way back to his genesis as a songwriter.
“My earliest music was always experimental, progressive and instrumental, but when I began to sing I began writing ‘songs’ and I focused purely on vocal, lyric and melody. The songs I put forward for Saviour were from a time when I was still writing songs and completely ignoring the concept of instrumental passages, and I realised this when it came to writing for Lights Out. So when the time came for the next batch of songs, I fleshed them out and added dynamics and generally breathed life into the frame of things, which is something I never did for Saviour.
“The writing process for Lights Out included looking back at Saviour and asking myself what I could’ve done better. This is a process I never went through in doing Saviour because it was my first album. There is an urge to mature my compositions in now, but this is something I couldn’t do on the first album because it was my first experience with recording. On Saviour my ambition was purely to get a good recording of my best songs, but on Lights Out my ambition was to improve on Saviour.”
Antimatter’s music has a very earthy, unpretentious feel to it. It seems to reflect quite unequivocally the personalities behind it. Striving for honesty and sincerity, the compositions do not allow the presence of any surplus components that could not establish a connection to the core of the art. The music claims rights only to the essential and indispensable. The temperament lies not only in the spirit and integrity, but in the overpowering wholeness.
Mick reflects, “Duncan always says that in a lot of full bands, you get guys who just stick to one thing i.e. a guitarist or a bassist, so they focus on their instrument as a factor that’s more important than the overall picture—because all they manage to see is their instrument or their ‘part’. So you’ll get a lead guitarist who doesn’t know when to stop and this detracts from the maturity of the composition. We simply write pieces of music and we see this as our job. Whereas some arseholes may pat someone on the back for being able to play the drums really fast, we acknowledge each other for writing a good song or doing a good turn in a composition. So for this reason our stuff doesn’t come out pretentious, and everything that’s in there is there for a reason—not because some guy’s standing there afraid not to play for five minutes so he adds a part so as not to look stupid on stage. Also, we don’t feel the need to poodle to a specific style, so overall our music isn’t being compromised by egos or forced stylisations.”
Rather wondrously, Mick and Duncan mould Antimatter’s music largely as two separate units.
“We write our own songs in our own time and we play most of the instruments on our own tracks so we don’t really work together. Our albums are like two solo EP’s sewn together and it works really well because our styles go together. In the studio, I’ll do a little on his tracks and he’ll do a little on mine but this is merely a smudging together of the dividing lines.”
Perhaps it is this that brings dynamism into Antimatter’s music. Mick believes one only has to listen to the first three songs on Lights Out to see the bumps and drops in there. Nonetheless, he says he has heard it said before that Lights Out has got no dynamics.
“What do these people mean by dynamics? Do they even know the meaning of the word? I spent months getting the peaks and dips just right, and then some pseudo-intellectual shit head writes that there’s no dynamics in the album, and in the same breath that same shit head will review a really crap metal album with absolutely no dynamics and say it’s the best thing he’s heard for ages.”
Dynamic or not, Lights Out delivers one healthy notion: when it becomes difficult to move, stop moving.