Photo by Simone Decker
[Absurd Recordings / Acid Test]
Our list of 2012’s best labels was a diverse group of five. Despite their varying outputs, it seems broadly accurate to say that four of our picks made the list by releasing tsunami-like volumes of good records. Acid Test was a little different. Sure, it released two LPs and one 12″, but their real feat was successfully reviving acid, a sound which many people have come to view as cliche and tiresome. The 303 is powerful and makes plenty of great sounds, but inevitably, that’s also led to it being heavily leaned on since its introduction in the late 80s. With this firmly in mind, the LA-based label slowed things down, teasing out the languid and pendulous aspects of acid less often heard. At the time, this was pretty refreshing. It’s been two years, however, since Tin Man’s spectacularly affecting “Nonneo,” and everyone has had plenty of time to grow accustomed to this particular usage of the instrument.
Thankfully, Acid Test knows how to keep moving. The series’ latest installment sees respected Frenchman Pépé Bradock take the reigns, leading off in a new — and yes, fresh-sounding — direction. Bradock, real name Julien Auger, has been getting steadily weirder these past few years, coming up with such combinations as “Rhapsody in Pain,” several minutes of tortured screams locked to a beat, a far cry from the svelte deep house of his early years. Acid Test 07 isn’t quite this strange, but it does wring some disturbing timbres from a synthesizer already renowned for oddness. In fact, in “Lifting Weights,” it seems unlikely that Auger is using untreated 303 at all. As the track’s wild, mewling notes progress, they gradually seem to melt into something very different from acid, whether via filters, a VST or some kind of distortion. This is a simple idea, but it quickly slays the legions of acid tracks which have been content to use the 303’s native sounds verbatim, without trying to improve or personalize them. The result is a wholly demented-sounding piece, that while initially familiar, moves quickly to unique and genuinely unsettling waters.
On the flip, “Mujeres Nerviosas” takes a more conventional approach to 303 timbre, but its arrangement is several cuts above the writhing, randomized-sounding leads commonly heard. Its quirky-sounding melodies are somewhat reminiscent of Roman Flügel, in fact. But where Flügel might have chosen to vary the notes or change it up, Auger takes a beautifully single-minded stance, building the track’s trilling lead and gurgling undercurrent into a furiously powerful wave. Few will be able to resist the onslaught in a club setting. Once again, Acid Test has shown that in the hands of the right people, acid is still highly relevant.