Tin Man, Acid Test 08

[Absurd Recordings / Acid Test]

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With each new record, I’ve started to worry Absurd’s Acid Test is going to lose its edge. It’s an unfair if somewhat logical expectation, given the series works solely with the 303. In its three-decade history, the synth has been treasured by producers of everything from gabba to electro. There are even old Kylie Minogue records backed by its freaky squelch. Consequently, many people feel like they’ve heard everything the 303 has to offer. When it opened two years ago, Acid Test challenged such thinking. It presented sad, torpid records like Tin Man’s “Nonneo,” alongside minimalist, squelch-free things like Achterbahn D’Amour’s “Trance Me Up (I Wanna Go Higher).” These records felt exciting and new. But the label been doing its thing for a while now. Surely it’s running out of niches to explore?

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Kind of. 08 doesn’t feel as fresh as some of the previous records, but nor does it feel passé. “Mystified Acid” is the same Tin Man we heard on last year’s Neo Neo Acid LP. But his sheer talent for arrangement means that even though all the ingredients are the same — including percussion and other non-303 sounds — the result is still memorable. Driven by a beefy, rolling bass line, the track’s blippy motif inflates slowly, reaching only a modest high before returning to original size. With just this single hook, the result is stark, purposeful, and surprisingly catchy. The other two pieces, remixes of Neo Neo tracks, suffer in comparison. RVDS’ rework of “Fingerpaint” is just like a finger-painting: there’s an awful lot going on, only some of which seems to go together. On the one hand, you have to admire how much extra has been squeezed onto Tin Man’s original canvas; on the other, some restraint might have made this brilliant. Conversely, Joey Anderson’s remix of “Futurist Acid” has the restraint, but lacks Tin Man’s destination-driven arrangement. Its blocky 303 notes are enjoyable, yet as Anderson slips back and forth between eerie synth and shimmering arp patches, the whole thing can feel a bit half-baked. If 08 shows anything, it’s that Acid Test hasn’t run out of ideas just yet. This time, however, the execution of these ideas isn’t quite up to the usual standard.

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