The Acid – Liminal

Adam Freeland has said that he was burnt out from DJing around the globe, playing crazy late night shows and jetting off at stupid 0'clock for the next destination. Many would kill for that kind of lifestyle, but eventually he decided that after 16 years, enough was enough. But, as someone who was always interested in making music that involves more than just programming (witness his long forgotten 2003 album Now and Them), Freeland finally, and rather more by accident than design, found some like minded souls; Californian artist Steve Nalepa – who is apparently a technical wiz with Ableton Live, a music producer, and a professor of music technology at a Californian university; and, Australian born producer Ry X, known for his deep house excursions and more recent 'tender techno' projects.

Together, they have fashioned a remarkable album, a proper recording in the sense that this flows from beginning to end, united by Freeland's background in dance music, Ry's very hazy voice and a generally experimental approach to music making where the music is pulled and pushed, stretched and shrunk, warped and otherwise, all largely within the framework of a gently moody and minimalist house and techno soundtrack.
'Animal' sets the tone, a ultra slow vibe like a seriously spooked Massive Attack, complete with trademark rim click on the snare – like a ticking clock. Vocalist Ry X, as he does throughout, exaggerates his tones, and is barely decipherable, and yet very precise and quite soulful in his delivery, his voice acting as a suitably melancholy foil for the music
Follow on track 'Veda' is a continuation of the formula, although it's a fuller, more dynamic song with sizzling synths, key stabs, and ambient techno style percussion. While Creeper is suitably creepy, the vocals barely registering above a whisper, the bass deep and distorted, the metronomic bouts of raking machine gun percussion holding our attention.
Somehow, despite the often slow pace of the songs and the drowsy singing in particular, Liminal (which is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals; participants are between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes) rarely fails to register, always offering up enough interesting textures, rhythms and passing instrumentation. And there is the odd wake-up call such as the seething vocal/synth passage on the magnificent 'Basic Instinct', a song that for one brief moment also features a rather out of place East Enders style drum pattern! It is perhaps the one and only time that something jars a little, feels out of place. Although something similarly odd does appear to happen on the track Fame; same title as the Bowie song, The Acid also deploying the delayed vocal echo on the word 'Fame', much like the Bowie track (sung by John Lennon no less). Whether contrived or accidental, The Acid seem to have a playful touch within the general seriousness of the music.
At this point, an unexpected acoustic guitar strums into life at the beginning of Ra, and it's here that comparisons with Fink are inevitable, the drowsy indie-blues style that Fink has patented, whereby his acoustic guitar is irrevocably fused with his narcotic voice, is somewhat replicated here by the acoustic and Ry X's voice.
Another interesting comparison (at least to theses ears!) occurs at the beginning of Tumbling Lights, where some vibes are fused with a crescending synthesiser sound that closely replicates the Moog beginning of Genesis's 'I Know What You Like (In Your Wardrobe)' before an abrupt plodding bass synth begins the song proper, another doped-out, Massive Attackesque groove.
The Acid like their old school sounds. Apparently recorded onto analog tape, Liminal is sprinkled liberally with the distinct house sounds of yesteryear; a clicking insect here, a hi-hat there, some Orbesque chirping birds and other eerie animal type noises; it's the primal, tribalistic nature of those sounds – despite the fact they are derived by artificial means – that was part of the appeal in he first place. And while that initial potency has worn off over time, it still often makes for otherworldly, transportative music that can feel very immersive, and enveloping; warm yet somehow steely in the cold light of day.
Just about holding the line despite a dip in quality towards the end of the album, this should be an interesting spectacle live. Their first ever live show was only a few weeks ago, but with their collective music making and production experiences, and the fact they are all used to being on a stage, expect something magical.
Jeff Hemmings