It’s been 30 years since Roland stopped manufacturing the 303 and well over 20 years since the acid sound it brought to both mainstream pop and underground dance music in the 90s has had any significant presence in either. Fact is, nothing ever really dies in dance music, and this applies particularly to acid and the 303. There will always be pockets of labels and artists keeping a sound or style alive. Acid Test, as the name would imply, is a label that aims to do exactly that for acid, an output of modern day twists on the most distinctive squelch in music. After releasing a trio of singles on the label alongside the likes of Donato Dozzy, Pépé Bradock and head Tin Man, Achterbahn D’Amour, known on their own as Iron Curtis and Edit Piafra, release the third LP on the label with Odd Movements. They have a tough act to follow. Recondite‘s On Acid and Tin Man’s Neo Neo Acid are two of the finest examples of how make an enjoyable dance album, a notoriously difficult task. Despite all three of their singles, in particular third release Acid Test 06, being very strong releases, this is not always indicative of an artist who can translate their work into the album format. Thankfully Achterbahn D’Amour handle the task admirably and provide an engaging and, perhaps most notably, consistent dance album.
Stream: Achterbahn D’Amour – Holy Romance Empire Clip (Absurd)
As album titles go, they’re rarely more appropriate than Odd Movements. The album is constantly twisting and manages to showcase how effective the 303 can be in creating certain atmospheres. The album opener “Holy Romance Empire” offers a warped acid synth line over a fuzzy driving house beat, creating an club track you can imagine immersing yourself in just as the night is really starting to get into its stride. We are then worked into “Passagen”, a haunting, mechanical techno and “Jaws of J.O.Y.” which ventures into a deeper acidic sound. Similarities to mid-to-late-90s acid techno can be found, though you won’t find anything as hyperactive as you would on Smitten and Zoom Records, the focus on creating visceral acid lines is still obviously something which Achterbahn D’Amour are keen on. For club tracks they are still remarkably unostentatious however, which gives it the ability to also make it an enthralling home listen without the threat of overpowering. The duo ease it out a bit a more for the next two tracks “Ladbroke Culture” and the title track. Here is where the Tin Man association becomes most evident with both tracks taking a more laidback approach akin to Neo Neo Acid. This not only helps demonstrate their versatility but it also prevents the album becoming stagnant, which is vitally important on a record that is so heavily focussed on one instrument.
The second half of the album is where the album really comes into its own. “Teen Sleep”s metallic backdrop offsets its ephemeral but intense 303 line and it burrows into the conscious to the extent that it feels a lot longer than the 5 minutes it falls just short of. A Throbbing Gristle sample kicks us into the album highlight “My Demands” which continues with the unassuming clubby acid lines but in a remarkably twisted manner. An unsettling vocal sample (we tried our best to source it, to no avail) which threatens to “detonate the whole fucking lot” combined with the restrained-yet-warped squelches creates a delight in its callous atmosphere reminiscent of a good serial killer movie. “Konigstr” doesn’t depart significantly from the blueprint set out earlier in the album but is a more straight-up techno affair which suitably gives you a final workout before ” Cream & Treacle (I&M)” acts as the soaring warm down complete with indiscriminate 303 notes, a reminder of the one thing that permeates the record.
Odd Movements will likely have some detractors, those who dismiss acid revivalism as lazy and unnecessary in 2014. Revivalism in dance music can, at its worst, seem like a misunderstood pastiche. Achterbahn D’Amour however have successfully managed create not only interesting acid revivalism record, but done so in the album format. Whilst the previous album efforts on Acid Test’s strength lay in their ability to recontextualise acid into a more home-listening friendly sphere, Odd Movements will undoubtedly wrangle itself into club sets. Experimentation with the 303 isn’t a new thing, with musicians as diverse as Daniel Avery, Boddika and Ceephax Acid Crew giving their own interpretations of acid meaning it won’t disappear any time soon. Achterbahn D’Amour and Acid Test don’t set out to create or expect to cause any kind of upheaval in which acid once again becomes the most dominant sound in dance music, but provides a tasteful modern homage to the little grey box of wires that has brought masses to their feet. Ultimately however, Odd Movements thrives where other dance albums often fail by creating an incredibly well executed introverted techno record which is just as easy to get absorbed in at home as it would be in a darkened room at 4am.
Words by Antoin Lindsay