Though it's an integral part of dance music history, it's hard to see most applications of "acid" as anything other than a gimmick at this point. The surge of the squelching 303 is almost too familiar for its own good. One label that's been exploring alternate possibilities for the beloved Roland synthesizer is former RA Label of the Month Acid Test, with stellar releases thus far from Donato Dozzy, Tin Man and Achterbahn D'Amour. Their most substantive release yet comes in unlikely form through an album from Recondite, a German producer whose brand of gentle deep house seems about as impervious to acid house infiltration as a Stars of the Lid record, but his experiments with the 303 on On Acid are not only natural but embark on genuinely innovative territory for the much-abused unit.
On Acid steers clear of clichéd acid tropes—you won't find frothy rapids of caustic goo or obnoxious squelch anywhere. Instead, Recondite explores subtler strains of the corrosive solution, highlighting its nuance and deceptive potential for outright beauty. The 303 is treated almost like a string instrument, Recondite plucking resonant frequencies with varied levels of intensity and coaxing shuddering climax out of key notes. On the album's opening track, "Petrichor," with its woodblock percussion and careful synth work, you might not even notice the "acid" part at all—that is, until the knobs twiddle just slightly to reveal glints of resonance, stunning little flashes that light up the otherwise desolate landscapes.
It's that sense of abyss and silence that makes On Acid so gripping even at its most sedate, and what renders its two lengthy centerpieces as stunning portraits of melancholy. "Tie In" rarely manages much more than a murmur, but its 303 line lights a beautifully downcast path through the pitch-dark step-by-step, like it's keeping the track on life support. The similarly downtrodden "Harbinger" implodes its own acid trails into gorgeous meltdowns of sonorous screech, that familiar overdriven sound turned into pure grief. It's not all glazed looks and dour faces, however, and Recondite tries his hand successfully at more dance-oriented tracks, particularly with the earwormy chord progression of "Sultry" and the go-for-broke closer "Jaded" (think Burial's "Raver").
The album is rounded off by two remixes from Tin Man and Scuba, both of whom put different kinds of conventional "dance music" stamps on Recondite's astringent minimalist exercises. They're on typically strong form, but they're ultimately unnecessary because Recondite's work stands on its own, feeling strangely divorced both from his previous output and especially from over two decades worth of acid house history.
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Tracklist: Recondite - On Acid 01. Petrichor
02. Tie In
04. Petrichor (Tin Man Remix)
08. Jaded (Scuba Remix)
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