In many cases, this sort of revivalism is slavish—the differences between new and old minuscule enough to not even bother. But, in others, it reflects what might have been had things gone a different way. Acid Test, the vital sub-label of Absurd Recordings, is the latter example—an imprint that has collected a number of producers and asked them to use the 303 in any which way they please.
Over the past few years, Tin Man has been exploring more song-based territory, as evidenced by his recent Perfume and Vienna Blue albums. But "Nonneo" stands as a hearkening back to his older, dance floor-driven material. With its almost tropical beat and long sinous acid melody line, however, it certainly wouldn't be mistaken for a traditional banger. Tin Man's tracks often keep the 303 under tight control, implying the sort of squealing abandon of a typical acid track rather than stating it explicitly.
The most celebrated track on the label thus far was the B-side to this initial offering: Donato Dozzy's remix of "Nonneo." Seeing the Italian DJ/producer's name next to Tin Man must've been a surprise for many. For a half-second. But once you think about the two in concert with one another, it makes complete sense. Dozzy, with his understated take on techno, remaking a master of understatement? Of course. His remix, typically, doesn't do much—but in so doing has an incredible impact. It "excises the congas and suffuses everything in a layer of echo and fuzz, flipping the original's perky outline into a wearier shape," wrote Philip Sherburne.
While Tin Man's involvement in the label seemed fait accompli, subsequent releases have made the imprint a unique and fascinating proposition. Bristow got in touch with Iron Curtis via Facebook before the label began. "When I saw that the list of artists involved included Tin Man, I knew I wanted to be involved," remembers the Berlin-based producer. "I looked through my library to see if I had something that might fit to the concept, and I forgot about it for a bit after that. But Oliver kept on asking, and I had just started making music with my friend Jool (Edit Piafra). We sent him the first two tracks we ever did together, and he used those for our first release."
"Love in a Jam," from that first release from the new project, dubbed Achterbahn d'Amour, immediately signaled that the 303 was merely a starting point for the label. "When I first heard the Tin Man release, I knew that there might be space for something different. The tracks we sent over were really slow. They are really…I don't know, a bit weird. We didn't expect them to get released," says Curtis.
Like most labels that cherry-pick from around the world, Acid Test is a combination of good taste, good connections and a lot of hard work. Bristow applies his hand-made stencil to each limited vinyl copy after getting the release mastered and cut at Dubplates & Mastering. Both Iron Curtis and Recondite—a producer with material forthcoming on the label—reveal that Bristow has stayed in constant contact since they first talked about doing a release for the imprint. "He's always curious about what we are cooking," Iron Curtis reveals. "He approached me in a very solid, friendly way," remembers Recondite. "Although it's just an email, you can always tell. He seemed very honest, but not too close or superficial as well. And when I realized that it was the label that Tin Man released this record on, it was an honour that he was approaching me. I'm thankful I got the opportunity."
Indeed, Recondite has seemingly been energized by the label's ethos. He has what amounts to an album's worth of material forthcoming on Acid Test in 2012. "I didn't have any material like this before Oliver asked if I could fuse my sound with the 303," he says. "Oliver gave me the push to work with the sound—especially in the mid- and high-range. When you work with it there, a certain sound appears. You can do so many things with just that sound. I think that's why there is so much potential in this kind of instrument and music, because it sounds good in every bit of the frequency spectrum."
Listen to the releases on Acid Test, and you immediately hear what Recondite means. While Tin Man and Recondite's work can largely be grouped in the same sort of minimalist, melancholic camp, Achterbahn d'Amour takes the 303 elsewhere. And then there's the slinky melody of Holger Zilske's "É Preciso Acreditar," the Idjut Boys' steady-as-she-goes takes on Achterbahn d'Amour's "Your Love" or the loop techno of Skudge's "Trance Me Up" remix. "Especially in the '90s, acid had this aggressive touch," explains Recondite. "I think that the artists releasing on the Acid Test series realized there is more potential for this kind of 303 music."
Download: RA Label of the Month 1201 Mix: Acid Test
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Filesize: 84.1 MB
Tin Man - Accumulated Acid (Acid Test 01)
Achterbahn d'Amour - Talking Acid (Acid Test 02)
Achterbahn d'Amour - Adult Movies (Acid Test 05)
Achterbahn d'Amour - Your Love (Idjut Boys Version Acid) (Acid Test 02)
Recondite - Sultry (forthcoming)
Recondite - Petrichor (Tin Man remix) (forthcoming)
Tin Man - Nonneo (Acid Test 01)
Tin Man - Nonneo (Donato Dozzy remix) (Acid Test 01)
Recondite - Felicity (forthcoming)
Holger Zilske - E Preciso Acreditar (John Tejada remix) (Acid Test 04)
Recondite - Jaded (forthcoming)
Donato Dozzy - In Bed (Acid Test 03)