Much like the gabber scene he helped create, Acardipane never went away. I caught his preposterous closing set at Bangface last year, which steadily accelerated into the gabber vortex before ending with a singalong. Now that 2017 has finally come around, though, Acardipane is rebooting. He's popping up on festival bills outside of the usual gabber circuit, playing his slower, more palatable early material. And this compilation, which remasters tracks released mostly from 1990 to '93, is being pressed to vinyl on Killekill sub-label Boidae, having appeared digitally on Acardipane's Planet Phuture label.
The release has found fans among more adventurous DJs (Nina Kraviz played "The Emperor Takes Place" earlier this summer). But if you're expecting a set of lost gems that will slot right into your contemporary techno set, you might be disappointed. Little of the music even sounds like gabber as we know it (the exception being "We Have Arrived," an endtimes riot of klaxon tones and saturated kick drums that helped shape the nascent sound). Instead it's weird prototype music, awkward and conflicting, a snapshot of a scene reorientated itself towards a dead-end (albeit an extremely fun one).
The compilation's brilliant tracks—and there are several—catch you first for their strangeness rather than their dance floor potential. "Final Sickness" is a queasy 150 BPM fever dream of not-electro drums and detuned lead lines. "Waves Of Life" contrasts a slinky house-wise beat with angry hornet bass, and throws in an epic late-stage breakdown to keep you guessing. "Astral Demons" is a spiky drum tool with an edge of high camp. Throughout, garish lead sounds, like the warping tritone melody in "Nightflight (Nonstop 2 Kaos)," stick up two fingers to good taste.
All of these tracks are ultimately endearing, but some never quite sit comfortably. Midtempo death-marches like "Down Deep And Cold" and "The Emperor Takes Place" aren't even that heavy so much as remorseless and cold. Even to ears attuned to recent industrial techno, EBM and post-punk revivals, there is something unpalatably dark and harsh lurking in Acardipane's music. Maybe it's the grim future he envisioned, his alternative 2017, that makes our reality seem positively utopian.