I’ve just done a whole bunch of new(ish) release reviews for the next issue of Datacide so I’ll try not to double up/copy, but this latest one by Aquarian deserves special mention.
His best and most slamming release to date and probably my favourite Bass release of the moment. Drenched in dark warehouse rave vibes, he’s definitely beefed up the low end and fine-tuned his chopped breaks & kicks aesthetic; strong tension and release composition too. In fact I would go so far as to say; no-one does it better! Proof that keeping it simple always leads back to something stronger.
This is a must for any fans of that era/sound.
Sticking out like an iceberg on the EP – this (first couple of minutes…) is powerful low end, tsunami, bass power noise with impressive menace and build.
A one off maybe? because the rest of the material succumbs to the leitmotifs of label boss Rabit (and the obvious temptations of sucking up to the boss, clearly) – jittery, scrunchy, spastic, stop-start, sonic doodling without intent. All very archly ‘abstract’ and ‘détourned’ flubbery sound design à la IRCAM/Stockhausen, but to what purpose who knows?
We often talk about music, or frame it, in terms of “going places…”, “going somewhere…” but this goes nowhere, and not in a good way either (like Satie’s ‘Vexations’ or La Monte Young drone marathons say?). It’s just f***ing irritating listening.
Footwork/Juke producer and former DJ Rashad collaborator comes correct with this monster Grime/Bass banger.
I heard ‘Ghosts in the Machine’ on a recent Mumdance/Rinse FM show and while it’s a totally polished, bolt-action DJ tool (with an almost vintage Slimzee/Youngstar/P-Jam bounce) to rinse out at peak slot witching hour, ‘Where do you go at Night?’ is the heavyweight capo di tutti capi. A superb rumbling avalanche of doom bass, all paranoid reverse loops and cavernous claps, taking it into a different arena altogether. Guaranteed to be a huge tune over sound systems.
Big ups too for keeping business faultlessly short and sweet. No padding or bull.
Oh Pinch, Pinch, Pinch. Must you? A genuinely fresh, interesting, deep and gnarly hybrid tune (as one would expect from the Don) but utterly ruined by Riko Dan chatting utterly generic pseudo-gangster, juvenile soundbwoy, testosterone shite over the top. Name me one word or phrase he “spits” that we haven’t heard before?? Why? Why? Why?
Hold tight for the instrumental….
Previously touted as something of a hybridist, “into hyper-modern sound design and bastard club rhythms”, this full-length nevertheless has all the sonic likeness of someone hopelessly chiselling away in a barren landscape in the Klondike Gold Rush. Desperately hoping to find that seam that reveals riches but ultimately slowly dying of cold and starvation.
I’ve invested legitimately in all previous Acre releases and don’t doubt his integrity, but one desperately longs for some release from his purgatorial, digital, flint-stoning – just one track that finally runs away with itself, carried away with a little joy that just plain cuts loose, however lumpen! Nothing here ever really feels like more than an experiment or a grimly defiant primitive sketch. Flashes of brilliance catch in the light only to disappear in the sweat of his labour like gold fever.
“Dek U” could just as well be re-named that; it’s a disturbing, hypnotic focus on a barren seam. “Automatic Fire” likewise – running low on provisions he ekes out the calories on a thin gruel of digital dross and pounds the face with blistered fingers and worn out tools. The brown note a constipated, dehydrated, thin curled stool of desperate bass.
And so the album spasms on it’s feverish deathbed as all is lost. Memories filter in without invitation. Chip tunes? skwee? disembodied garage diva voices? (“Holding Hands” is truly awful….God! just end it now) it all gets thoroughly unpleasant (just as we all know it will be! maybe a major artistic achievement then?), until “Better Strangers” sounds the funereal lament and rolls the credits. Dig the grave deep so the wolves don’t get my bones.
One for the grizzled backcountry men then? or armchair adventure travellers? Just don’t expect any comfort or pleasure.
In contrast to Rabit’s fart-in-the-wind of an album this just seems to get better on repeat listening and feels like a well researched, deeply knowledgeable journey through past and current genres.
I have to call him out though. His biggest, most shameful faux-pas is kicking off the whole thing with an utterly by-the-book old-school breakbeat ragga re-fit(shit). Absolute derivative nonsense. By this stage I think we all have to agree there’s nothing more to say or update on the matter. My advice: avoid, delete or fast forward. It’s a better listen without.
Skirting the edges of Deep House, Techno, and Bass the rest of the material proves a masterfully tech exploration of route finding. There’s no pointless probing or faffing around on the arrangements. They choose their line and go for it, taking in their influences without fuss and with almost casual confidence.
“Gravity” is a long slow builder; a subby, banger that kills it on the breakdown with a re-polished, wobbly, reese and vintage doomcore claps. “U” is most definitely the other stand out track. Sticking to his formula of slow development and filtering in the reese damage, it’s a fine, thick, dense stew of balanced flavours.
In the end the sense is you don’t really know what you are listening to? or what genre? The micro-referencing in the patterns and shuffle, the nods to various tropes: something’s been updated but you’re never ultimately sure what?