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Artist: Acid Pauli

Album: mst

Label: Clown and Sunset

Review date: Aug. 14, 2012


Acid Pauli - "A Clone is a Clone" (mst)


Albums that are tricky to define are getting quite thin on the ground these days, especially as journalists are using increasingly oblique terms to describe the near-indescribable (“Witch House,” “Drag,” “Seapunk”). Also, fertile musical mining territory is becoming scarce as every genre is plundered, combined and subverted, resulting in a lot of great music, but little that doesn’t immediately evoke something familiar.

Which is why artists like Acid Pauli are important. Even when their endeavors don’t bear mind-blowing results, what does spring out of apparently very fertile imaginations can often be guaranteed to raise a nonplussed eyebrow. In contemporary popular music, “weird” can (and one could argue, should) be seen as a substitute for “good.” In electronic music, it has ever been thus, from Eno to Excepter. Acid Pauli’s Martin Gretschmann resembles the latter psych-punk-techno collective in the way he blurs the lines between the archetypes of his music and the way he is looking to outgrow them. A lot on mst seems familiar, but you quickly realize that these appearances are deceiving.

“A Clone is a Clone” is a case in point. As its title suggests, repetition is the focus, with loops aplenty dancing around one another: slinky electric piano, fuzzy sequencers and elegant percussion all melding to create a seductive form of modern dance music. The approach is probably closest to someone like The Field, but where Axel Willner uses loops in an aggressive dancefloor style, here everything is somewhat muted, with woozy sax samples dropping in and out, edging the piece closer towards melodic cool jazz with a dash of Arthur Russell funk to boot. The main comparison floating about seems to be Clown and Sunset proprietor Nicholas Jaar, but mst feels more abstract than Jaar’s work, with a coldness and experimental edge redolent not just of Russell but also perhaps a dancier Black to Comm, and this shifts the focus of this loop love-in away from the dancefloor and into the abstract.

The focus on loops, and exploration of ways to subvert them, permeates the entirety of the album: “(La Voz) tan Tierna” features Spanish vocal samples and polyrhythmic percussion, but also the deep bass and repeated woozy synth of vintage trip-hop, whilst “Mutron Melody” features hip-hop beats under a mournful piano tune lifted straight from lounge music; it all works surprisingly well. The album’s highlight, after “A Clone is a Clone,” is “Eulogy for Eunice,” an experimental piece centered around Michael Nyman-esque piano loops that builds into a stomping, minimal post-rock number, with live drums alternating with processed beats and a distorted vocal sample. This “Eulogy” signs off the album on both an elegiac and unsettling note.

The album’s cover art suggests a world turned upside down, and this appears to be Gretschmann’s attitude to dance music, especially loops. Although the duller middle section of the album lacks melodic thrust, with “A Clone is a Clone” and “Eulogy to Eunice” it’s clear that Acid Pauli has found a singular voice, one based on subverting his own instincts and background. The results are pretty weird. Which is a good thing.

By Joseph Burnett

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