“We are The Acid” – Until now those words were the only syllables The Acid had collectively, publicly uttered. The Acid are three people that make music they want to share on its own merit, it just happened that the music was so immediately captivating, so markedly different, that word spread fast and the more people talked about their definition-tripping self-named EP, the more this lack of information became a thing. As they put it, “it wasn’t supposed to be mysterious, we just wanted to the body of work to speak for itself”
The Acid are, it seems, a group based on synchronicity. They are:
Californian polymath Steve Nalepa, who has been a strong influence in the West Coast music scene helping craft the minds of future beatmakers as professor of music technology at a prestigious university’s conservatory of music. He also devised courses for bicoastal and online music production school Dubspot, as well as designed Ableton Live rigs for some of the biggest touring acts in the world. Beyond his strong lines in music, Nalepa is also a publisher of award-winning art books which focused on challenging traditional ideas about culture through the esteemed, self-launched Dilettante Press.
Grammy-nominated producer and British electronic don Adam Freeland. A globe-trotting DJ, self- professed pronoiac, creator of subversive crossover hit ‘We Want Your Soul’, and label boss of Brighton’s Marine Parade Records who release material from producers like Evil Nine and Alex Metric. Freeland’s lifelong fixation, whatever the musical project, has been to focus on topnotch production values and the shattering of preconceptions.
Australian born and LA/Berlin-based music artist and producer Ry X, whose ‘Berlin’ EP was released on Swedish label Dumont Dumont in 2013 to softly bubbling acclaim. An incessant collaborator and devout hunter of creative mirrors, he started the Berlin based project Howling with Frank Wiedemann, one half of German deep house duo Âme. This birth of “tender techno” saw their track ‘Howling’ – which was released on Âme and Dixon’s cult label Innervision – become one of the year’s best and a #1 across Europe’s deep house charts and club scene.
It still somewhat beggars belief that their separate worlds collided quite so perfectly as to bring The Acid into being, even more so that it took them less than a day to create the mind-meltingly beautiful song ‘Animal,’ the opener to both their self-named EP released on Infectious Music / Liberator Music, and the exceptional debut record ‘Liminal’ to be released on 30 May 2014.
A year ago, the now Brighton-based Freeland was visiting his old home of Los Angeles and still re-attuning himself to a travel-free existence following sixteen years of touring, whilst Ry had just flown in from Berlin after playing festivals and clubs across Europe. The pair, who had initially met years prior, ran into each other at a mutual friend’s party and found strong connections with Ry’s recent exploration into the production and performance of house music. They had both been on recent journeys of personal growth and a deeper exploration into art, which led to them collaborating together at Ry’s property in Topanga Canyon, sketching recordings on phones and talking concepts of the world and music. They fast realised their writing styles coalesced into an exhilarating new form.
As luck would have it, Freeland had a session with his friend Nalepa at his home studio the very next day. They took it as a sign to experiment. Having birthed ‘Animal’ in the first 24 hours, it took a mere nine days for the trio to write and record the rest of the astounding ‘The Acid EP.’ Quite the feat, but they all maintain this project has in many ways been remarkably effortless. As Nalepa reveals, “in the first couple of songs, we came up with our palette of sound. We had that moment where you realise, ‘we could do a whole body of work like this’.” Freeland continues,“everything about this process has been very synchronistic. From making music to getting a record deal. It’s just flowed. The Acid birthed itself.” He goes on, referencing Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers,” “Things come out of people being in the right place at the right time, but those people have to have done their ten thousand hours’ work on their craft and then hit that moment in time.”
What The Acid have created now mirrors how we listen – in spates of varying lengths to pieces of music from disparate worlds, through phones and screens, via streams, internet radio stations and browser pages being clicked through at pace – but amalgamates these fragmented listening experiences into a stunning, cohesive whole. The guitar, at times three or four of them layered together, seamlessly blends in amongst bass shudders, beat pulses, elongated drones and RY X’s vocals which beautify then rage amidst delicate synth lines and pitched down field recordings of street noise, birds, the clacking of bicycle spokes and the creaking of a leather jacket. The Acid weren’t even sure what they were composing at first, as Ry describes, “it’s like painting before you know what you are painting. You’re stuck in the process before you’ve got an idea of what you’re making. The beauty of that is complete freedom.”
That all three of them know how to produce was invaluable in the distillation of this mass of ideas and instruments into a concrete new sound. Constructing music is what they know, they just happened to have different arenas to make it for in the past. Ry’s audience experiencing his work in reflective spaces like church halls and Berlin’s Berghain, Nalepa’s in underground clubs and art galleries, Freeland’s in superclubs and from festival stages. Now as The Acid they have made sounds that could transfix audiences in any of these spaces, but they mirror the humility they work toward. “The record isn’t out, we let the public decide. If they like it, we play shows. Either way we’re going to make new records.”
That first full-length record was written in one more intensive session at Nalepa’s home studio space. As Ry says, “we went a lot deeper on the album than the EP. Making it pushed the breadth of what we were doing conceptually. We have a common thread through it all, it doesn’t really matter that we’ve got this ‘out there’ stuff sonically, it pulls together.” They were also adept at keeping The Acid sound, one that is “reduced to its maximum” paramount, Freeland admitting, “Left to my own devices, I pile way too much stuff into my music, but having the discipline of three people, we’re all quite tough on each other.” Recorded and first mixed by the three alone, the material was then taken away to a studio near Freeland’s home in Brighton so that each track could crucially be run through tape, bringing in a distinctive human warmth.
You could never have seen it coming, but it’s natural their attitudes aligned, these three people who tirelessly seek to upend the expected. They shared formative musical experiences, having all been enamored by shoegaze, grunge, early electronica and modern classical music at varying points in their own timezones, but it remains most prescient that The Acid are all relentless innovators. The music is immense in scope and simultaneously fixed to the substrata via visceral bass sounds, whilst evoking the celestial in euphoric feel. The sound is truly genre-less, a term used with increasing frequency but never quite so well suited as to the recordings that they have and will share. They are The Acid. And they are a whole lot more besides.