Album Review: The Acid - Liminal

Album Reviews
07/16/2014
Gerrit Feenstra

Now here's an interesting one. Ry Cuming dropped his first full length album back in 2010, top to bottom filled with coffee shop ready singer-songwriter wanderings, guest spots on the record going to Sarah Bareilles and Jesse Carmichael. Then in 2013, we got a complete reintroduction with the Australian via Los Angeles singer's choice to begin operating as Ry X, starting with the breathtaking, minimalist folk burner "Berlin". The song was brilliant - Cuming traded in coffee shop comfort for the most raw, expository take on his songwriting he could think of. Backed with three similarly beautiful cuts, the Berlin EP reintroduced us to Ry in a style that fit more alongside Bon Iver and Sigur Ros than ever before. But a pair of two smart producers with Alt-J, SOHN, and Chet Faker on rotation at home had a different idea in mind. Thus, Adam Freeland and Steve Nalepa joined up with Cuming to form The Acid, an electronic group with a mind to dive even further down the rabbit hole of experimental minimalism and see what kind of brilliant absurdity they could create together. The result is Liminal, an LP that combines the band's debut 4-track offering with 7 equally powerful tracks to make for a fifty minute musical undertaking unlike much else on the market right now. The Acid may be a jarring listen at first, but the band's disorienting grooves will worm their way into your heart and soul and give you a record you won't soon forget this year.

Space seems to be the hot topic on the table with electronic and experimental music with the new wave of young talent. Whether it be SOHN, James Blake, the xx, or even rock acts like Alt-J, well placed space, both sonically and emotionally, can be just as powerful as a massive string ensemble. The way that Ry works Freeland and Nalepa is similar to the post-punk style of the xx - instead of being the four-to-the-floor backbone that never changes, production is used in a reactionary sense. This sensibility is best seen on Acid tracks like "Animal", "Creeper", and "Basic Instinct", where the tracks beg to explode, but the production is limited so that Ry remains the biggest instigator of emotional impact. On a producer's part - especially a Grammy-nominated electronic wunderkind like Steve Nalepa - that takes a lot of self-control and passing the torch. But truly, The Acid work together in equal parts here. Ry's songs have a unique emotional impact completely unlike Berlin in this new context.

Not all of Luminal tends towards the fringe - in fact, much of it has a pop accessibility that will see it get a lot of deserved attention. "Fame" and "Veda" both give Luminal great club-tinged pop tunes, each with more melancholy than the rest of the album, but enough driving energy to create a lasting impression. Naturally, as the rest of the album works in terms of strict contrast, the record's most dormant and explosive points are right next to each other. "Ra" is just a bass drum or two away from a Ry X track we might have see on Berlin, whereas "Tumbling Lights" is a ravaging monster of noise, emptying into a dark march into the unknown. There are few points on Liminal where The Acid repeat themselves.

Towards the end of Liminal, it's almost as if The Acid are fading back into the mist from whence they came. "Red" is an etherial, swirling cut, utilizing repetition and an infinite array of Ry's vocals to create an effective, echoing monster. Finally, Ry takes second fiddle on "Clean", where his word pictures seem to only supplement the sonic images at hand. The cavernous void of this track sees Freeland and Nalepa flexing their muscles a bit with a steady house outro that almost explodes into full-fledged pandemonium. But once again, The Acid pull the rug out right before the end and never give enough away to completely quench your thirst. Then, closer "Feed" wanders aimless in the night into sonic limbo. Haunting and altogether unsettling, it's the perfect way to end one of the year's most unpredictable records.

The Acid have done a pretty good job keeping all hush hush about their little group. At this point, it's not really clear whether The Acid is a side project (the three all have other commitments across the globe) or a new endeavor that's going to be getting primary focus moving forward. Regardless, in its uniqueness and its well-round statement as an album, Liminal will give us something to ponder in the meantime until the trio pull the curtain back a bit further.

Liminal is out this week through Mute. As of now, The Acid only have European and Australian dates scheduled, but check back to their Facebook in the future for updates!

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