Acronym & Kali Malone The Torrid Eye

[Stilla Ton; 2019]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: deep, electronic, just intonation, rhythmically-driven, mellow modular
Others: Caterina Barbieri, Andy Stott, Dopplereffekt

Dissociatively immersed. As in minimal, looped tones played into a room of poised bodies, who, over time, begin to breathe in perfect time and, on an aggregate inhale, potentially, collectively, and almost imperceptibly rise into the air. As in dance music, where, ideally, in underlit rooms, we respond to rhythms by animating our bodies in whatever we like. To move together as an activated, asymmetrical, ever-changing mass. To dance together toward an absence of thought in the absence of light.

Music that prompts us to breathe deeply, to rest, utter, and twitch into dance, engages the body in a way that quiets then clarifies the mind. The five quite-distinct compositions on the The Torrid Eye each do so in some way through their visceral explorations of tempo and tonality.

Acronym and Malone, who previously collaborated on one of Vaagner’s Event Series cassettes, use their debut release as a certified duo to present circuits of thought and feeling frequently heard in drone music, ambient, electronica, and downtempo techno. Rather than trying to mash these palettes into some newly prescribed form, they focus on building accumulative dialogues among crafted structures of synthesis. For me, one of the album’s main successes results from how they present multiple ways of understanding the Buchla 200 series synthesizer looming on the album’s cover: a canonical machine that, even for someone like me who doesn’t know too much about hardware, carries a mythological significance.

Each track reacts like a considered experiment and seems to welcome what is known and unknown in advance. Opening piece “Call from the Tower” vibrates with laterally spreading layers of noise that whirl and reel with the intensity of an impending aerial swarm — as of drones, locusts, or a cyborgian combo of the two. Midway, this increasingly harsh propelling meets a mellow, skipping echo that bounces softness into what is otherwise an indistinct and consuming blanket of noise, falling all around, like the sky.

“Call From the Tower” situates itself outside of time in a realm of pure energy, but then, we blink and “A Sunspot” switches on. It’s night now. Hands move a little lower down spines. We tic from musing into indomitable motion, as those revolving noises from before encounter a steady pulse and ethereal pads that altogether elicit the transcendent experience of being glued to the dance floor with your heads in the spheres. “A Sunspot” is one of the album’s real highlights and, with each listen, I’m blinded by escalating heights of ecstasy within a structure that feels as if it could go on and on forever. But, luckily, it doesn’t, and I’m left with the joy of forever wanting more.

This incredible danceability carries through to the next two tracks, “Tempest of Joy” and “Legs of the Fly.” “Tempest of Joy,” another highlight, follows a similar structure of pulse, pads, and prickly tonal thoroughfares, but it adds more emphatic flourishes. These feel perfectly dated and a bit like Dopplereffekt’s sonic science fiction.

Closing track “Tarmar” finds Marianna Feher reading from Swedish artist Karl Sjölund’s Words of Tarmar, which is a variation of assembled texts from Hamlet. In 2016, Sjölund directed a version of Hamlet scored by Malone, and “Tarmar” includes parts of Ofelia’s monologue interwoven with the play’s original score. Voice, a bit unexpected, expectedly fits well. Collaborations within collaborations. A meeting as open as a circle in closure.

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