Acid Test: Robot Pop Singers, Fake Video Game Soundtracks & More

Bandcamp’s outer limits continue to be a rewarding place for psychedelia, noise, outré club music, vaporwave, and uncategorizable strangeness. In this volume of Acid Test, we look at soundtracks for fake video games, remixes for robot pop singers, and the mind scrambling loops on one of the best debuts of the year.

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Regular Citizen
Sleeping Unique

Lorenzo Senni’s 10-year-old Presto!? label is having its strongest year to date, thanks to releases like this one—the jaw-dropping debut by Russian producer Ivan Olegovich, who records as Regular Citizen. This short album melds sparkling trance euphoria with labyrinthine loops and dizzying flurries of percussion.“Callam Auzy the Gabber” is as knotty and featherlight as Actress’ R.I.P, but with the serotonin rush of Hudson Mohawke. “Latent Passion” is 45 flawless seconds of gently prickling synth strobes, which gives way to the skittering rush of “Hyper Dense Wind Of Pleasure” (a title well-suited to nearly any of these tracks). And yet there’s still room for the wandering, sensitive centerpiece “Touching Softness,” and the glitching Baroque exercise “Innocent Imaginary.” More than anything, Sleeping Unique recalls the early work of Senni himself—releases like Quantum Jelly and Superimpositions. Sleeping Unique holds the promise of a similar future for Olegovich.

Intimax Francis
Of The Dhoplessly Romanticc

Home to artists such as ML Buch, Astrid Sonne, Gel and PANXING, Copenhagen is quickly becoming one of the most exciting cities in the world for experimental music. Those last two released thrilling debuts on local label NESM, the label behind Intimax Francis’ Of the Dhoplessly Romanticc. The debut of songwriter Nicolai Koch, Romanticc is billed as a “suite of experimental vaporwave in four movements”—but that description only scratches the surface. Over these four long tracks — each of which contain multiple songs—Koch delivers flowery ‘60s psych, foggy R&B, chamber pop and more. Its immaculate recording and suite-like structure work perfectly together, as different songs and genres seamlessly bleed into one another. It evokes Tame Impala following the blueprints for Spiritualized’s own “four movement suite,” Lazer Guided Melodies. Just like that classic, there is pop brilliance tucked inside each of these movements; digging around to find the best parts is part of the fun.

Atariame
Wordless

The spectral Russian songwriter Natalia Salmina hinted at great things to come on her Métron mixtape earlier this year, but her new album Voiceless throws a bit of a curveball. Inspired by a recent move to Moscow and a sudden urge to stop singing—or even speaking at all—she’s removed one of the crucial elements of her distinct sound. Bookended by only the faintest murmur of wordless vocals, Salmina treats this formal constraint as an opportunity to craft her most vivid and dynamic sonic world to date. Weaving waves of static with a Waldorf Blofeld synth, she conjures weatherbeaten drifts on “Same Thought Every Day” and dreamy escapes on the skittering beauty of “Lost In A Forest.” When she shifts over to sharply chromatic synth tones, the emotional range of her work follows. “Mood Swings” uses a different sonic palette to paint equally bleak picture, while album highlight “Not Today” glides on a thrumming melody that sounds pensive, but undefeated. In a statement Salmina describes her new home as having “made me lose faith in my ability to communicate, in my ideas about life,” but the instrumentals on Voiceless communicate more than ever before. She may not sing, but Atariame’s voice is louder than ever.

Danny Paul Grody
Sunrise, Looking East

As someone who aggressively identifies as “not a morning person,” I found myself in a work situation this year where I had to adapt to getting up before dawn. And while I’d still prefer to sleep in, but there is an undeniably special feeling in that early morning magic hour. That’s exactly where Danny Paul Grody (who, along with Jefre-Cantu Ledesma was a member of the deeply underrated post-rock pioneers Tarantel) is coming from on Sunrise, Looking East, a new installment to the Longform Editions series. A new father and “not much of an early riser” himself, Grody was inspired by the experience of waking up early to prepare his kids for the day, watching the world slowly fill with light. Using a finger-picked West African Kora and slowly rising synths, the piece beautifully captures the slow shift from a glowing sky to that sliver of sun breaking over the horizon. I’ve gotten to see more sunrises this past year than I have in my adult life, this will definitely be the soundtrack for the next one. (Granted, it probably sounds great at noon as well.)

Miquela
Right Back (Club 404 Edits)

The A.I. Instagram star Miquela has been a source of mystery since she first appeared, seemingly jumping straight out of the uncanny valley to release multiple songs. The question has long gone from “is she real?” to a more genuine curiosity about the way the project functions and who is involved. This remix EP for the recent single “Right Back” answers none of those questions, but raises more with a surprisingly strong roster of contributors. The highlight comes from PAN regulars Amnesia Scanner—no strangers to A.I. collaborations, after working with the program ORACLE on their Another Life LP last year. Other highlights include Palmistry (fresh off producing one of the best albums of the year with Triad God) and the trance-reggaeton visionary Dinamarca, and the wonder of the music causes any questions about its creation to quickly fade.

Opaline
Thought Texture

Hunter P. Thompson, aka Portland producer Opaline, makes a long overdue return to Constellation Tatsu with this follow-up to 2015’s Memory Drain, one of the pleasantly spacey label’s defining releases. On Thought Texture, Thompson refines his crystalline synth arpeggios and luminous drones while gently widening the scope of his sound. It gives individual highlights like “Spirals” a sense of momentum and contrast that gradually spreads to the album as a whole. If hearing Opaline used to feel like floating in space, this one suggests more of a slow orbit with a defined direction. Soothing soundscapes like the title track hover next to shimmering melodic pieces like “Next Step,” and by the time you reach the dreamy finale “Dissolved Reflection,” the entire project seems to have ascended to some new heavenly height.

Disasterpeace
Crimson Tooth

Portland metal stalwarts Red Fang have always had a knack for amazing music videos—whether drinking their way through a zombie beerpocalypse with Fred Armisen, or getting blown up by The Predator. For their new single “Antidote” they’ve been sucked into a (fully playable!) video game that makes amazing use of the live-action character modeling that was popular in games like Phantasmagoria and Mortal Kombat. The band pays hilarious, gory tribute to both of those games, but what sells the entire endeavor is the chiptune music peppered throughout, courtesy of composer Richard Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace. Now, Vreeland has released his own score for the game, cheekily titled Crimson Tooth. On his scores for games like Fez and Hyperlight Drifter, Vreeland proved himself a modern master of the genre; he’s also made a name for himself in film composing, with the scores for It Follows and the upcoming Under The Silver Lake. All of this makes hearing his tongue-in-cheek throwback to 16-bit game music all the more entertaining. And any release that contains a song with the title “We Defeated Brian Posehn & Saved The World” is well worth your time.

-Miles Bowe

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