ACID TEST Acid Test, February 2024 By Miles Bowe · March 05, 2024

Bandcamp’s outer limits continue to be a rewarding place for psychedelia, experimental club music, noise, vaporwave, and other sounds that are wholly uncategorizable. In each edition of Acid Test, Miles Bowe explores its far reaches to dig up hidden gems and obscure oddities. This February, we explore a volcanic fusion of guitar and trombone; a delicate duet between a handpan player; a ghostly Valentine’s Day transmission; and more.

Maria Bertel and Nina Garcia

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Vinyl LP

Metal, air, and electricity crash together on KNÆKKET SMIL (Broken Smile), the stark collaboration from guitarist Nina Garcia and trombonist Maria Bertel. The duo push the unique pairing of their instruments even further by transforming them entirely. Garcia sculpts frenetic high notes from distorted guitar strings, while Bertel’s volcanic, feedback-drenched trombone generates truly otherworldly sensations, its heavy tones shifting like tectonic plates on “Lost Arts,” or becoming a shrieking siren on “Nightmare of a Lunatic.” Just as often, the two collide into earth-shaking drones and roaring noise, like on the slow-burning centerpiece “Twin Truths.” For all its doom-laden fervor, KNÆKKET SMIL captures these two musicians in thrilling conversation.

rain on pan

The Vietnam-based artist rain on pan blends their handpan performance with the sounds of the city over two intimate tracks on streets. Recorded live on the street in Chiang Mai, Thailand, the delicate melody and percussive precision of the handpan is beautifully captured, contrasting with the abrupt passing hum of car motors. These two central sounds form a careful balance and gentle tension that remains utterly gripping throughout streets.

Roslyn Steer
13 Ways of Looking At A Blackbird

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True to its title, Roslyn Steer’s beguiling 13 Ways of Looking At A Blackbird offers a baker’s dozen of improvised pieces, each capturing a distinct shade of the Cork composer’s unique palette of woodwinds, double-bass, percussive vocalizations, keyboard beeps, and humming pump organ. They can form brightly melodic songs, like “Or Just After” and “I Was Of Three Minds, Like A Tree,” but they just as often split apart. The tense 11-minute soundscape “In The Autumn Winds, It Was a Small Part” looms over the beginning of the album, while the heartfelt closer “Evening All Afternoon” carefully fuses warm synths, strings, and Steer’s most silvery vocals. Across all its shades, 13 Ways of Looking At A Blackbird is a sensuous and absorbing listen.

New Mexican Stargazers

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New Mexican Stargazers have used hazy guitars and chintzy synths to sketch road jams for endless highways and deserts, while other releases feel like rest stops with a character all their own. Motel rooms, arcades, and now Casino 2223 create a vivid sense of space using sprawling soundscapes and a narrowly focused palette of sounds. This casino favors synths that buzz and glimmer like jackpots in slow-motion on the sweeping opener “Beginner’s Luck” or “Dune Slotmachine.” The labyrinthine quality of Casino 2223 is accentuated by brief vignettes like the sparkling “Terragambling” or the jazzy “Smoking Lounge,” little waypoints in an atmosphere that begins to feel more like House of Leaves than Mohegan Sun. That combination of allure and abstraction only grows as the album moves into the late 15-minute highlight “Auto-Jackpot,” which acts as both an album closer and a doorway into a series of untitled outtakes that stretch longer than the entire album that preceded them—and prove just as rewarding.

Reece Thomas
Faces In The Rise

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On Reece Thomas’s haunting Faces In The Rise, spectral piano melodies and flickering synths loop, echo, and fall into one another. Thomas is immensely skilled at pulling us into one cyclical sound, often making the shift to another feel even more dramatic. “Healing” creates a massive atmosphere out of the cavernous acoustics of the piano, while the persistently chiming synth of “Cerulean Blue” cuts through like a lighthouse in the fog. Faces In The Rise follows a constantly compelling ebb and flow from start to finish.

still waters run deep. &
standing in the golden stream.

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The incredible range of the producer hyacinth. is showcased in two separate releases that appeared in the same month. Still waters run deep. stretches across liminal soundscapes of low drones, eerie radio sizzle, and field recordings that either accentuate space or feel claustrophobically intense, like the scrambled voice running through “shadow memories.” Meanwhile standing in the golden stream. takes the form of a beat tape that shifts every few minutes from foggy hip-hop to bright dance music to hypnotic mood pieces. These two distinct releases compliment each other wonderfully, each showing distinct qualities of hyacinth.’s work while letting you appreciate the ways in which they overlap.

Nate Scheible
or valleys and

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Every second counts on Nate Scheible’s excellent new album or valleys and, which spans a dozen tracks over only 17 minutes. Working with electronics, tape, and the fractured blurts of a small wind ensemble, Scheible composes tracks as brief and striking as a lens flare. These luminous, fleeting sounds are bookended in wondrous pieces such as “Reproof of Fancy Games” or closer “Small and Horseless”, while the center of the album breaks them into even smaller miniatures titled “Stray I” through “Stray VII.” But even as the pieces grow smaller, or valleys and only absorbs your attention further.

Endless Love

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The UK producer Romance returned just in time for Valentine’s Day with this 35-minute soundscape of love songs stripped to ghostly remnants and lonely ambience. As colossal and icy as a glacier, Endless Love feels a shade darker than Romance’s Celine Dion-sampling stunner Once Upon A Time, but that only makes its many glimmers of light feel even brighter. It makes for an evolution and an equally immense release in Romance’s growing discography.

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