Thanks to releases from artists like Avalon Emerson, Giant Swan, and Overmono, AD 93 has become synonymous with the influential corner of the dance scene. But dig a little deeper, and one will quickly find that the London label has released its fair share of wonkier music, too. This year, the label has pushed into shifty soundscaping and trip-hop, platforming emerging trends bubbling up from the outskirts of clubland. The imprint’s latest endeavor marks AD 93’s biggest detour of 2023. It arrives via the Bristol four piece Quade, who craft clammy experimental rock. Across the seven tracks of their full-length debut, Nacre, the band blur the lines between chamber pop, goth, and European folk. The end result is somehow at once gloomy, lethargic, and visceral.
Nacre is outwardly woozy and mysterious, like a warped 7-inch played a speed too slow. Yet it harbors a jagged, spooky undertone, which leaves one feeling as if it might snap at any moment. “Stretching Out” eases in with off-kilter effects and stringwork, before pounding snare pushes the second half of the song into borderline industrial terrain. Bleak closer “Technicolour” contrasts its vivid title with a rush of reversed field recordings and sparse acoustic noodling. “Piles Copse” is an overcast jazz dirge, driven by a swinging groove which battles atonal atmosphere. “Circles” is unpredictable and slow burning, shifting between syncopated, broken-beat rhythms and a humorously ominous sample of an analytical schoolmaster. “Measure” unpredictably flits between proggy jamming and eerie plucked violin, culminating in a trudging outro. The record is made all-the-more captivating by Barney Matthews’s bass-y, barely-intelligible vocals, which evokes a mournful ghoul singing Cocteau Twins at karaoke.
Nacre basks in murkiness. Listening to the record is the sonic equivalent of swimming through a moat on the outskirts of some imposing stone castle, feeling mud and algae clinging to cold skin. It brings to mind scenes from Iris Murdoch’s 1958 novel The Bell, which tells the story of a man who discovers a symbolically cursed bell at the bottom of a lake near a Benedictine abbey.
In a recent interview with Fred Perry, the members of Quade cited The Velvet Underground and CAN as their biggest influences. While it’s easy to sense the impact of those timeless acts on this glum, arty record, Quade’s formula (or, perhaps, lack thereof) is ultimately singular and casually baffling. With just one LP under their belt, the band has already honed a strain of punk that miraculously fits in on a label best known for energetic dubstep, UKG, and techno.