Review: VA – Dark Acid IV (Clan Destine Trax)

Glasgow label Clan Destine seem to have set themselves the important task over the course of their Dark Acid series in tracking down some of the best and most interesting contemporary acid currently available and sending it direct to our ears. The four EPs (so far) have been an exciting lesson in where the genre can go when released from need and desire to shamelessly ape 25 year old tunes. Sometimes odd, sometimes beautiful and sometimes scary, the often widely disparate tracks are united with a common aim of investigating just what acid is capable of, even if the connections with the genre are occasionally a little bit on the tangential side. The producers involved are also an eclectic bunch with the likes of Jamal Moss (under his IBM moniker), Twins, Worker/Parasite and various members of Golden Teacher in several different guises.

Let’s start with a down point. Due to what was apparently a mastering issue the first tune on the EP, Khotin’s Tsoi, is plagued by huge, muddy drums that drown out large portions of the track. It’s obviously a mistake, and I expect it will be rectified on future pressings (or the digital release which I haven’t checked out), but it is a shame none the less. Please don’t let it put you off buying the record, though. There is still a lot of quality on offer, and Khotin has made an MP3 of the correctly mastered track available from his Soundcloud link.

Away from this little issue, though, the music on Volume IV is as good an examination of a harder, much less nostalgic take on acid as on the other volumes, with the caveat that is perhaps slightly less expansive in its curation. The four producers, Khotin, Kid Who, Varg and Terminator (another offshoot of various Golden Teacher members) bring together strands of acid that are resolutely underground in their vibe and groove but for all the quality on show it lacks a bit of the experimental edge that was so strong with others – the first two in particular.

Perhaps because of that the EP splits nicely into two sections. The first are the properly harder tracks by Terminator and Kid Who, both slapping on plenty of crunch and grime. Terminator (Hasta La Vista Edit) comes closest to a classic acid techno banger, with dripping tendrils of 303s unfurling over galloping drums and humping tom toms. It’s charm lies partly in the way the whole thing seems determined to come crashing down around itself as it grows ever more gleeful in its cacophony. Kid Who’s Gap Related Injury is slower but heavier, and reduces the acid down from a particular set of sounds to a crunching and thrashing groove built around the industrial clatter of a rhythm that is reminiscent of parts of Jared Wilson’s recent ‘Ghost Miners’ album in its shuffle and growl.

As good as both of these tracks are, it is in the second section that the EP really gains a life of its own. Khotin’s Tsoi is a sweetly dramatic cut where the tautness of the pads and the distant flare of the drums compliment the subtle call of the 303 to create a deep and haunting dream space where half heard voices beckon you on. It’s both beautiful and unnerving.

Varg, co-owner of the excellent Northern Electronics label, provides the best moment of all, though, with the melancholy weave of Ultra Acid. Even though the drums clip off at somewhere north of 140 BPM, it never feels like the rampant banger the speed would suggest. Instead it build on a simple, repeated piano motif that frames a chirping and insistent acid line which wraps itself around your mind and soul and rags you down into the abyssal depths. It’s very nearly the perfect embodiment of the raw emotional power that the TB303 can pack when played by someone who isn’t constrained by the past, and that’s a compliment that can well be paid to the rest of the Dark Acid series as well.

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