Stellar OM Source – Nite-Glo (RVNG Intl)
On the surface of it electronica’s relationship with the Roland 303 is pretty cut and dried, but that hasn’t stopped contemporary music having a little bit of an issue with the silver box’s heritage. In recent years there has been something of a division between producers looking to ape classic acid and those seeking to breathe new life into a sound that has become symbolic. within the latter group, perhaps best exemplified by the like of Tin Man, the 303 has found itself used as a proper lead instrument, its wild potency tamed as people have sought to utilise it in a much more musical way. Results are varied – occasionally worthy, more often dull. The 303 seems like one of those jungle animals that simply loses the will to live once it is in captivity. My own favourite record of acid reinvention from the last few years is Bass Clef’s Raven Yr Own World on Pan. What made that such a brilliant release was that Bass Clef got two things right – he understood that it’s the contexts the 303 can be used in that makes it such an important tool, and that a lot of its charm lies in the fact that in order to get the best out of it, you have to play to its warped, xenomorphic and uniquely cheeky sound rather than try to treat it like just another sound box.
Stellar OM Source’s Nite-Glo may not be quite as experimental as Raven Yr Own World, being a much straighter (relatively) and dance floor oriented release, but it’s still a far more interesting take on contemporary acid than most. Partly this is because the tunes would remain every bit as exciting without the acid if it were not there. They seem built from the ground up to hang on the grooves rather than the 303 lines, giving them a deeply funky quality that pushes them away from the feel of either of the two primary contemporary camps.
Although there are plenty of squawks, warbles and burbles spread over the record, they often come from strange directions and slathered with effects that accentuate the 303’s ubiquitous weirdness. There is a new life breathed into the acid, and a new direction that doesn’t obscure the rest of the music but complements it instead, even when it becomes the focus. The tracks themselves are wild canvases of expressionist colour, slipping between Den Haag electro styling, as on Sure, and the eruptions of shimmering, golden Carl Craig chords and Detroit flourishes which kick Never into the clouds.
The ideas come in gangs, cutting quickly between concepts and changing directions when you least expect it with little frills that enliven passages with a lightness and sense of adventure. Even on the opener, Sudden, which builds upon a deeper, bouncier bass, the music suddenly veers from the feel of classic acid; sunbursts of echoed vox explode over the top and pull it away until it becomes a cruising slice of evening funk, part day-glo rave, part experimental machine disco.
All told Nite-Glo is a lush and imaginative record that doesn’t so much rework acid as rethink it’s setting and meaning. The result is a release that captures the fun of acid whilst freeing it from the need to sound like the past and all without pretending that the things that make the 303 so brilliant are the very things that should be avoided. Get acidic.