The Acid

Liminal

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Even if they're not billed as a supergroup, the Acid's three members boast a formidable amount of talent (and other projects): Adam Freeland scored a hit single with 2003's breakbeat-driven "We Want Your Soul" and remixed songs by Orbital and Silversun Pickups, among others; along with his own intimate singer/songwriter fare, Ry X is also one half of Howling; and Steve Nalepa is also a composer, and professor of music technology. This wealth of skills and experience could have led to similarly overstuffed music, but the trio's full-length debut, Liminal, is remarkably restrained in its ever-shifting balance of indie, dance, and R&B. Indeed, the songs that first appeared on the Acid's self-titled EP sound downright lush compared to how spare and sculpted the rest the album is. "Animal" pairs the chiming, Durutti Column-esque guitars that have become a hallmark of this style with revving synths that sound like one part dubstep and one part motorcycle, while "Fame," with its beautiful juxtaposition of fizzy warmth and cool tones, might still be the Acid's most immediately engaging song. Tracks like these offer a gateway to more implosive moments such as "Clean" and "Red," both of which deliver graceful, elongated ebbs and flows that are miles away from the epic drops expected of 2010s dance music. The way the Acid incorporate elements of house and dubstep on Liminal borders on dream logic, particularly on "Veda," where a distant four-on-the-floor beat propels its meditations. Of course, they aren't the only ones fusing these sounds; How to Dress Well, the xx, and James Blake are just some of the most prominent artists working in similar territory. However, Freeland, Nalepa, and X may be the most eclectic in comparison to their contemporaries. Since the Acid boast two accomplished producers, Liminal always sounds intriguing, whether it's the sleek yet feral atmosphere of "Tumbling Lights," which evokes walking through a jungle at night, or the subtle building and blending of acoustic and electronic textures on "Basic Instinct" and "Ra." X's melancholic, Thom Yorke-like tenor is the fulcrum for these explorations, and he sounds at home in whatever backdrops Freeland and Nalepa give him. His storytelling also helps the Acid distinguish themselves from their peers, particularly on the aptly named "Creeper," where a narrative of uneasy desire ("I wanna touch you in a painted stall") unfurls over a pulsing, fractured track that conveys several kinds of tension. In theory, balance and restraint aren't the most exciting virtues for an album to possess, but in practice, Liminal's subtlety is confident and dynamic.

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