For over a decade, Acid Pauli has gradually risen through the ranks as one of the most eclectic producers in dance music. His sophomore full-length album BLD will be released through his and Nico Stojan's imprint Ouïe on March 24. To sum it up, it’s experimental electronica at its zenith, tinged with just the right amount of sweet, melancholic dissatisfaction to leave listeners on the hook and waiting for more.
BLD is best suited for active listening, as it calls for your complete and patient attention, or no attention at all. Simultaneously as understated as it is perversive, it tickles your brain to elicit a curious itch, without ever truly providing that satisfying scratch—but maybe that’s exactly the point. The purpose of art isn’t to satisfy the masses; art is meant to make you feel something and to make you think, to stretch the scope of your mind. He shies away from the conventional and moves towards his own, unbeaten bath, allowing him to shine as a true pioneer of sound.
The idea behind the album "was to mix a DJ set only consisting of techno and house breaks, the parts which lack the main beat, the kick drum. The result was to sound more like ambient, but it has a very unique thrill, thanks to these breaks always striving for the moment where the kick drum returns. The suspense is basically ramping up constantly.”
This is exactly what Acid Pauli has achieved with BLD: a constant build up of suspense—an album made up of crescendo after crescendo. This collection of introductions and interludes can come off a bit unnerving to the senses, as each chapter of the story ends before ever reaching a significant turning point. In this sense, its experimental nature is made for the ears of seasoned listeners who seek a level of stimulation that surpasses the narrow complexity of a straightforward 4-on-the-floor, club-ready beat.
Each song unravels carefully and meticulously, moving at its own, often unpredictable, pace. Listening feels as if you were slowly turning the pages of an old novel, eager to inch forward but unable to move any more quickly due to its fragile nature.
Gretschmann's crisp production style features his signature sharp, snappy percussion and atmospheric melodies to cushion the staccato rhythm. The absence of the kick drum can give you the sense that the work lacks a backbone, but at the same time liberates the music to run on its own path, unattached to the steady yet constricted pattern of that comforting foundational beat. The result is a dreamy, emotional piece of work that urges you to heed the minor details and intricacies that may have otherwise been washed over.
The opening track and first released single “Abbebe” sets the tone for the 8-track piece. Right from its start, you are immediately hit with that sense of "build up,” with distant, rippling bass lines and flutters of various electronic muddles and samples layered throughout. “Ayam” presents us with the most natural listening experience, as it's structured with the most distinct beginning, middle and end, of the collection.
He tests our patience with the hard-to-follow beat of “Joan” and in a way forces us to pay attention from beginning to end, focusing in on his carefully measured synth pad work. At first listen, I found myself getting lost in the intricacy of the details rather than hearing the song as a whole, but it’s the type of music that must be listened to more than once if you want to truly grasp its purpose.
Though it’s been 5 years since his last album, BLD doesn’t veer too far off from his previous work. Aside from the absence of the kick drum, it lives as a logical extension of the sonic vision Gretschmann has built over the years through his work as Acid Pauli. It seems as though he’s broken free from his work on The Notwist and Console, and is milking the opportunity to drive his sound into whatever creative depths he desires. As an artist, he’s far past the point of subjection to mere likability, and onto the upper echelons of inventiveness and innovation.
It’s hard to classify Gretschman’s work within one genre-specific category, or even several. Too stimulating and textured to be considered Ambient and too erratic to be lumped into a standard downtempo subclass of House/Techno, he creates something visceral that is completely his own. To label this album as “dance music” would be paradoxical, as it’s clearly not suited for a typical dancefloor, and would be more fitting for a sunrise meditation or indie film score.
By the end of the album, it almost feels as if he has a big surprise lined up—something to give the whirlwind of sounds some structural context. But no, Gretschmann’s plan was never to give us closure. Rather than simply giving us what we want we want to hear, BLD embodies what he believes we should hear. He opens up our minds and decides to leave them open and exposed, as if the last pages of the novel have been torn out, and it’s our job to create our own ending.