Let’s not call Acronym and Kali Malone a supergroup, but anyone with a close eye on the Scandinavian electronic and experimental scene will have been duly excited by the pairing on Stilla Ton’s third EP. With his label still in its inaugural year, Swedish techno maestro Acronym—real name Dan Vicente—has challenged himself with each release on the imprint, exploring minimal synth as producer on POST.23’s Whispers, acid on his own Burgundy EP, and now drone techno on The Torrid Eye.
His collaborator here is the exciting Kali Malone, an American who moved to Stockholm at 18 with fellow drone artist Ellen Arkbro, where she met Vicente and creative sparks inevitably flew. The result of those sparks is as intriguing as anything in either artist’s oeuvre, and largely centres around the Buchla 200 synthesiser pictured on the record sleeve. The instrument is synonymous with drone music, with a complex system of modules that make it ideal for examining a single, sustained note from any conceivable angle.
The combination of Buchla and beatmaker indicates an experiment in drone techno, which is a surprisingly fallow genre considering the fairly logical marriage of sounds. Daniel Avery’s wonderful Drone Logic is perhaps the style’s defining work, not just because of its title (which may or may not refer to a London mephedrone epidemic of the time) but because of the constant bed of noise fizzing beneath the album’s clubby loops. The Torrid Eye is not quite as dingy as Drone Logic though, as its elements of darkness are frequently won over by evocations of light.
That contrast is clear in the record’s opening two tracks. The vacuum-cleaner hum of opener “Call from the Tower” is brooding, sombre, unremarkable, and all but forgotten within the first four bars of the subsequent “A Sunspot.” Easily the EP’s standout, the track is a vintage Acronym synth loop and kick drum set against Malone’s wailing drone-tones, testament to a winning collaboration on its own. When the beat is drowned at the track’s conclusion, I can’t help but yearn for it to rise again, ushering in another five minutes in which to bask gloriously.
A quick primer to the world of Scandi techno might be to imagine Kompakt-style microhouse at a few degrees below freezing. Acronym frequently finds rewards in the cold, as in the frosty June, but Malone here provides a contrasting element of hygge (for the uninitiated, "hygge" is a Scandinavian word for cosiness that’s popped up in recent years everywhere from the Guardian to adverts for rubbish beer). “Legs of the Fly,” for instance, is carried by a chugging steam train of a beat that might feel relentless without the comforting drones which rumble underneath.
Another of the record’s successful combinations is that of Buchla and human voice on “Tarmar.” Whether you can understand the lyrics or not—and I most certainly cannot—the effect of the echoey intonations is sublime, like hearing a distant Cocteau Twins rehearsal in an underground station. It nods towards the cold wave inflexions of POST.23’s Whispers EP, as well as recent records from contemporaries like Curses and Boy Harsher.
Then it’s over. Though it’s at standard EP runtime, it’s hard not to wish that The Torrid Eye was just a bit longer. Perhaps because drone music is typically conveyed in languorous dirges, the record feels a bit like an album truncated into EP length. Whether a long-player might some day materialise from these two is unclear, but with them both in this kind of form we’ll certainly be hoping it does.
01. Call From the Tower
02. Legs of the Fly
03. A Sunspot
05. Tempest of Joy
The Torrid Eye EP is out now via Stilla Ton, with "Tempest of Joy" streaming in full below.