This debut album by German electronic artist Acid Pauli plays like a mouse in a maze; you know where it would like to go, you witness its struggles and eventual completion, and you ultimately hope for a more assured performance next time. This isn’t to say that mst has it all assbackwards or misses all of the marks, it’s just that Acid Pauli’s brand of electronic music frontloads the splash and dash while occasionally sidestepping the more important traits of prepping your listeners for a unique musical journey. The heart of a loop, the tug of instinct, the soul and dance of a good modal figure cast into the digital waves—more often than not, Pauli skips these steps in favor of making musique-concrete that one would put on their resume if they were looking for a steady job in professional sampling.
Acid Pauli’s most convincing music comes from his inner Richard D. James, like on the album’s closer, “Close” (just so you know, the album starts with “Open”). The ambient fog is thick, the samples are slowed to an unsettling setting, yet the keyboard figure and the beat quietly tick away. “Requiem for a Loop” is a attractively clever idea that comes very close to living up to its potential. Set against a synthetic Latin backdrop, “Requiem…” proves to be the lightest of bounce on a minor key, allowing for occasional bursts of silence following by a descending pattern of blue notes. But as neat as the track is, it’s hard to account for anything happening below the surface. At 3:51, it’s a tease. The same thing more or less goes for “A Clone is a Clone”; it’s a satisfying enough display of overlapping pads, but the mounting tension doesn’t bring forth anything—it just slithers away.
Sometimes mst is just odd, likely to be toying with the listener’s sense of tolerance. “Palomitastep” probably functions only as an interlude, using something like horse clops as its primary percussion. The aforementioned “Open” sounds intent on dizzying you, throwing figures at one another that stubbornly refuse to fall into the other’s phase. “Mutron Melody” is an even bigger gauntlet. Every 16 bars, the tempo changes back to the way it was before. Again, not much is happening above or below this.
I get the feeling that Acid Pauli is out to frustrate us since mst is defined by these frustrating moments. That’s unfortunate because the less Acid Pauli throws at us, the more rewarding the music is. When “Equation of Time” shakes of the pretensions of atmosphere halfway through, it finally gets going with something memorable. “(La Voz) tan Tierna” grooves so much more easily when the beats and the undoctored singing samples do the talking. As I said before, Acid Pauli has his strengths and weaknesses. It’s just that on mst, they appear lopsided. Skills, bells and whistles are getting in the way and the music needs to go through its own electronic breathing process. You can see that mouse getting there—it’s just not there yet.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.