By Christopher Nosnibor
‘Haunting’ may be a word that’s chronically overused in music journalism, but it’s also entirely fitting as an adjective to describe the other-worldly drifting murkiness of ‘Bruised and Diffused,’ the opening song on Aurelio Valle’s latest offering. The arrangements are sparse; bass, guitar piano and shuffling drums are the main elements of the instrumentation that accompany his voice as it drifts… but the sound is rich, dense and … a cymbal crash hangs in the air to the fade.
In the decade Calla were operational, they produced no fewer than six full-length albums, with Young God Records, headed by Swans mastermind, picking up on their work early to release their second album Scavengers. Earning critical acclaim and a reputation for affecting indie rock with an experimental edge, they toured extensively with Angels of Light, Interpol and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
Since the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2007, Aurelio Valle has been keeping busy, not only with musical pursuits, but also his parallel careers in art and photography. Meanwhile, his film scoring work has tapped into the cinematic side of his musical leanings, which are also in evidence on his debut solo album.
The circumstances of the creation of this self-produced album reflect the lot of the musician in the 21st century: Valle may have been incredibly busy channelling his creative powers into a broad range of projects, but Acme Power Transmission was recorded in Valle’s apartment, located under an elevated subway line in 2013. The product of five years’ intensive, private and contemplative musical exploration conducted in his spare time while he worked day jobs first in motorcycle repair and subsequently in a tailor shop. Unusually, this was a matter of choice, but if anything, Valle’s immersion in ‘everyday’ life away from music and the industry surrounding it sharpened his creative focus, on the evidence here.
Much of the album is sculpted from gauze-like analogue textures, trickling synth drones and washes, Valle’s vocals drifting like vapour amongst it all. It’s mellow, but it’s not so laid back as to be lacking emotional depth; far from it, in fact. The smooth dream-like ‘Cowboy’ is disturbed by a building crackle of distortion that drags at the senses and unsettles the easy atmosphere.
A rapidfire stuttering electro beat underpins the fractured atmospherics of ‘Dead Beat,’ which has vague echoes of Movement era New Order (not entirely surprising given Valle’s formative influences and pre-Calla), and hints of Depeche Mode about it. Battering beats drive ‘Electraglide,’ too, which swells with a big chorused bass sound that’s pure Cure. The Cardigans’ Nina Persson provides lead vocals here, and it’s a magnificently ethereal performance, around which Valle intertwines his own harmonious contributions to luscious and lustrous effect. ‘Movement’ and the closer, ‘Superhawk’ bring a sultry, slow-slung groove that points in another direction altogether, and perhaps the shape of things to come. Or perhaps not. Either way, it’s fair to say that Acme Power Transmission is a triumph on all levels: personally, musically, and artistically.
Acme Power Transmission is released by Nuevo Leon Recordings