[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. Follow him on twitter and also check out his archives.]
The Acid came together after a peyote ceremony. Adam Freeland, one-third of the electronic soul transcendentalists, had just arrived in L.A. from a pilgrimage to the Bay Area, where he’d ingested sacred cactus under the ritualistic guidance of Native American elders.
Suffice it to say, the Brighton, U.K., DJ/producer was feeling recharged.
“I’d spent 16 years touring nonstop,” Freeland says, before The Acid’s soldout October show at Hollywood Forever’s Masonic Lodge (their first L.A. headlining set). Despite a diverse career, the London native was previously best known for producing breakbeat.
“The ceremony capped off a yearlong break,” he adds. “I had my energy back and was ready to make music again.”
Freeland dialed longtime friend, beat producer and composer Steve Nalepa, a member of Team Supreme and linchpin within the Low End Theory network. Booking time at Nalepa’s Mount Washington studio, the pair planned to record new material and rekindle an unreleased film score composed years earlier.
Serendipity struck several days later, when Freeland bumped into Ry X (née Ry Cuming). The Australian-raised singer with a seraphic tenor lived in Topanga Canyon at the time, but had spent the summer in Berlin, touring behind the success of “Howling,” a collaboration with a German deep house producer, which became a surprise overseas smash.
“We’d met five years earlier, but I didn’t even recognize at first him with the heavy beard,” Freeland recalls, himself lightly hirsute, with a rakish crest of brown hair. “We jammed a little, got a vibe going, and figured we should get in the studio.”
Until they entered Nalepa’s space that afternoon, the trio had never been in the same room. But creative embers immediately sparked. They recorded four songs in four days — the entirety of their self-titled EP, which they anonymously floated to SoundCloud. The name came from Freeland squinting at a row of art books and misreading “ABCD” for “Acid.”
“It was the best name that had never been taken. You expect to see The Acid on a bill with Led Zeppelin,” Freeland jokes. “We initially felt like it didn’t fit the music because it’s neither acidic nor psychedelic, but it’s so strong that the juxtaposition worked.”
While not overtly psychedelic, the songs flicker with a disorienting otherworldliness. Ry X possesses a bruised, insomniac wail. Nalepa and Freeland’s beats are spectral, minimal and ominous. It’s what you’d expect to hear during a candlelit séance inside a crumbling mansion. Analogs include James Blake, late-period Radiohead and Darkside — or a bewitching-not-boring Bon Iver.
Soon after the trio set up a SoundCloud page, the labels came calling.
“We kept changing the location of our SoundCloud page. We were from Chile, then Norway,” Nalepa says. “Goldenvoice messaged us saying that they had an office bet on where we were from. They asked us, ‘What will it take [for you] to come to L.A.?’ We read it in L.A. being, like, ‘Well, uh…’?”
The Acid ultimately signed with Infectious in Europe, and Mute domestically. Since its July release, their full-length debut, Liminal, has been a playlist staple on European radio and KCRW.
“Life can make you pretty numb,” Nalepa says. “We’re trying to capture that idea of crossing the threshold and recapturing the sense of wonder.”
“If we can remind people that we’re sitting on a rock in outer space and we have no idea how we got here, then the music has accomplished what it set out to do,” Freeland adds. “It’s not trying to be poppy. It’s not singing about how my woman left me. It’s just trying to tap into that greater mystery and sense of awe.”