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June Albert Freeman , June 19th, 2015 13:37

With both Abdulla Rashim and Varg having recently risen to critical acclaim, it's no secret that Northern Electronics have been on fire since they started. Now, one more name can be added to the short list of very promising artists to arise from this group: Acronym, another young Swede whose modest discography stretches back to 2012. His sound provides some contrast to the other music on the label, which has smartly skirted the outer boundaries of techno, revelling in kosmische and noise influences while casting sideways glances towards the deepest dancefloors.

Inspired by classic IDM and ambient, and much more firmly rooted in techno, Acronym distinguishes himself by being the most functional of the group, as seen on his records for NE, Semantica, or his own Dimensional Exploration imprint. Moving between intense repetition, moving melodic passages, and also moments of bleak, stripped-down intensity or hard, bleepy minimalism, the complexity and emotionalism are his distinguishing marks. This is music vastly different from the hard, heads-down, industrial mainstream of modern techno, a fact that makes itself clearly evident on June, Acronym's first widely-released full-length.

There will be inevitable comparisons to the lauded work of his label mates, and in truth, as the album plays out it takes some time for the differences to sink in. The first half recalls Abdulla Rashim's Equanimity, itself a mostly non-techno record that was the artist's first large break towards experimentalism. The ambient side of Acronym's personality does share some of the same qualities, but his sensibilities are more extroverted and expressive, more akin to something from the R&S Apollo series than the blown out abstraction of Rashim. Like most modern electronic music, the emphasis on texture and effects remains, but much more than most contemporary producers Acronym is willing to put his heart in the open and indulge striking, moody melodic ideas, quite a rarity in the one chord (and often one note) world of modern techno. The multiple sections of development and heavy emphasis on tonal quality, particularly noticeable on extended pieces like 'No Exit' or 'Centering', forward his musicality, showing him to be an unusual talent for his era and defining the overarching quality of the album, even at its toughest moments.

It takes half of the record for a techno beat to hit, something that may be gleaned from the titles of the four tracks – 'Isolated From Land', 'In The Swamp', 'Humid Zone' – which reference atmospheric ideas, although their verbal drift is actually quite a bit darker than the music itself. 'In The Swamp' is actually more celestial, its slow acid line a powerful undertow current, but the shimmering synthesisers that rise and percolate throughout in the background and the swaths of melodic pads that enter later suggest an altogether bright environs. Most striking is 'No Exit', an extended, sequencer-driven cosmic jam whose ghostly wails and wildlife calls summon an altogether more open and distance-searching feeling than the title points towards. 'Humid Zone' finishes the ambient section in similar territory, the slow sequence patterns spinning off shards of melody while heavily processed pads hover in the background, shimmering like a mirage and alluding to vast, unseen expanses.

When he finally rolls out the kick drums in the second half, it's no less impressive. In contrast to the harder Acronym fare, 'Centering' rises directly out of the sublime ambient tracks that precede it, keeping the melodic and textural elements mostly intact and adding a propulsive thump, The ambient layers and heavily delayed percussion elements swirl around the kicks and bass, and his ear for melody remains intact, making for a stunning combination of the two sides of the album and some of the best ambient-minded techno to emerge for some time. 'Realization' gets a bit closer to club floors but is still highly atmospheric, the hovering layers of synths and cosmic twinkling sounds this time subsumed to the heavy bass drive. Even when he strips the tracks back, as on 'Back To Understanding', the ambient feel remains, with the percussion elements heavily specialised across the sound spectrum and constant microscopic tweaking of the reverb settings bringing a spaced-out feeling to even the most basic tracks on the album. 'Letting Go Of It All', the closer, is evocative of its title, with the epic, thick washes of keyboards and more distinct string-based melody that enters later in the track bringing the album full circle back to the gorgeous ambient note it begins on.    

While June may be at heart a more classicist effort than the other music released by his label partners (perhaps with the exception of early Abdulla Rashim productions), like the rest of their body of work, it stands out for its quality of execution. Acronym's mixture of sensual ambient and highly literate techno and the references he makes to the 90s, when this combination first arose and when most of its masterworks were made, are without doubt the work of a producer who has done his homework as far as listening goes. There's more to it though: the music here also sounds completely natural and honest, its deeply emotional moments not borrowed but thoroughly felt and explored, and this kind of musicality and honesty in contemporary electronic music is rare but striking when it is found and a common thread across the Northern Electronics catalogue. There's no mistaking the album for a lost techno artifact either, a fact made clear in its second half but evident throughout. Modern techno has plenty of producers succeeding at shoegazing ambience or heavily textured, brutal industrialism, and it's refreshing to hear something as different as this, even as Acronym's connection to his contemporaries and his reverence for his forbears remain equally clear.