Acetate Zero: Crestfallen (Arbouse Recordings, 2004)
Here is another in a stream of ambient/shoegaze projects that have been sent to me. Acetate Zero hails from France, but I know very little about them. This is due to their bio being in broken English and their web bio being in French, a language I have yet to master. From what I can tell, Acetate Zero consists of five members and Crestfallen is their fourth full-length disc. They formed around 1996 and 1997. That being said, lets get onto the important part: the music!
“Frozen” starts off Crestfallen with an almost tribal beat. It throbs and moves with fuzz and swirling noises. The guitar work is beautiful amidst the walls of sound. The guitar provides the melody and the noise the frost. This entrance into Crestfallen is bold and energetic. This leads the listener into a still tribal, yet quieter track, called “The Sad Beautiful Quintessence,” which has pronounced percussion with shimmering guitar. The frost is gone and the glimmer of warmth is brought to the listener. Eventually, a male voice speaks English with a French accent and a female vocalist echoes his speech. “The Collide of Your Mouth” has a more up-beat feel with mixtures of modulated keys and fuzz. This song demonstrates Acetate’s ability to combine great techno-pop and shoegaze walls of sound. This mixture of genres leads the listener into “December Sounds Like That.” This has light guitar picking, a sample of a baby making verbal noises, and what sounds like xylophone. Eventually, spacey keys come in to fill out the sound.
“Storm Perspective Means Everything” has beautiful acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and some elements played backwards. This really could be the very soundtrack to thunderheads rolling in. Eventually, the thunderheads reach you and the fuzz and noise escalate into brilliant thunder. This leads the listener into that surreal calm after the storm with “Haze of Nostalgia.” This song has shimmery guitars and straightforward percussion. It has electric guitar picking that turns into laborious, chunky guitar work. This shifts into a wall of fuzz and is accented by subtle guitar work. This melts into a veritable wall of chaos that shimmers and shines. “Ocean Rover” has a percussive beat like a heart and wistful guitars. This song has a female vocalist who has a comforting and beautiful voice. She seems to just breath her words into the listeners’ years. As the clouds part and the thunderheads disappear over the horizon, “Sunrise” is painted by warm guitars, a click track, and the beautiful hum of keys. The track is patient and really paints a picture of the sun slowly rising over the horizon.
“Ode to Admittance” has a more pronounced guitar sound and lots of blips. Here, again, the female vocalist appears with her hypnotic voice. This song has a beautiful use of tambourine and even the guitar plays some percussive role. Also, wild guitar fills out the track and really brings a beautiful dissonance against the peaceful guitar. This leads into “I Don’t Know How” which, musically, sounds almost like a love song. There are acoustic guitars and piano with vibrations of noise here and there. “Bright Delight Flame” ushers the listener into a room fool of light and brilliance. There are shimmering guitars and subtle bass work. Eventually, fuzzy guitars come in and a male vocalist comes to the front. Everything in the song builds and blends into a large wall of sound. “Drowsiness and Dizziness” has a swirling feel to it with hard percussion and some fuzz mixed with piano. One thing that is obvious from this disc is that they can communicate the ideas in the names of the songs very forcefully.
After becoming dizzy and falling to the floor, Acetate Zero treats the listener to “Dust Between,” perhaps between the floorboards. This is a unique track on this disc because it features some guitar work that sounds almost horn-like. It’s an interesting effect. The percussion in the song is staccato xylophone sounds and there is also a mix of fuzzy guitar here and there. Eventually, the full drum-kit comes in and fills out some of the quiet in the song. “Dust” fills out to a huge symphony that is beautiful and powerful. As the listen approaches the end of their journey with Acetate Zero, “Festen” ticks with a clock and fuzzy-type booms. This is accented with sparse piano. Then, a piano kicks in and a wall of guitar sound hits the ears. This moment is almost jarring, but very, very cool. This ushers the listener into the final track of Crestfallen: “Ascend Halti and Then Head North.” As the journey ends, a soft guitar and a light, thumping beat bids us reflect on our journey through Crestfallen. This farewell is listful and soft. The beat swirls off into soft, layered guitars.
Acetate Zero has painted a beautiful soundscape on Crestfallen. They seem to have taken a genre that can be boring and filled their LP with beautifully evocative images made with music.