Written by Charles Cure
Bremen, Germany’s Acme was one of those magical, mysterious bands that is there for a moment and then gone before you can ever really get a chance to know them. Their lone full length record – …To Reduce the Choir to One Soloist, is a collection of songs originally put out on 7 inches and a couple of tracks recorded from a live show. The album was released in the US in 1996 on the now defunct (but totally great) Edison Recordings. The release came after Acme was already gone, and by that time most of the recordings on it were already several years old. The members of the band had split up into various other projects; most notably Systral and Morser, but in my mind never quite recaptured the intensity of this project.
The release operates like a snapshot of Acme’s short, impressive existence and as a prototype for the chaotic hardcore and mathcore of bands like Converge and Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan.
…To Reduce the Choir opens with an infamous clip from Full Metal Jacket and then immediately begins what can only be described as an assault upon the listener. Noise, shades of old Scandinavian death metal, grind, and spastic atonal guitar lines all churn and mingle throughout the first track Blind until they culminate in a single distorted chug repeating beneath a wall of dissonance.
This fades directly into the next track Attempt, which is essentially a master class in rage and anxiety. Multiple members of the band shriek hostility over one another as the double bass drum pummels and the guitars hammer and bend. Much of the remaining five tracks on the record continue in this formula, with a couple of standouts, including the really excellent Bastardiser, which is what made me fall in love with this band in the first place, having heard it on a CD sampler that came in a magazine. Life before the internet was, like, SO RANDOM YOU GUYS.
Bastardiser is basically the embodiment of a panic attack. A frantic, choppy, dissonant riff dominates much of the song, with a foundation of machine gun bass drum beneath. The vocals are a wall of indecipherable static and when the track ends, for me, I always immediately have to listen to it over again, just to make sure I fully grasp what has just occurred.
After a few listens to Bastardiser on that CD, I ordered …To Reduce the Choir and at the time it was so popular that I had to wait three months to get it in the mail because of backorders.
Here at Svbterranean, the March Madness feature is focused on mathcore – and much of the time Acme is heavier on the core part of that than they are the math. However, I thought they deserved inclusion here because in listening to …To Reduce the Choir, you can discern the root elements of nearly every spazzy, arithmetic obsessed chaotic-blasts-of-rage wielding band that came afterward. By today’s standards, the production of the record is a bit rough, and things may feel slightly dated in spots, but the songs themselves are still as authentically brutal and angry and crazy as anything you can get your hands on today, which is saying something for a record that just turned 20 last year. Check it out ASAP.