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Track by Track: Dallas Acid – The Spiral Arm

Austin troupe Dallas Acid forge woozy synth-heavy dreamy psychedelic sounsdcapes. Listen to their recent single ‘Vacker’ below. With a warm analogue synth sound, this mysterious psych swirl garnished with evocative Swedish vocals could soundtrack a 70s sci-fi film. They say of the track. “Even in the midst of intense personal loss, there is a sense of beauty that comes from the insight gained from tragedy.”

Following previous releases on Flying Moonlight and Olde English Spelling Bee, they join a roster that includes Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Laraaji (who the band previously collaborated with on 2018’s Arrive Without Leaving album) on All Saints Records, who in recent years have been predominantly focused on issuing new editions of some of their much-loved catalogue.

Today, they talk us their new album The Spiral Arm ‘Track By Track’:

Dallas Acid ‘The Spiral Arm’

The main sequence of The Spiral Arm was originally written on the large modular system we call “The Brain” as the opening for a (mostly) improvisational performance we did at a planetarium with visual artist Bob Mustachio. Over the next few months we began messing with it , adding verses and a chorus, some Mellotron and soft Moog horn melodies, and building a more traditionally structured song around that sequence. After playing a more stripped down version live on a couple of tours, we took advantage of an incredible studio in New York full of our dream gear made available to us by Clint Newsom (Hairy Sands/Flying Moonlight Records), added some Freeman String Symphonizer and Arp Omni 2, turning it into the more elaborately arranged song you hear on the album. In the process the significance of the song changed as well, turning the focus of the journey inward. What began as a simple trip through the stars developed into a message about the cosmic pulse that drives the universe and runs through all living things. The snail-shaped, spiraling repetitive patterns of the melodies mimic the structure of our own galaxy, and the spiral arm that is home to our solar system.

 

 Vacker was also born as a sequence on the modular “Brain.” Very obviously inspired by dub music, it seemed to reflect the spirit of Lee Scratch Perry, Burning Spear, King Tubby, and so many of the Jamaican artists that have influenced us. When we first began recording the song, there was an incredibly beautiful full lunar eclipse in the sky. The physical, spiritual and psychological effect it had on us was immediate and intense, and the melodies just seemed to flow from us effortlessly. The calm, reflective groove carried us along, and the song came together quickly. As the most dominant heavenly body in our sky fell into darkness, we all felt an unexpected sense of emotional release, which seemed both beautiful and tragic. “Vacker” is Swedish for “beautiful.” Even in the midst of intense personal loss, there is a sense of beauty that comes from the insight gained from tragedy.

Circuit Jungle is probably the most experimental track on the record. We wanted to create a unique environment, an approximation of the imagined sounds of a murky alien terrain, rich in what might be something like animal and plant life. Aside from an odd, repeating sequence, there is very little in the sense of traditional structure. One chord is oddly strummed on a badly detuned Autoharp, while a stark, slow rhythm is banged out on conga drums with mallets. We wanted it to have a sense of uncertainty, as if you were lost in the overgrowth, surrounded by unknown lifeforms, unsure of what might be coming next. Coconuts and other wooden percussive instruments, as well as an Arp 2600 and MemoryMoog were used to imitate the sounds of creatures surrounding you as you trudge further into the dark unknown. 

We move from the jungle to the desert in Zavana, an upbeat trek through a savanna ecosystem. The steady pace of the sequence is boosted by three bass lines that work together as a call-and-response to give it an almost swinging trot. Mellotron flute and a glissando Moog lead echo the vocal melody, creating probably the most traditional pop-structure of any song we’ve done to date. The mood is one of hopeful determination, moving forward with faith towards a distant goal which has yet to reveal itself. 

I Fågelns Sång exists almost entirely in the aether, and is a prayer dedicated to the souls that are no longer with us, but still communicate with us from the dimensions beyond our terrestrial sphere. It’s a psalm of sorts that’s meant to help open the gateway between us and our lost loved ones in a deep embrace. We recorded the sequence in two stereo takes – the first going through crystalline oscillators to pick up the chime melody, and the second going through an extreme phase to get the sandy, slithering effect. We then layered them on top of one another to combine the opposite sound spectrums. I Fågelns Sång translates to “In the Bird’s Call” in English, and sonically it feels lighter than air, an environment where those who have “shuffled off this mortal coil” can exist without pain, suffering, sickness and abuse, and finally be truly free. 

An intense Texas rainstorm was the inspiration for Silk Rain. We had been messing with a sequence that sounded a lot like rain drops, and as the storm outside steadily picked up, the melodies started to flow from the Moogs and Mellotron as if they were playing themselves. Linda was on the gong and then had the idea to put a microphone outside on the covered porch to capture some of the torrential downpour. As we tried recording everything together, a massive feedback surge started to build from the outdoor mic, and reached its peak just as the song reached its crescendo, and then suddenly dropped out, allowing for a perfect conclusion for the track. Later we added some beautiful, haunting pads from an Oberheim Matrix 12 and a bit of synth strings from the Arp Omni 2, as well as a 48″ Chau gong to help carry the slow, reverent procession to the summit. Silk Rain feels a bit like an ancient funeral march, a devastatingly painful undertaking that must be completed so that transformation can occur and the soul can move on.

 

Emaljets Hav was originally written as an instrumental piece for our friend Tina Rivera’s short film called Erosion. We liked the song so much we began to play it out, and over the next few months we added vocals and new leads on the Mellotron. Like The Spiral Arm, Emaljets Hav has a two-part structure, a sort of before-an-after. It made sense as a dramatic ending to a record that began in the stars, and that would end eroding at the bottom of the sea. In English Emaljets Hav means “the enamel sea” – a haunting symphony about the delicate waters we all share here on planet earth. As toxic chemicals and plastics continue to pollute our vulnerable water supply, billions of lives and the survival of not just our species, but all living things on the planet are at stake. The finale shifts from the minor scale back towards a more optimistic major chord progression, indicating that while not all hope is lost yet, there isn’t much time left for a happy ending.

 

 

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.