Acme Power Transmission is the debut solo album from erstwhile Calla frontman Aurelio Valle. Self-produced, the album was recorded in Valle’s apartment under an elevated subway line in 2013 after five years of private, contemplative musical experimentation carried on while he worked day jobs in motorcycle repair and in a tailor shop respectively. >Acme Power Transmission is being released by Nuevo Leon Recordings May 30.
Named for his landlord’s auto parts store — where Valle bought gaskets and pistons — the album is the sound of those six gap years. You can hear glimpses of where he’s been in the fricative electronics, grinding slack and stripped, on openers “Bruised and Defused” and “Deadbeat.” You can hear further steps in the unexpected raucous strut of the brass and string-tinged “Superhawk.” Like a boxer throwing feints and nervous jabs, the neighborhood itself is there too in the bodega shuffle of “Movement” and the early morning urban vistas of “Cowboy.” Echoes of his ambient film work emerge throughout, most clearly in the instrumentals “Kino” and “Centuries,” culminating in the optimistic and skittish “Electraglide” fronted by Nina Persson (The Cardigans, A Camp).
Aurelio Valle never made music comfortable in the sun. His is a haunted sound rooted in nocturnal north Texas gothic traditions and another, seedier and neon-lit, New York now slipping into memory: a distinctive, languid and somnambulant voice pressed against droning fuzz and the thunder of machines. That this blistered grime lands so heavily, distracts from the beauty that always lies beneath; those rich veins of color, a pining for spiritual purity, hope and a light that comes in the quiet recess of one’s own focus. It’s this last sense of light in his writing, coming more toward the surface now, that tells the story: a story of growth, transformation and an artist constantly laying down new roots for himself.
Through ten years and six studio albums this inquisitiveness was given voice in the band Calla. Then, suddenly in 2007, sensing something was missing Valle took a purposeful step back from the music business. He apprenticed as a motorcycle mechanic while assisting in a friend’s bespoke tailor shop following the dictates of his curiosity to
challenge himself and grow as a maker of things. All the while in his home studio he was experimenting with how to record without worrying about how or if he would release the results. Instead he was seeking out new textures and styles, emerging occasionally to work on film scores, most notably the lauded 2009 German film Zarte Parasiten. Looking for a way to think about music for himself, picking up new instruments, resisting the call to the easy answers he knew were waiting in the guitar, Valle stayed away from the music business and continued to learn. “I was learning to program, mix, play drum parts and leave things alone,” he says, “learning these parts to re-learn the process, come at it like I did when I was kid back in Denton and didn’t know what it meant to make a record”.
Just as suddenly in 2013, as he was getting ready to pack up the Brooklyn apartment he had lived in for much of this span, Valle made a decision to record and release something new. “I enjoyed the creative process again, and it only seemed fitting to acknowledge I was leaving the neighborhood with a new record.” In this apartment under an elevated subway line, between the clamoring teenagers stumbling out of school and in the snarl of passing motorcycles, he would write and record Acme Power Transmission.
Loose, effortless and secretive, Acme Power Transmission is the return of an individual artist continuing to grow; a sense of hopeful searching spread across nine tracks and a shifting of chords out of familiar shadows. Aurelio Valle never made music comfortable in the sun but after six years under the ‘el’, he’s stepping out again.