TM404 — Syra

Dub is a common constituent of techno, but melding dubwise sensibilities to the freaky frequencies of acid is an uncrowded field.  However, Andreas Tilliander has spent the best part of a decade blending these disparate styles to maximum effect with his TM404 project.  Dusting off his collection of vintage analogue Roland synths and effects, his array of 303s provide the acid lines and trusty Space Echo launches those lines into a twilight-lit orbit of dubbed-out space.

Syra is his third album on the Kontra-Music label.  In 2013, his self-titled album ushered in the TM404 journey, followed by Acidub three years later, the title joyously wearing its intention on its sleeve.  The title of this new record translates as "Acid", and continues the obsession, with Tilliander’s deep exploration of the hypnotic grooves that can be coaxed out of small silver boxes.  Those previous two records smudged the 303 patterns into hazy dubby ambient textures, but still had enough propulsion that the TM404 live shows were on par with Ritchie Hawtin’s techno sets when the two artists toured together.  The experience of those shows has fed into Tilliander’s studio sessions, and Syra features a couple of tracks that exude a harder edge than before, a directness that would work wonders in a dark club.

The album opens with Drumati, a gorgeous slow-motion swarm of 606 hi hats and kicks that ripple in oceans of reverb. It’s a warm, inviting introduction to the album, pulsing and ping-ponging around the stereo field. So far, so dub, but the acid isn’t far away, as the following track, Oxfor, kicks in immediately with mid-range squelchy frequencies.  Again, it’s a slow-burner, as TM404 material often is, but it gradually builds in intensity, adding layers of percussion into its swirling soundworld.

Roofto begins with lush bounces of spring reverb and tape hiss, remaining beatless until its halfway point, at which time a rhythm evolves and picks up steam.  This is logically followed by the faster, more traditionally acid techno of Vactro, which is quite a banger.  Accented acid grooves flicker brightly above panning cymbals and kicks, leaning much heavier on the acid side of Acid Dub.  But that dub sensibility is always present here, and is as integral an ingredient as the bubbling acidic step patterns. Rymdeko is another dancefloor-directed track, but incorporates more echo-laden affects in its aesthetics.  Acid is not as focal here, in fact this one is pure percussive techno with little flourishes of dubbiness to colour what would otherwise be a fairly monochrome piece.

The final track is named after Kontra-Music label boss Ulf Eriksson and is a blissed-out tapestry of melodic acid lines dubbed into a very mellow and emotional headspace.  Naming the track after Eriksson is an obviously personal and respectful gesture to a peer and friend of Tilliander.  Sonically, it’s the perfect way to bring the album to a close, as those acid lines recede into whispered echoes in the distance.