Stream the Ominous, Haunting Solo Debut from Calla’s Aurelio Valle

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 05.19.14 in News

Dark, brooding, ominous and haunting, Acme Power Transmission sounds more like the soundtrack to a sci-fi noir movie than the solo debut of the former lead vocalist of austere New York rockers Calla. And with good reason: Aurelio Valle has spent the seven years since the band’s dissolution writing film scores, work that provided a much-needed respite from the dispiriting grind that can accompany being in a band. “You just kind of burn out on it,” he explains. “We were touring so much, and it all started getting very monotonous. By the end, we were just going through the motions.”

The band split amicably and Valle set to work on the score for the German film Zarte Parasiten, work that directly informed the shadowy sprawl of Acme. Its songs — which are primarily synth-based, another departure from Calla’s clanging guitars — unfold slowly, at times recalling the chilly B-Side of David Bowie’s Low. On “Bruised and Diffused,” a low throb of synth pulses beneath Valle’s ghost of a vocal. On “Cowboy,” he murmurs softly over a low, funereal organ. Throughout, Valle’s voice mostly occupies the background, more texture than tone. “When I started writing songs for the record, they were just instrumentals,” he explains. “I was trying everything possible to not have to sing on the record. But as the music started taking shape, words started popping into my head. At first the songs were very diffuse, but once I started singing, that brought them all together.”

Though all of the songs occupy the same bleak universe, they sprang from disparate sources. “For ‘Deadbeat,’ I was listening to a lot of Missy Elliot, and a lot of Portishead at the same time,” Calle says.” I would listen to the Portishead song ‘Machine Gun,’ and think, ‘God, that song’s amazing.’ And at the same time, I’m listening to ‘Lick Shots’ and thinking ‘How can I bring these two worlds together?’” The result is a song that stutters and stalls, sewn together by a ghostly, slowly-looping guitar line. The rattling “Electraglide,” which sounds like what might happen if Ennio Morricone scored Blade Runner, is helmed by Nina Persson of the Cardigans, who brings to the song a startling tartness. The song was originally written for Zarte Parasiten, but Valle liked the results so much he remixed it to suit Acme’s moonlit environs. “Her voice blew me away,” Valle says. “The way I sang it on the demo, it was one emotional level through the whole thing. She belts it out, and the song takes flight.”

That same sense of discovery runs throughout Acme, and despite its tense mood, it often feels like an album of rebirth. “The excitement of making a record came back to me,” Valle explains. “I was exploring. I was experimenting. And I really am proud of every single song.”