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ACETONE 1992-2001 (Light In The Attic Records)

Acetone are one of my all time favorite bands. Their music is still as electrifying and beautiful now as it was back then.” – Hope Sandoval 

Acetone were an LA band, functioning in the years indicated by this compilation's title, and their music is some of the most special, yet spectrally lost music of the 90s. Guitarist Mark Lightcap, bassist Richie Lee and drummer Steve Hadley played together both in Acetone (and the band Acetone emerged from, the scuzz-rock Spinout) for a total of 15 years, disbanding in July 2001 when Lee committed suicide in the garage next to the house where the trio practiced. Their ending created few waves, neither did their music in any typical sense of 'success' - with typically reverse-midas skills I gave 'Come On' single of the week in Melody Maker but didn't read much else about them anywhere. For those lucky enough to have heard anything by them, they remain something utterly unique, an atmosphere and feeling entirely their own. If you've never run into them, this compilation leaves you with no excuse.

What's special about Acetone becomes apparent as soon as you drop the needle on 'Shaker'. There's a warm, glowing, tremelo radiance about Acetone's music that gets in your cells, massages your shoulders with sunshine. There's also slowness throughout Acetone's music, a desire to confront emotions at the pace those emotions demand, a pace that made the lazy put Acetone in the slow-core bracket but this isn't as cold as Codeine, or as obviously strung-out, angry or horrified as Slint or Rodan. In fact it's impulse never seems to be to shut the world out, or to be vainglorious about emotion - if there's horror in Acetone's music it's accepted not resisted, it's simply part of the dappled grain of the voice and the spirit within the songs. Rather than being a kind of hermetic confection, stumbled across as an escape, Acetone's music lets the world in a little, and posits the hope that the fragile broken individuals involved in Acetone might just find a way to make the world their home. Their fifteen-years together are audible always, this feels like family, like people finding a power together they would never have in isolation. The pre-eminent word that you get from Acetone is that this music feels natural - like an emanation from three people mutually struggling towards a purity of expression. And the people of Acetone - you never get a trace of self-pity or self-regard in their music, there's a hard-boiled yet still-hopeful sense to their music, an almost Bacarach-like feeling in which although they know dreams turn into dust and blow away they can still pack their Acetone car and drive away, get together and be something more than themselves.

“Acetone are into it for what they get out of it. Their music reflects who they are, and that’s so rare in music today. It’s a soul music thing.” – Jason Pierce 

If their are sonic contemporaries to Acetone it's perhaps Mazzy Star, Spain, Galaxie 500 or Low at their most minimal but even these names feel wrong because Richie Lee wrote songs like none of them and the band played with a clarity, airiness and weight that actually recalls Al Green's sparsest moments of joy, or the suggestive openness of a Crazy Horse, a Kingsbury Manx or Idaho's oft-forgot 'Year After Year'. 'All The Time' shows Acetone's unproblematic yet focussed relationship with technology - phase and wah were as much a part of their palette as unadorned guitar, bass and drums, but Acetone never stacked up sonics for the sake of it, rather they'd create little pocket universes in which their Cali-roots, Pacific-longing, urban dissolution and pioneer dreams could be reflected without distraction or dilution but plenty of dazzling defraction, like pop seen through a hand x-rayed blood-red by sunrays. Pierce (who paid heartfelt tribute to Lee with 'The Ballad Of Richie Lee' on Spiritualized's 2003 album 'Amazing Grace')  is dead right. Acetone music is soul music. Balm for the down-times. Addictive as any drug.

Soul music from So-Cal. So plenty of country in there too ('How Sweet I Roamed'), a touch of surf here and there ('Shore Power'), sometimes minimalist psyche ('Return From The Ice'). Never quite those things though, and never quite just a mix of those things, always uniquely Acetone music with its own unique meld of observational distance and intimacy. Between 1993 and 2001 the band released 4 LPs, were selected as support by fans including Oasis, Mazzy Star, The Verve and Spiritualized, stubbornly refused to break through, stubbornly refused to compromise their vision. In a world of grunge overload and lo-fi grumpiness Acetone tapped/stumbled into something timeless but don't let anyone tell you they were 'proper music' - the craft of their songwriting was too wonky, too singular for that. Songs frequently find a hook but frequently don't return to that hook in anything like a normal structural sense - rather hooks get opened up to microscopic relief ('Always Late'), fixated on with only silence as punctuation ('Too Much Time'), hovered around and suggested but not actually played ('Shore Power'). These are songs that do things you'd forgotten songs could do but when you actually try and recover referents from Acetone's sound they all sound short of how the band made you feel. Acetone's verses make you levitate, like you're coming at someone across a vast landscape from an aerial height, like the great plains rolling underneath you before the city's tendrils start showing, but the hooks make you feel like you're travelling into someone's soul at a similar speed, down the alleys and streets of that human refuge and in the backdoors, into their heads and hearts in an instant.

I reiterate - you may be familiar with some of the sounds Acetone make. You will not be that familiar with how they make you feel. The sign of a great band, like the sign of a good writer, director, artist, painter, poet - is that you can SPOT it's them a line in, a brushstroke in, a reel in. It's imprinted with what makes them unique aka their style. Acetone have their own style wrapped up in the sweetest bundle and always let you in for a squeeze whenever you tapped on their door. Once you've heard Acetone's songs you will be able to spot them in an instant, and they will become part of your armoury against the universe. '1992-2001' is nigh-on perfect as an introduction to one of pop's best ever kept secrets. Unlock it and wander all year long, then seek out what full-lengths you can find. In Acetone, you've found yourself a lifelong companion.

(this album is available via Light In The Attic Records and you can buy it directly from them HERE)


  1. Wow, totally amazing. Having recently been listening to my Sonic Boom/Jason Pierce collection, this a brilliant (possibly better/fresher-to-me) companion. Thanks.


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