In the era of arbitrary self-branding, the word “enigmatic” is thrown around quite often throughout the artistic realms. It is meant to elicit mystery and perpetuate the myth of the elusive genius, whose meaning has been diluted across the ever-present age of social media. But some names walk the enigmatic walk, and one of them is Acid Pauli. On Friday, September 15, Acid Pauli will lead JETLAGGED at Control Club, but a rare Romanian club appearance.
Acid Pauli, or Martin Gretschmann, known offstage, is a singular figure blending innovation with versatility through a slew of diverse musical projects. Born in Germany’s Bavaria during the 1970s, Gretschmann’s initial musical engagements saw him delving into the day’s vibrant punk and indie scenes, armed with an analogue bass guitar. His mid-1990s pseudonym, Console, is an act he is known for until today, with several records and remixes released, including the classic 14 Zero, Zero. But, as the allure of electronic music began to shine brightly across his home country, he found himself irresistibly drawn towards its sonic, narrative, and emotional possibilities.
The turn of the millennium proved pivotal for Gretschmann in terms of electronic music. By this time, the global community began acknowledging him more prominently under the Acid Pauli moniker. But it’s also essential to understand that Acid Pauli was not merely a stage name; it embodied a concept that evolved from a solitary computer-based live act to a performance spectacle. Bridging live music’s vivacity with DJ set precision, Acid Pauli’s sound matured into a transcendental genre experience, flowing seamlessly from the rhythmic heartbeats of techno to the vast soundscapes of organic house to the emotional resonance of indie rock.
One significant album during these days, Mst (Clown and Sunset, 2012), stands out as an example of this ability to blend organic sounds into a cohesive narrative. This down-tempo album, bathed in unique beauty, comprised tracks like Equation Of Time—a mesmerizing blend reminiscent of a dizzying cabaret or an otherworldly circus. As in tracks like Requiem For A Loop, its understated sound structures evoked a distinctly European sentiment, projecting images of Berlin’s vibrant street scenes.
Then, there was his association with The Notwist, where he brought an electrifying touch to the band’s sound foundations. His contributions helped elevate the group to notable acclaim in Germany and the broader global scene. Moreover, his collaborative efforts, like those with Nicolas Jaar, highlighted his talent for creating music that swells through a spectrum of tones, textures, and emotions, prioritizing an organic evolution of sound over mere detailing.
Acid Pauli’s sophomore album BLD (2017), on his own Ouïe label, co-founded with Nico Stojan, is an eight-track marvel built upon techno and house breaks— the parts of the track that often lack the kick drum. With this approach, BLD dismissed contemporary electronic music’s commonplace “tension and release” schema. Tracks across the album resonate with melancholy, hope, and introspection.
Gretschmann’s journey into modular synthesis is another captivating notch in his career. With his album MOD (2020), he ventured into an oblique direction, almost entirely relying on modular systems for its creation. This work has been described as “soft, elegant, fluent, dreamy”, achieving an almost magical state of “space-time morphing”. Recorded live and in single takes, MOD radiates an ethereal warmth that evolves and deepens with each listen. Elements like the deep rhythmic loops of Intellijel Bell to the ambient orchestral vibes of Sublime Frequencies Of Cairo, MOD is one of the best examples of Acid Pauli’s vast sound interests.
The contemporary era, despite its challenges, didn’t deter Gretschmann. Projects like radio play collaborations and literary adaptations like Walden showcased his adaptability and resilience. His endeavor to pay homage to musical icons also led to an evocative tribute to Leonard Cohen at Montreal’s Mutek Festival and collaborations with Björk and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Würzburg.
There’s so much more that can be said about Acid Pauli. From his numerous Burning Man, club and festival appearances to his film soundtracking (Es war einmal Indianerland, dir. Ilker Çatak) to his well-received releases on Pampa Recordsand Crosstown Rebels to his Infinite Jest-inspired The Golden Machine project, Acid Pauli’s story underscores the limitless potential when passion, innovation, and dedication intertwine. Through the diverse phases of his ongoing career, Martin Gretschmann, in all his avatars, stands as a testament to the transformative power of music in all its cosmic, psychedelic and adventurous glory.