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).
Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Valle to discuss the record. This is what he told us.
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
After we decided to take a break from Calla and the music industry in general. I started recording for film projects in that time. I concentrated on really figuring out an enjoyable way to write, record and create music again. After years of recording with the usual suspects, being on my own opened up a lot of possibilities. I didn’t feel limited in the way I wrote, I took my time and experimented. I’d say in the span of two or three years is when it all started really taking shape. I felt I had to get the music out there once it made sense to me.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
I’m not going to lie, all of them were difficult. A real pain, but challenging. I say that because I didn’t know what I was doing half the time. I would play the bass 10 different ways throughout a few months before I’d settle on a line or a sound that I felt gelled. The same went for every instrument, texture and drum beat. I’d find myself tracking drums live then taking them apart and piecing them back together, a little crazy and obsessive. I would learn later there are a lot of easier ways to do this, but it wasn’t so much about the drums sounding good but everything coming together and locking into place sonically. I was also learning, it’s like taking an engine apart and putting it back together so you can learn how the thing works.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
They all would start one way, with something as simple as a drum rhythm and hook. Then they would slowly end up in a very different place, there was always that one part or hook that made the whole thing click. Except for maybe “Cowboy” I always wanted to write a song with this vibe, I had the melodies fall right into place but the arrangement was tough to lay out. I didn’t want to verse/chorus it because it would get too repetitive, but I wanted it to stay interesting. I guess I used that concept for a lot of the tracks.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
I had Nina Persson of The Cardigans and A camp sing on “Electraglide” We had talked about working together for some time and finally when I recorded the score for a German film “Tender Parasites” I wrote the song with her vocal in mind. When we tracked it, I was floored man, she lit that song up with her voice. It’s now finally seeing a proper release.
I also had my managers niece and her friend play the horn section on “Superhawk”. I was talking to my manager at her apartment about finding a horn section to play this part I had, when all of a sudden I hear a sax and a trumpet sounding from somewhere close by. We followed the music it was coming from her kitchen, her 15 year old niece Emma Peleg and friend Laura Berger were having a school band rehearsal. We dragged them over to listen to my track and asked if they be into recording this for me. They rehearsed it and knocked it out of the ball park. My friend Daniel Stampfel added a baritone sax. That song just clicked once those horns were layed down. Talented girls.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
I produced the record with the help of Daniel Collás of The Phenominal Handclap Band coming in to help with the mixing in the final stages. I work with Daniel often, he helped record Nina’s vocals and I co-wrote for Phenominal’s track “Testimony”. Having Daniel help on the record helped me finalize everything, otherwise I probably would’ve kept working on it for a few more years.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
I think the record reflects my personal venture into writing recording and producing on my own. Where I was at after Calla was like finding my footing with no safety net. I relied a lot on my band mates and we still do on a brotherly level. The time I spent learning, writing and recording the record was about the same time I spent at my old apartment. The Broadway subway was right in front of my window, rumbling by every 10 minutes. My constant dispute with my puerto rican neighbor who would blast his music all day and night while I tried recording vocals or acoustic guitars. The Spanish preaching lady wailing, “Hallelujah” every 20 seconds from a crappy guitar amp outside my window every weekend. The sounds of a crazy Brooklyn Broadway are heard throughout the record, I’m sure there are several moments throughout where the subway rumbles in the background. I listen to this record and I hear my time there documented.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
Not yet, the only time I played them live was during drum rehearsals or before tracking, I have some performances I want to do but it will have to be interesting venues and settings. I will be planning these throughout the year. Stay posted through my website and Facebook pages.
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