MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2015
WEEK 35: ACID HOUSE
I was never much interested in the song based, deep house style celebrating a disco past, strung out and remixed. I was far more interested in the non-musicians, the DIY misfits, the renegade DJ’s and backroom boys who jettisoned all remaining vestiges of soul and humanity to assemble a brand new machine music. Exemplified by Larry Heard’s dehumanised ‘Washing Machine’, essential formative tracks like ‘No Way Back’ and the deranged scream of Marshall Jefferson’s astounding ‘I’ve Lost Control’, acid evolved with a radicalised, avant-garde sensibility; an experimental present reaching for a tangible future. Yet while those records nudged the door ajar, the track that kicked it wide open came more by luck than judgement via a malfunctioning piece of crap technology.
DJ Pierre was a shy 16 year old from the suburbs struggling to make any inroads into the Chicago club scene until his friend Spanky bought a cheap, slim, silver box called a Roland TB-303. Designed in 1982 to play basslines for lonely guitarists, the 303 had been a spectacular commercial failure so was already defunct. Following the tradition of experimental music making, Spanky, Pierre and fellow sonic adventurer Herb Jackson began messing around with it only to find that no matter how many knobs they twisted, there was no escaping it’s brain melting, demented gurgle. Transfixed by the sound of the biggest head fuck they’d ever heard in their young lives, the trio recorded twelve and a half minutes over a pre-set 303 beat.
Like most folks, Phuture’s ‘Acid Tracks’ was my first inkling that house had a far deeper, darker side. Sounding like it had crash landed from some dark and twisted dystopia, it immediately became a source of dance floor fascination around the globe, gifting its name to an entire genre and youthquake revolution that was about as far from disco, eighties electro and Kraftwerk as it was possible to get. Original deep house had been minimal but ‘Acid Tracks’ and the subsequent deluge of 303 records sounded like nothing on earth; discordant, unsettling and genuinely weird.
At the same time as the UK was adjusting to regular, first generation deep house tunes like ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’, Chicago was producing hundreds of DIY acid tracks utilising the random squelch of the 303. Acid was liberating because it empowered non-musicians to experiment and create tracks quickly and easily with little more than borrowed gear and imagination. It was a return to the punk ethic, except this time around it was being played out in urban, black America. And yet, like any music form that is relatively easy to produce, from the moment it created a lucrative market for itself acid was doomed, ransacked by every on the make, shyster opportunist, the drive for the quick buck spawning an avalanche of records sounding exactly the same.
The summer of 1988 was the moment when Chicago experienced it’s irreversible downturn. Disillusioned by a stagnating scene and bad deals, acids prime movers either withdrew completely or moved to the East Coast. As Chicago wilted and Detroit techno emerged from the shadows to become the new electronic dance music of choice, acid relocated too, its axis shifting across the Atlantic to the UK. While it was obvious the twenty four hour party people from Manchester to London were just getting started, it was equally obvious that for Chicago it signaled the end of a hugely creative era.
01 MR FINGERS ‘Washing Machine’ (Washing Machine EP December 1985)
02 ADONIS ‘No Way Back’ (A Side June 1986)
03 SLEEZY D ‘I’ve Lost Control’ (House Side July 1986)
04 PHUTURE ‘Acid Tracks’ (A Side March 1987)
05 PIERRE’S PFANTASY CLUB ‘Fantasy Girl’ [Acid Mix] (A Side July 1987)
06 JACK FROST & THE CIRCLE JERKS ‘Shout’ (A Side August 1987)
07 TYREE ‘Acid Over’ [Tyree’s Mix] (A Side November 1987)
08 FARLEY JACKMASTER FUNK ‘I Need A Friend’ (No Vocals Necessary LP February 1988)
09 ARMANDO ‘Confusion’s Revenge’ (Acid House Compilation LP May 1988)
10 LAURENT X ‘Machines’ [Original Apocalypse Mix] (Machines EP May 1988)
11 DR DERELICT ‘That Shit’s Wild’ (Acid Trax Volume Two LP July 1988)
12 LIDDELL TOWNSELL ‘As Acid Turns’ (Jack The House EP July 1988)
13 JACK RABBIT ‘Only Wanted To Be’ [Acid Mix] (Promo July 1988)
14 BAM BAM ‘Where’s Your Child’ (A Side September 1988)