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A history of acid house


Soul Jazz presents: Acid - Can You Jack? (2005) - VA [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

People: Ron Hardy (DJ) - Jesse Saunders - Larry Heard - DJ Pierre - Marshall Jefferson

Key tracks: Acid Trax (1987) - Phuture -

Related: acid - dance music - electronic music - Roland synthesizers - Chicago house music - 1980s music - black music - house music - Music Box (nightclub) - American music - Trax records

The Roland TB-303 synthesizer/sequencer from 1982 and 1983 had a crucial role in the development of acid house when it became available on the second hand market in the mid 1980s.

Acid house is the purest, barest distillation of house, the outer limit of its logic of inhuman functionalism. With acid, black music has never been so alien-ated from traditional notions of `blackness' (fluid, grooving, warm), never been so close to to the frigid, mechanical, supremely `white' perversion of funk perpetrated by early eighties pioneers like D.A.F. and Cabaret Voltaire. -- Simon Reynolds, Paul Oldfield, 1990 (1990)


Acid house is a variant of house music characterized by the use of simple tone generators with tempo-controlled resonant filters. It began when musicians discovered that they could create interesting sounds with the Roland TB-303 analogue bass synthesizer by tweaking the resonance and frequency cut-off dials as they played. The term "acid" was used in Chicago at the time as a term for the squelchy "acid" sounds of such bass synthesizers such as the TB-303. When Genesis P-Orridge visited Chicago in the late 1980s, he checked out acid house music, thinking at first that "acid" referred to LSD. He brought the sounds back to England and began developing with his band Psychic TV a more psychedelic sounding acid house music, including samples from 1960s exploitation films, from Timothy Leary, etc. Acid house music became a central part of the early rave scene in the U.K., and the yellow smiley became its emblem.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_house [Sept 2004]


In truth, acid house had already started long before the first 'Acid Trax' were commerically released. Amongst the scores of Chicagoans who were buying equipment and trying to learn how to make tracks was one DJ Pierre, who'd started out playing Italian imports at roller discos in the Chicago suburbs, and who had joined Lil Louis for his notorious parties. --Phil Cheeseman

"Phuture was me and two other guys, Spanky and Herbert J." remembers Pierre. "We had this Roland 303, which was a bassline machine, and we were trying to figure out how to use it. When we switched it on, that acid sound was already in it and we liked the sound of it so we decided to add some drums and make a track with it. We gave it to Ron Hardy who started playing it straight away. In fact, the first time he played it, he played it four times in one night! The first time people were like, 'what the fuck is this?' but by the the fourth they loved it. Then I started to hear that Ron was playing some new thing they were calling 'Ron Hardy's Acid Trax', and everybody thought it was something he'd made himself. Eventually we found out that it was our track so we called it 'Acid Trax'. I think we may have made it as early as 1985, but Ron was playing it for a long time before it came out."

Acid Trax

Trax records Trax's glory years were the mid-to-late 1980s. In 1987 they gave the world its second gift when Phuture released 'Acid Trax'. Written by Herbert J, DJ Pierre and Spanky and produced by Marshall Jefferson, it was the first acid record.

Acid Over (1990) Article by Simon Reynolds and Paul Oldfield

First published in?

House music is so impersonal, minimal and repetitive it seems to take effect beneath the level of conscious hearing, sweeping you up by a process of `molecular agitation'. Acid house is the purest, barest distillation of house, the outer limit of its logic of inhuman functionalism. With acid, black music has never been so alien-ated from traditional notions of `blackness' (fluid, grooving, warm), never been so close to to the frigid, mechanical, supremely `white' perversion of funk perpetrated by early eighties pioneers like D.A.F. and Cabaret Voltaire.

Acid house is not so much a new thing, as a drastic, terminal culmination of two tendencies in house: the trance-inducing effects of repetion and dub production; a fascination for the pristine hygiene and metronome rhythms of German electronic dance. Pure acid tracks like Tyree's `Acid Over' recall the brute, inelastic minimalism of D.A.F. - it consists of nothing but a bass synth sequencer pulse reiterated with slight warps and eerie inflections. Other tracs parallesl the obscure innovations of bands like Suicide, the Normal (`Warm Leatherette'), Liasons Dangereuses (very big in Chicago), Die Krupps (proto-metalbashers and an early incarnation of Propaganda). Ex-Sample's `And So it Goes' combines cut-ups (`Heroin Kills'), unidentifiable bursts of distorted, sampled sound, and human cries torn from their context (agonies of ecstasy or distress), in a manner not unlike Front 242. Reese's [...]`Just Want Another Chance' sets a guttural, Cabaret Voltaire monologue of desire over the spookiest of Residents synth-drones, an ectoplasmic bassline four times too slow for the drum track. `Strings Of Life' by Rhythim-Is-Rhythim (a.k.a. Derrick May, a prime mover on the acid scene) takes the sultry swing of Latin disco and clips into a spasmodic tic that's deeply unsettling; his `Move It' is a perimeter of trebly rhythm programes that restlessly orbit the black hole where the song should be, and strangely recalls one of those lost, desolate Joy Division B-sides.

Weirdest of all is `Acid Trax' by Phuture, the record that started the whole fad off. The `Cocaine Mix' starts with a treated voice midway between a dalek and the Voice of Judgement that announces, `This is Cocaine Speaking'; spectral eddies of a disembodied human wail (reminiscent of nothing so much as PiL's `No Birds Do Sing') simulate the soul languishing in cold turkey; then we're launched on a terror-ride that again reminds me of PIL's `Careering' or `Death Disco'. `I can make you like for me/I can make you die for me/In the end/I'll be your only friend.' If disco was always ment to be about escapism, acid is about no-escapism.

In this, acid house takes after the white avant-funk of the late seventies/early eighties, its concept of disco as trance, a form of sinister control or possession. The flash and dazzle of disco classics like Chaka Khan's `I'm Every Woman', Michael Jackson's `Off the Wall' album, or anything by Earth Wind and Fire, is replaced by a clinical, ultra-focused, above all inhibited sound. Expansive and expressive gestures are replaced by a precise and rigorous set of movements, _demands_ on the body; flamboyance and improvisation by a discipline of pleasure. Perhaps there's a kind of `liberation' in submitting to the mechanics of instinct, soldering the circuitry of desire to the circuitry of the sequencer programmes.

[...] -- Simon Reynolds, with Paul Oldfield, 1990


  1. Simon Reynolds - Generaton Ecstacy [Amazon.com]
    According to Spin editor Simon Reynold's well-researched book about the global dance-music scene, "Generation Ecstasy," a Euro fascination swept through Detroit in the '80s, elevating continental acts such as Front 242, Depeche Mode, and Meat Beat Manifesto as well as new-wave American groups such as Devo, the B-52's and Talking Heads to star status. The Euro attitude can best be summed up in the title of a recent song by Underground Resistance: "Afrogermanic."

    "So the kids take a pill to feel the funk and the DJ takes a pill to feel the funk. I don't take a pill to feel the funk." -- Derrick May

    read a review by Kim Cascone

  2. Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (1998) - Matthew Collin, John Godfrey [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Although it probably over-emphasizes the London scene, this book provides a well-written introduction to the history of house music as well as to 20th-century dance music in general. Citing the Stonewall Riots as a cultural turning point, Matthew Collin shows how the emerging gay rights movements created innovative clubs that demanded a newer, more vibrant music. Finding other pieces of this hidden history in Jamaican dub, mainstream disco, rap, European electronic music, and New York club mixes, Collin develops an interesting and previously undocumented narrative of contemporary hip sounds. --Amazon.com


  1. We Call It Acieeed [IMPORT] (2002) - Various Artists [Amazon US] 1. We Call It Acieeed [the 'Matey' Mix] - D-Mob 2. Machines 3. Superfly Guy - S'Express 4. Acid Tracks - Phuture 5. Get Real - Paul Rutherford 6. French Kiss 7. Dream Girl 8. Groove - Liddell Townsell 9. Acid Man [Original Mix] - The Jolly Roger Team 10. Pacific State - 808 State 11. Stakker Humanoid - Humanoid 12. No Way Back - Adonis 13. Acperience 1 - Hardfloor 14. Rockin' Ricki - A Guy Called Gerald 15. Magic Feet 16. Cool J Trax 17. This Is Acid 18. Oochy Koochy [Konrad Kadet Mix] - Baby Ford Disc: 2 1. Pump Up the Volume 2. Washing Machine 3. Baby Wants to Ride - Frankie Knuckles 4. Voodoo Ray - A Guy Called Gerald 5. Flow Coma 6. Can You Feel It 7. Acid Life - Farley Jackmaster Funk 8. N-R-G - Adamski 9. Planet E [House Mix] 10. That's the Way Love Is - Ten City 11. Jack Your Body 12. Bang Bang You're Mine [Rock Me Gently Radio Edit] - Bang the Party 13. Good Life [Magic Juan's Mix] - Inner City 14. House Nation 15. Let the Warriors Dance 16. Acid Over - Tyree 17. Jack to the Sound of the Underground 18. Higher State of Consciousness - Wink

    Import exclusive compilation featuring 36 of the maddest acid tracks ever! Highlights include, D-Mob & Gary Haisman 'We Call It Acid', S'Express 'Superfly Guy', Lil' Louis 'French Kiss', 808 State 'Pacific State', A Guy Called Gerald 'Rockin' Ricki', MARRS 'Pump Up The Volume', Frankie Knuckles & Jamie Principle 'Baby Wants To Ride', Adamski 'NRG', Ten City 'That's The Way Love Is', Inner City 'Good Life' & Josh Wink 'Higher State Of Consciousness'.

Soul Jazz presents: Acid - Can You Jack? (2005) - VA

Soul Jazz presents: Acid - Can You Jack? (2005) - VA [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

1.Maurice – This is Acid 2.Sweat Boyz (Adonis) – Do You Want to Percolate? 3.Virgo (Marshall Jefferson) – Go Wild Rhythm Tracks 4.Mr Fingers (Larry Heard) – Beyond The Clouds 5.Tyree – Acid Crash 6.Phuture (DJ Pierre) – Phuture Jacks 7.Fresh – Dum Dum 8.Roy Davis – Acid Bass

Disc 2 1.Sleezy D – I’ve Lost Control 2.Virgo – Take Me Higher 3.DJ Pierre – Box Energy 4.Lil Louis – Video Clash 5.Tyree – Acid Over 6.Green Velvet (Cajmere) – Enforcer 7.Two of A Kind – Like This 8.Armando – Downfall 9.Phuture – Acid Trax

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