On The Quietus yesterday German house/techno producer Boys Noize outlined his favourite examples of Acid House. He mentions some great tracks – Bam Bam ‘Where’s Your Child’, Mantronix ‘Bassline’, Phuture ‘Acid Trax’ – but his criteria is too limiting to be representative of the scene itself.
Despite Mr. Noize’s perception, the Acid House movement was never solely defined by music featuring Roland 303s making squelching sounds the inventors had never dreamed of – although many key records featured it. Unfortunately this seems the rationale for his selection.
Looking up Mr. Noize on Wikipedia I found he was born in 1982. This means at the same time I was flailing my arms in the air he was just getting to grips with reading. Now that’s not his fault – he admits most early house he heard came second-hand from his elder brother – but it probably doesn’t make him the best person to ask for a representative list of Acid House Classics. And his statement that most people think first of Josh Wink’s ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ when Acid House is mentioned seriously depressed me.
It’s not that I don’t think ‘Higher State…’ isn’t a good record. It is. It’s just that Acid House was so much more than that. At its best – in clubs like Shoom, The Trip, Spectrum, and a few little known gems in the provinces – it was a glorious mash-up of the sound of Chicago and Detroit, mixed with musical oddities of every conceivable genre. Influenced by the Balearic bliss of DJ Alfredo’s Amnesia, the aim was to create a feeling of freedom – enhanced of course by Ecstasy – by not restricting music to prescriptive BPMs. In fact in 1988 it was hard to play a whole night of house music, it had only been around for two years or so. As is so often the case, scarcity was the springboard to creativity. The best DJs selected new releases alongside existing records from the nascent house and techno canon, then sprinkled in a liberal smattering of anything else they thought sounded good and might make people smile, and most importantly, dance.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were sonic crimes committed in the name of Balearic beats and Acid House, not least by me. As Andrew Weatherall stated ruefully in the Screamadelica documentary, playing ‘Josephine’ by Chris Rea doesn’t seem quite so clever in ecstasy-free hindsight. But aside from these odd slip-ups, on the whole the music was pretty special.
With a little time on my hands before I go slow cook some spare ribs – my hedonism comes in different form nowadays – I thought I’d share a few of my favorites to redress the balance, and reclaim my youth from the youth of Mr. Noize. Some of my selection features the Roland 303, many don’t. Quite a few aren’t even house. All are pre-1990. Without exception every song shaped the way I think about music today: as something that should transcend conventions and be enjoyed and celebrated solely within the context of the moment.
So here, in no particular order or classification, are some of my favourite (at least right now) Acid Tracks and Balearic Beats: