Acid house

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Acid house
Stylistic origins
Cultural origins
Typical instruments
Mainstream popularity late 1980s and early 1990s United States, United Kingdom.
Derivative forms Rave
Other topics
Styles of house music

Acid house is a sub-genre of house music that emphasizes a repetitive, hypnotic and trance-like style, often with samples or spoken lines rather than sung lyrics. Acid house's core electronic squelch sounds were developed by mid-1980s DJs from Chicago who experimented with the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer-sequencer. Acid house spread to the United Kingdom, Australia, and continental Europe, where it was played by DJs in the early rave scene. By the late 1980s, copycat tracks and acid house remixes brought the style into the mainstream, where it had some influence on pop and dance styles.

Nicknamed "the sound of acid",[1] acid house was different than the emerging styles of deep house or vocal house in that it was starkly minimal, being very light or absent of instrumentation and generally harder or trancier sounding than these.[citation needed] This bifurcation marked an early separation in house music that directly correlated to the origin of hard dance and trance and which developed in conjunction with the more underground and specialized rave scene.[citation needed] The starkness of the style was a result of the discovery of the strange sounds that the Roland 303 bass line synthesizer produced when tweaked and the straight 4|4 rhythm which though shared by much of house and techno music was programmed into much harder and more pounding rhythms than pop or electro.[citation needed] Both of these elements are present in most of the tracks considered core to the sound of acid house.[citation needed] Roland's other famous sound, the Roland TR-909 drum machine is nearly as common. Acid house's influence on dance music is tangible considering the sheer number of electronic music tracks referencing acid house through the use of its sounds, including trance, Goa Trance, psytrance, breakbeat, big beat, techno, trip-hop and house music.[2]

The Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer provided the electronic squelch sounds often heard in acid house tracks.


[edit] History

A yellow smiley face is considered the emblem of acid house.[original research?]

[edit] Origins in Chicago

The first acid house records were produced in Chicago, Illinois. Phuture, a group founded by Nathan "DJ Pierre" Jones, Earl "Spanky" Smith Jr., and Herbert "Herb J" Jackson, is credited with having been the first to use the TB-303 in the house music context (the instrument appeared as early as 1983 in disco via Alexander Robotnick).[3] The group's 12-minute "Acid Tracks" was recorded to tape and was played by DJ Ron Hardy at the Music Box, where Hardy was resident DJ. Hardy once played it four times over the course of an evening until the crowd responded favorably.

Chicago's house music scene was suffering from a massive crack down of parties and events by the police. Sales of house records were dwindling and by 1988, the genre was selling less than a tenth as many records as at the height of the style's popularity.[4] However, house and especially acid house was beginning to experience a massive surge in popularity in Britain.

[edit] The London house-music scene

London's club Shoom, circa 1987, was one of the first clubs to introduce acid house to the clubbing public of England. It was opened by Danny Rampling and his wife. The club was extremely exclusive and featured thick fog, a dreamy atmosphere and acid house.[5] This period began what some call the Second Summer of Love, a movement credited with a reduction in football hooliganism: instead of fights, football fans were listening to music, taking ecstasy, and joining the other club attendees in a peaceful movement often paralleled to the Summer of Love in San Francisco in the 1960s.[6] However, the Second Summer of Love is generally considered much less politicized than its namesake, and is often seen as hedonistic and self-indulgent.[citation needed]

Another club called Trip was opened by Nick Holloway in 1988 and was geared directly towards the acid house music scene. It was known for its intensity and stayed open until 3 AM. The patrons would spill into the streets chanting and drew the police on regular occasions. The reputation that occurrences like this created along with the UK's strong anti-club laws started to make it increasingly difficult to offer events in the conventional club atmosphere. Considered illegal in London during the late 80s, after-hour clubbing was against the law. However, this did not stop the club-goers from continuing after-hours dancing. Police would raid the after-hour parties, so the groups began to assemble inside warehouses and other inconspicuous venues in secret, hence also marking the first developments of the rave.[7] Raves were well attended at this time and consisted of single events or moving series of parties thrown by production companies or unlicensed clubs. Two well known groups at this point were the famous "RiP" or Revolution in Progress, known for the dark atmosphere and hard music at their events which were usually thrown in warehouses[8] and Sunrise who held particularly massive outdoor events.

The Sunrise group threw several large acid house raves in England which gathered serious press attention. In 1988 they threw "Burn It Up," 1989 brought "Early Summer Madness," "Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Back to the Future." They advertised huge sound systems, fairground rides, foreign DJs, and other attractions. Many articles were written sensationalizing these parties and the results of them, focusing especially on the drug use and out-of-control nature that the media perceived.[9]

In September 1989, Sunrise held the largest Acid House rave ever, just outside Reigate in Surrey. In the fields adjacent to the school playing fields at Hartswood (between Woodhatch and Sidlow Bridge), the rave took place and lasted from 10pm on the Saturday night until late into Sunday night. It was estimated that nearly 20,000 attended during the weekend, and car queues stretched 4 miles, from the top of Reigate Hill to the Hartswood fields. It was widely covered by the press and television, and remains the largest rave ever.

[edit] Media attention

Beat Dis by Bomb the Bass (1988) features the "bloodied" version of the popular smiley icon.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, news media and tabloids devoted an increasing amount of coverage to the hedonistic acid house/rave scene, focusing on its association with psychedelic drugs and club drugs. The sensationalist nature of the coverage may have contributed to the banning of acid house during its heyday from radio, television, and retail outlets in the United Kingdom. The moral panic of the press began in 1988, when the UK tabloid The Sun, which only weeks earlier had promoted Acid House as "cool and groovy" while running an offer on Acid Smiley Face T-Shirts, abruptly turned on the scene. On October 19, the tabloid ran with the headline "Evils of Ecstasy," linking the Acid House scene with the new and relatively unknown drug. The resultant panic incited by the tabloids eventually led to a crackdown on clubs and venues that played Acid House and had a profound negative impact on the scene.[10]

UK acid house and rave fans used the yellow smiley face symbol simply as an emblem of the music and scene, a "vapid, anonymous smile" that portrayed the "simplest and gentlest of the Eighties’ youth manifestations" that was non-aggressive, "except in terms of decibels" at the high-volume DJ parties.[11] Some acid house fans used a smiley face with a blood streak on it, which Watchmen comics creator Alan Moore asserts was based on Dave Gibbons' artwork for the series.[12]

Within just a few years, acid house had gained a considerable fan base, and the influence of the music reached beyond the club and warehouse environment. It also influenced UK pop music during these formative years, emerging in a somewhat sanitized version in songs like Bananarama's "Tripping on Your Love" (1991) and Samantha Fox's "Love House" (1989). Acid house influences also appear in the 1988 hit by S'Express, "Theme from S'Express" and in remixes of pop songs on 12" singles by various mainstream acts.

Musically, acid house started to move away from its almost total reliance on the TB-303, but continued to use repeated sound sequences that were shifted and warped by electronic modulation.

[edit] Influence of acid house music

As also stated in the introduction, acid house has been an important influence on the formation of trance [13] [14] [15].

Acid house remained active after the first wave and has experienced waves of popularity. Richie Hawtin, Moby, Massive Attack all released tunes in the early 1990s featuring the Roland TB-303. Josh Wink released "Higher State of Consciousness" in 1995, just another peak in acid house's continuous up-and-down cycle in over 20 years of popularity and performance. As computer programs such as ReBirth and VSTi (Virtual Studio Technology Instrument) versions of the essential Roland TB-303 were developed, the sound began to appear in many different styles of music. Roland released the MC-303 Groovebox in the mid 1990s, which featured samples of the original TB-303.

DJ's and producers using tracks or sounds from acid house that appeared in the 1990s and 2000s include Chris Liberator, 808 State, DJ Pierre, Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Terry Mullen, Luke Vibert, Aphex Twin, and many others including artists far outside the acid house genre such as Madonna, the Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails.

[edit] Etymology of the term

There are conflicting accounts about how the term acid came to be used to describe this style of house music.

One account ties it to Phuture's "Acid Trax": Before the song was given a title for commercial release, it was played by DJ Ron Hardy at a nightclub[16] where psychedelic drugs were reportedly used.[17] The club's patrons called the song "Ron Hardy's Acid Track" (or "Ron Hardy's Acid Trax").[16] The song was released with the title "Acid Trax" on Larry Sherman's label Trax Records in 1987. Sources differ on whether it was Phuture or Sherman who chose the title; Phuture's DJ Pierre says the group did because the song was already known by that title,[16] but Sherman says he chose the title because the song reminded him of acid rock).[18] Regardless, after the release of Phuture's song, and the term Acid House came into common parlance.[16]

The reference to "acid" may be a celebratory reference to psychedelic drugs in general, such as LSD, as well as a popular mid-1980s club drug Ecstasy (MDMA). [19] Such drugs were reportedly prevalent in Ron Hardy's club, where Acid Tracks was first heard and popularized [20]. In Hardy's club, it was called "Ron Hardy's Acid Track" (or "Ron Hardy's Acid Trax"). After the release of Phuture's song, and the term Acid House came into common parlance.[21]

Philippe Renaud, a journalist for La Presse in Montreal, states that the term Acid house was "Coined in Chicago in 1987 to describe the sound of the Roland 303 bass machine." Renaud states that acid house music "made its first significant recording appearance on Phuture's Acid Trax (DJ Pierre) in that year."[22]

Electronic music historian Dan Sicko also advances this theory in his book Techno Rebels, stating acid house is "named for its psychedelic sounds," particularly that of the Roland TB-303.[23]

Other accounts of the etymology of the term are not based on the LSD or psychedelic connotations. The theory that acid was a derogatory reference towards the use of samples in acid house music was repeated in the press and in the British House of Commons.[24] In this theory, the term acid came from the slang term "acid burning", which the Oxford Dictionary of New Words calls "a term for stealing." Since acid house makes substantial use of sampling, this can be deemed "stealing from other tracks."[25] A problem with this theory is that although early house music producers did use samples, most acid house music was fully original compositions made using sequencers and synthesizers.

In 1991, UK Libertarian advocate Paul Staines claimed that he coined the non-drug-oriented explanation (equating "acid burning" with stealing) to discourage the government from adopting anti-rave party legislation. Staines stated that he spread this misinformation because he believed that the British public would deem the use of drugs at rave parties to be unacceptable, and would therefore support legislation against rave parties.[26][27]

Various accounts tie "acid house" to British performer and musician Genesis P-Orridge of the experimental music collective Psychic TV, which in 1988 released a record called "Tune In (Turn On The Acid House)", allegedly the first record to have the phrase in its title. These stories include claims that he invented the genre and/or coined its name, or that he was the first to introduce the music to Ibiza. Some of these accounts tell of a visit P-Orridge made to a Chicago record store. One says that he combined the terms "acid" and "house" after seeing them separately on the covers of albums he bought there.[28] Other accounts, including one from P-Orridge himself, say he merely bought records from a bin marked "acid".[29][30] A variation of the story says the bin's label was a reference to a corrosive liquid, but P-Orridge mistook it as a reference to LSD.[29] One account goes on to say he bought the whole bin and played the records at his regular DJ gig at Ibiza, where he introduced the Chicago sound to the MDMA-using, Osho-following "orange people" there, who discovered the music and drugs complemented each other.[29] P-Orridge's role is disputed by music journalist Simon Reynolds, who calls it a "self-serving myth",[31] and by Fred Giannelli, another member of Psychic TV.[32]

Once the term acid house became more widely used, participants at acid house-themed events in the UK and Ibiza made the psychedelic drug connotations a reality by using club drugs such as ecstasy.[33][34] The association of acid house, MDMA, and smiley faces was observed in New York City by late 1988.[35] This coincided with an increasing level of scrutiny and sensationalism in the mainstream press,[36] although conflicting accounts about the degree of connection between acid house music and drugs continued to surface.[37]

[edit] The first acid house songs

The earliest recorded examples of acid house are a matter of debate.

At least one historian considers the Phuture's "Acid Trax" to be the genre's earliest example;[18] DJ Pierre says it may have been composed as early as 1985,[38] but it was not released until 1987. Another points out Sleezy D's "I've Lost Control" (1986) was the first to be released on vinyl, and it's impossible to know which track was created first.[38]

[edit] Notable acid house artists

  • PhutureChicago-based group of acid-house pioneers, formed in 1985 and best known for its classic 1987 single "Acid Tracks," which is considered to be the 12-inch single that gave birth to the acid house movement.
  • DJ Pierre, a member of Phuture, released various solo acid house tracks and remixes
  • Armando — Chicago acid house musician, for "Land of Confusion" and many other seminal tracks
  • Mr. Lee - another Chicago house musician who released several acid house tracks in 1988
  • Fast Eddie - another Chicago house musician, for "Acid Thunder"
  • Adonis - another Chicago house musician, for "We're Rockin Down The House"
  • Bam Bam - another Chicago house musician, for "Where Is Your Child" and "Give It To Me"
  • Lil Louis - another Chicago house musician, for "Frequency"
  • 808 State - a group of house/techno musicians from Manchester formed in 1988. Their first album, Newbuild, was acid house, and occasional acid house influences appear in later tracks.
  • A Guy Called Gerald - 808 State cofounder, for the single "Voodoo Ray"
  • The KLF - for "What Time Is Love?" and their self-described "stadium house" sound, which mixes acid house with hip-hop, pop, and stadium rock/chant influences
  • The Shamen - Psychedelic techno act formed as a rock band in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1986. One of the first groups to bring acid house and techno into the pop mainstream.
  • Psychic TV, released early albums of acid house music in 1988 as fake compilations.
  • S'Express - Brought acid house to number one in the United Kingdom
  • Baby Ford - English producer Peter Frank Adshead. 1988 release Oochy Koochy and first album, Fordtrax influenced by acid house.
  • D Mob - Best known for 1988 UK #3 hit "We Call It Acieed"
  • Maurice - Chicago house musician best known for the 1988–1989 hit "This Is Acid".

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 70. ISBN 0819564982. 
  2. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0819564982. 
  3. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 32. ISBN 0819564982. 
  4. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 34. ISBN 0819564982. 
  5. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 60. ISBN 0819564982. 
  6. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 64. ISBN 0819564982. 
  7. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 62. ISBN 0819564982. 
  8. ^ Shapiro, Peter (2000). Modulations: A History of Electronic Music. Caipirinha Productions Inc.. pp. 62. ISBN 0819564982. 
  9. ^ Unknown. "Sunrise Profile". [1]. Retrieved on 2008-01-15. "Youngsters were so high on Ecstacy and cannabis they ripped the birds’ heads off;" 
  10. ^ "Rave's relationship to the Media". Fantazia Rave Archive. Retrieved on 2007-10-23. 
  11. ^ The Independent, March 3, 1990: “Acid House, whose emblem is a vapid, anonymous smile, is the simplest and gentlest of the Eighties’ youth manifestations … non-aggressive (except in terms of decibels).”
  12. ^ Dave Walsh (2003). "The Alan Moore interview". Blather. Retrieved on 2007-07-09. "There were big coincidences happening around the work [sic] and then all of a sudden the central image of it has been nicked on all these acid house t-shirts everywhere." 
  13. ^ Simon Reynolds, Energy Flash, Picador.
  14. ^ Simon Reynolds, Generation Ecstasy, Little Brown.
  15. ^ Hillegonda Rietveld (2004) 'Ephemeral Spirit: Sacrificial Cyborg and Soulful Community', Graham St John (Ed) Rave and Religion, London & New York: Routledge.
  16. ^ a b c d Cheeseman, Phil. "The History Of House". "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."
  17. ^ Bidder, Sean (2001) Pump Up the Volume, Channel Four - see also the first episode of the accompanying television series
  18. ^ a b Hillegonda C Rietveld (1998) This Is Our House: House Music, Cultural Spaces and Technologies Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-1-85742-242-9
  19. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of New Words (Knowles, Elizabeth [ed], Elliott, Elizabeth [ed]). Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-19-863152-9. — The word acid here is probably taken from the record Acid Trax by Phuture (in Chicago slang, acid burning is a term for stealing and this type of music relies heavily on sampling, or stealing from other tracks); a popular theory that it is a reference to the drug LSD is denied by its followers (but compare acid rock, a sixties psychedelic rock craze, which certainly was).
  20. ^ Sean Bidder (2001) Pump Up the Volume, Channel Four - see also the first episode of the accompanying television series
  21. ^ Cheeseman, Phil. "The History Of House".
  22. ^ Philippe Renaud: Look it up in the dictionary—An alphabetical guide to electronic music
  23. ^ Sicko, Dan, Techno Rebels, Billboard Books, pp. 104, ISBN 0-8230-8428-0 
  24. ^ Quoted in the British House of Commons Hansard, 9 March 1990, column 1111—the term acid house party derives from Chicago slang describing the theft and subsequent mixing of recording tracks played at warehouse parties. But because of its association with drug LSD or acid, the promoters prefer to use descriptions such as all-night party."
  25. ^ Rushkoff, Douglas (1994, 2nd ed. 2002). Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Cyberspace. ISBN 1-903083-24-9& House DJs would sample pieces of music that were called bites so (others spell it bytes, to indicate that these are digital samples that can be measured in terms of RAM size). Especially evocative bites were called acid bites." Thus, music of the house, made up of these acid bites, became known as acid house.
  26. ^ Staines, Paul (1991). "Acid House Parties Against the Lifestyle Police and the Safety Nazis" article in Political Notes (ISSN 0267-7059), issue 55 (ISBN 1-85637-039-9). Also quoted in Saunders, Nicholas with Doblin, Rick (July 1, 1996). Ecstasy: Dance, Trance & Transformation, Quick American Publishing Company. ISBN 0-932551-20-3.
  27. ^ Garratt, Sheryl (May 6, 1999). Adventures in Wonderland: Decade of Club Culture. Headline Book Publishing Ltd. (UK). ISBN 0-7472-5846-5.
  28. ^ Galetski, Kirill (2006-10-06), "Music Without Limits: The experimental musicians of Psychic TV put on a release party for their new CD, "Live in Russia," at Ikra.", The Moscow Times,, retrieved on 2009-01-27 
  29. ^ a b c Holthouse, David (1995-12-21), "Rave Review", Phoenix New Times, 
  30. ^ In an interview in the 1999 documentary Better Living Through Circuitry, P-Orridge states that when he asked a Chicago record store clerk for the weirdest records on hand, he was pointed to the "acid" section. P-Orridge claims that he merely listened to them to try to figure out what made them psychedelic, and concluded that the tempo was the key element.
  31. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2000-05-23), "Living for Oblivion", The Village Voice, 
  32. ^ Giannelli, Fred (June 2000), "There are a lot of fools in the world" (interview of Fred Gianelli for the Family Ov Psychick Individuals (FOPI) Psychic TV fan club), Archived from the original on July 2007,  “I would like to take this opportunity to publicly refute Genesis P-Orridge's claims of "inventing" Acid House…Gen has made this claim so many times…as he was interviewed backstage by stupid gullible rock journalists all those years ago. The more press he did, the more grandiose and absurd the claims.”
  33. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (December 1, 2003). Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, 436. Google Print. ISBN 0-634-05548-8 (accessed June 9, 2005). Also available in print from Hal Leonard.
  34. ^ Donnally, Trish. (October 17, 1988). Article published in the San Francisco Chronicle and distributed via the Los Angeles Times Syndicate to other newspapers and published under various headlines—British youths, mostly younger than 20, are flocking to members-only nightclubs, taking a cheap tab of LSD ($5) or the much more expensive designer drug Ecstasy ($30) and then dancing all night long, sometimes - with the aid of amyl nitrate poppers — until 10 the next morning.
  35. ^ Foderaro, Lisa (1988-12-18), "At some Manhattan nightclubs, 'X' marks the 'inner circle's' perfect drug", San Diego Union: A-45  This article was distributed by the New York Times News Service and published under various headlines in several U.S. newspapers. Most striking is the parallel rise at some nightclubs of a new kind of music called "acid house," which is a stripped-down, highly percussive disco sound — punctuated by television jingles, spoken non sequiturs and high-pitched beeps — whose overall effect is psychedelic. "The music and the drug were made for each other," said a 22-year-old disc jockey from Hawaii wearing a T-shirt that reads A (plus) E (equals) (Smiley Face) — read as a "Acid House Plus Ecstasy Equals Happiness."
  36. ^ Takiff, Jonathan. (December 14, 1988). Philadelphia Daily News—BBC banned all records that mentioned acid
  37. ^ Leary, Mike. (November 24, 1988). Philadelphia Inquirer.
  38. ^ a b Cheeseman 1992. "I've Lost Control" was made by Adonis and Marshall Jefferson and was certainly the first acid track to make it to vinyl, though which was created first will possibly never be known for sure.
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