Acid Ist Nicht Fertig!

In Berlin, I've noticed that there are a lot more references to 'acid' going around the club scene, lately... and we're not just talking about the lick n' stick party favours.  Acid is a key ingredient of musical chemistry as well as body chemistry.  The word refers to the looping analogue riff generated by a Roland TB-303, and it's present in many styles of music, not just those with the word 'acid' in the name.

In Berlin today, you're most likely to hear the 303 sound in techhouse or psytrance but plenty of other permutations have danced their way out of the primordial soup of acid house, the sound that rerouted youth cultures of the late 1980s and took them in a radical new direction

Even Prodigy, a band that people don't usually think of when they're talking about acid, has also laid down distinctive and uncategorizable 303 tunes, like Claustrophic Sting.    

Another name that is not usually linked to acid (in Berlin, anyway) is Henry Cullen, the main producer on Hydraulix and about half a dozen other techno labels.  But check out Multiform, an early release of his (as Secret Hero) and that view changes.  It's a trancey, hippy-acid classic with a laid-back but clever techno rhythm.  It's also the 2nd record I ever bought and its A-side (Speedfreak) is still considered an acid classic.

Of course, artists like DAVE the Drummer probably wouldn't have made it so far in the world of techno if it weren't for Stay Up Forever records which pushed their uniquely grotty, London acid sound. Many acid fans can list at least one SUF tunes among their favourites, along with tracks by the likes of Hardfloor and Misjah"In the Forehead" off of Routemaster Records is one of this writer's personal favourite tunes, off of one of SUF's affiliate labels, Routemaster Records.

No matter who the producer is, the 303 sound lends itself naturally to experimentation and can be stretched to fit almost every style.  That's probably because the classic 303 sound was created by people who were going to outlandish lengths to experiment with music in the first place.  The 303 is "not a sound that just falls out of a Roland when you switch it on," says one of my producer friends.   "There's quite a bit of fiddling and frustration involved in tweaking it."  I think that's why my favourite dance tunes have generally had a 303 in them; no, not because of the frustration involved in making them; because of the experimentation that is a prerequisite to using the instrument.

Acid techno was more or less invented when German DJs Misjah & Tim released Access in 1994. It came out just after the acid house scene of the late 1980s had unofficially died (R.I.P. 1992).


But Misjah & Tim were only one part of a long line of acid house descendants (or casualties) who not only resurrected the acid house sound - they harvested the sound's organs and transplanted them to their restless, off-the-wall offspring.  The electronic offspring that they created were much better adapted to survive in a faster paced  world: on the streets of hard house and acid trance clubs, squat parties and teknivals.  They featured more aggressive 303's alongside a wide array of techno styles, churning out endless new fusions of the sound.

Lock by Kektex, 1996.  Punk 303 tune with tough, industrial beats.

Psycho Thrill by Carbine 1997.  (Still not entirely sure how to label it but I'm open to suggestions)

Richy Harris Used My Daughter by Rowland the Bastard, 1998.  Dark, trippy acid techno.

I've been digging up and listening to all of my favourite 303-based tunes because I've been trying to organize an acid techno night of my own.   Some of them still sound amazingly fresh!

Madness by DDR, 1999.

It's not so hard to see why Berlin's young DJs are tempted to try and get a second life out of old acid house trax by re-popularizing them when they sound like they were written this year.  But  there is plenty of more scope for experimentation within the 303 sound beyond acid house. If any city has the creative resources to undertake that journey, it is Berlin.  

I hope that the current acid house revival isn't just going to become yet another dancefloor stereotype (like minimal techno) that's heard everywhere from Astra to ZMF.  I hope that the revival of the acid sound is a sign that the city's experimental spirit is undergoing a revival, too.

Right now there are a lot of pressures on Berlin's party scene to conform to boring, old, conservative standards: GEMA, the whiny neighbours with kids next door, corporate business competitors, etc.  But predictability is not what people come to parties in Berlin for; they come here for freedom from boundaries.  And that is the freedom that I hear whenever I listen to my favourite acid tunes.

Mizbehavinit remix by Rebel Yelle.  (Mis be 'avin it, natch)

 If you like the above tunes, please don't pirate them!  Support the underground artists who made them by buying the mp3 / LP / CD direct from indie websites like 909 London or Juno Records.  It's only 1.50 or so per track and it's for a good cause as you'll be supporting artists & labels who contribute to their underground scenes :-)

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.