Speaking affectionately here, but acid house might be something like the cockroach of dance music: You just can't kill it. Long after nukes have turned the earth's surface to glass, and/or the Cloud and our post-Singularity selves are wiped out by a sloppy bit of coding by the Tyrell Corporation, acid house's trademark gurgle and snap will just keep skittering along, mutant as ever.
Despite electronic music's supposedly futurist bent, acid house revivals have been cropping up practically since the molten eruption of a TB-303 first hit the ground and began to cool, and they have kept recurring as regularly as 4/4 kick drums. Uwe Schmidt, a.k.a. Atom Heart, lampooned acid's retro durability with Acid Evolution 1988 - 2003, a compilation allegedly sampling 16 revivalist tracks across a 16-year span, by artists with authentic-sounding names like Phresh Phantasy, DJ Marco Favati and Plastique; the joke is that Schmidt produced the whole thing himself in 2005. The genre has been anthologized ad nauseum; I sometimes wonder if there are more compilations of the stuff than there were original singles. (I'm looking at you, TRAX Records.) But a new compilation from the ever-dependable Strut label takes a different tack, taking some of the wind out of the Windy City's sails and turning its attention to a neglected chapter in British dance-music history.
Appropriately titled This Ain't Chicago: The Underground Sound of UK House & Acid 1987 - 1991, the double-disc, 24-track collection spotlights the British productions that began cropping up as soon as Chicago house started washing up on Albion's shores. A lot of the music shares the qualities of the American-made stuff that inspired it, with slinky drum programming underpinning silky chords and slithery bass lines. Chicago isn't the only influence; you can also hear echoes of Detroit and New York, and freestyle and R&B rub elbows with homegrown styles like the nascent Sheffield bleep that gave Warp Records its start. The gear list, meanwhile, is a numerologist's dream of 707s and 808s and 909s. Best of all, unless you're a British-born completist like Bronx Dogs' Richard Sen, who put together the compilation, most of the material will be new to you, save for a few staple names like Bizarre Inc., Baby Ford and J. Saul Kane.
To promote the compilation, which comes out on July 10, Richard Sen has put together a 30-minute megamix of highlights that helps create a sense of context for the music. Mixed by hand — you can hear a quick pitch correction once or twice in the mix, which only lends to the immediacy of its percussive chug and rush — it's a killer introduction to the project, short and sweet enough to give the repeated listens that it deserves. Check out the mix below, and if you're in New York, catch Richard Sen playing U.K. classics at Cielo this Friday, June 29. Londoners can hear a sightly more knackered Sen playing A Little Summer of Love Festival the next day.
Richard Sen - This Ain't Chicago Megamix by Strut