Hot Track Time Machine – 10 Acid House Jams From Yesteryear

by | Jul 27, 2022 | Essay | 0 comments

Most retrospective music lists highlight well-known songs from yesteryear. Hot Track Time Machine brings attention to cuts that largely flew under the radar of most music fans.

This month’s edition focuses on acid house, a subgenre of house that traces its roots back to the mid-1980s in Chicago, with artists such as DJ Pierre, Sleezy D, and Armando. The eponymous “acid” describes the squelchy, warbling sounds of the Roland TB-303, a small synthesizer that was originally designed to simulate bass guitars, but found itself better suited to soundtracking late nights in clubs and warehouses.

The U.K. and continental Europe soon caught on, adding their own spin to the genre and even taking it mainstream with a number of chart hits. It also had an influence on later genres such as trance, hardcore, jungle, and techno. Here are ten cuts that may not have reached “anthem” status but definitely stood the test of time.

1. Calisto – Get House [Definitive Recordings] [1994]

One of only three tracks from Rob Lenarduzzi under his Calisto alias, “Get House” is a groovy tech house cut which rewards patient listening. Taking a full five minutes before the acid lead fades in during an otherwise nondescript breakdown, the track turns into a squelchy, chunky roller in the second half of its runtime.

2. Van Christie – That Shit’s Wild [Trax Records] [1988]

As is fairly typical of late ’80s/early ’90s Chicago acid house and the infamous Trax Records, there is considerable debate around who actually wrote “That Shit’s Wild.” Although it is officially credited to Van Christie on Trax’s own Acid Classics compilation released in 2006, the 1988 Acid Trax Volume 2 compilation released by Serious Records lists Dr. Derelict (A.K.A. Wayne Williams) as the artist. There are even rumors that the legendary Adonis contributed to the production. Whoever is responsible for it, one thing’s for certain: with its slamming drums, chopped-up vocal refrains, and funky acid line, the title is definitely apt.

3. 2 Body’s – Body Drill [House Records] [1989]

Belgian producers Ro Maron and Ferre Baelen are widely considered pioneers of new beat, a groundbreaking genre that fused elements of acid house with new wave, EBM, and hi-NRG to create an energetic, rave-ready sound with a distinctly European edge. “Body Drill” is a brilliant example of the style, combining chunky, lo-fi drums and overdriven acid into a dark, pounding groove.

4. Mike Dunn Presents MD III – The EL Train [Clone Jack For Daze] [1988-1990/2018]

Although it was released in 2018, “The EL Train” was actually written between 1988 and 1990. It remained in the archives until it was picked up by Clone Records for their Jack For Daze sub label. Typical of his take on the genre, the track saw Mike Dunn take the raw, jacking vibe of acid house and put it into overdrive, distorting the drums and downtuning the TB-303 to give it a sinister edge.

5. The Endless Poker’s – ! The Poke ! (The After Poke Mix) [D.J. International Records] [1987]

Unlike “That Shit’s Wild,” this one is an official Adonis production, written in collaboration with Magic Amp and Derrick Morris under his Flex alias. Funky, stripped-down, and wonky, it focuses around an ever-changing drum loop and rapid-fire vocal hits, with the acid line adding some extra flavor rather than being the centerpiece of the track.

6. Robert Armani – Edge [ACV Records] [1993]

One of the tracks that laid down the foundations for Chicago’s more jackin’, booty-bouncing take on techno, “Edge” is a lesser-known cut from Robert Armani that marks an important point in the acid house timeline. Chunkier, pacier, and grittier than other tracks floating around at the time, its shuffly drums and overdriven TB-303 offered a timely breath of fresh air for the genre.

7. Armando – 151 [Warehouse Records] [1988/1992]

They really don’t come more legendary than Armando when it comes to acid house. A master of using minimal elements to maximum effect, on “151” he combines a simple, off-beat acid line with rough, reverbed TR-707 drums, changing up their patterns throughout the tune’s runtime. Written in 1988 but officially released in 1992, it perfectly characterizes the first wave of acid house from Chicago.

8. Jolly Roger – Acid Man (Happy Mix) [10 Records] [1988]

It didn’t take long for acid house to reach the U.K., and when it did, they added their own unique flavor to it. Typically faster and cheekier than its Chicago counterpart, U.K. acid house was the soundtrack to the rave renaissance of the late ’80s and early ’90s. “Acid Man (Happy Mix)” is regularly cited as a forgotten classic of the time and is one of Camden Palace resident Eddie Richards‘ earliest productions.

9. Mr. Fingers – Washing Machine [Trax Records] [1986]

Although he is more often touted as a founding father of deep house, Mr. Fingers (A.K.A. Larry Heard) also knew how to work a TB-303 and get the wild sort of sounds out of it that his contemporaries could only dream of. “Washing Machine” is a leftfield, psychedelic, and incredibly funky jam with some wild delay effects. It is often overlooked due to being on the same release as the anthemic “Can You Feel It?”

10. Man Machine – Man Machine (Cybernetik Intervention) [Possum Records] [1989]

“Man Machine” is an uplifting, dreamy journey that characterizes the more ravey take on the genre that German artists explored when they got their hands on the TB-303. The acid line bubbles alongside punchy drums in the low end of the track, while gated, choir-like synths, trancey chords, and choppy vocal samples add a playful, colorful edge.

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