There was a time long before David Guetta dominated the charts, before there was a deep house night at every other high street club, when drugs and dance music were synonymous, a time when a yellow smiley face struck fear into the heart of the Tories: the time of Acid House. Imported from the birthplace of all house, Chicago, Acid House dominated the UK rave scene from the late 80s well into the 90s and with it saw the rise of the universal party drug, Ecstasy.
Acid House is defined by its minimalist sensibilities, over consisting of simple drum loops and synth patterns layered progressively other each other and its squelching bass, courtesy of the Roland TB-303 synthesiser, an essential piece of equipment in any self-respecting Acid House producer’s arsenal. As a genre Acid House is also known for its heavy use of samples, often from other tracks, but also featuring whistles and sirens, features that are now synonymous with rave culture. The majority of Acid House came from producers in Chicago but a number of UK producers also gained notoriety in the genre including 808 State for their debut album, and The KLF, one of the only acts to co-win a BRIT award for ‘Best British Group’, alongside Simply Red, the 90s were a strange time.
Debate still goes on today about how the genre got its name. The most popular belief is that, like so many genres of dance music, it was named after its seminal hymn, Phuture’s ‘Acid Trax’; however others believe the name is a tribute to the psychedelic substances involved with the scene, including Ecstasy and, well, Acid.
Thanks to the hedonistic lifestyle and neo-hippy attitude associated with Acid House, the genre quickly found itself in the firing line of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, who attempted on multiple occasions to ban the raves at which the genre thrived. Like Punk before it, Acid House transcended from genre to movement in the face of this government opposition and the British rave scene flourished, seeing Trance and Techno explode in popularity as the 90s moved on. On the back of Acid House, rave and the drug scene associated with it became a way of life for some, travelling both the country and Europe to put on raves and free parties for all – a far cry from the abundance of Croatian deep house festival bundles the students of today have made their scene of choice.
Ultimately much of the dance music community has put its Acid days behind it in favour of more commercial pastures. However, with the rise of EDM in the states and the seemingly infinite popularity of house music in the UK, Ecstasy continues to be the Class A drugs of choice for many of the world’s party goers. The production styling of Acid House lives on in 2014 as well, found mixed into Four Tet’s 2 hour Boiler Room session and pumping out of parliament courtesy of Rave revivalist Fatboy Slim alike; the genre that brought Ibiza to Ipswich’s legacy is still very much intact.