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Old School Acid and The Hunger to be Cutting Edge in Techno

September 13, 2011

“Presuming that there is such a thing as ‘progress’ when it comes to music is typical of the high self-regard of those who live in the present. It is a myth. Creativity doesn’t ‘improve.’” -David Byrne

The Hunger For Newness

I’ve heard it said that the most interesting music in any style is produced when the style is still young. Electronic music loves to move very quickly and seems to be accelerating thanks to it’s online communities. Watching the Dubstep scene grow and mutate was interesting. I also followed techno’s ongoing evolution very closely from 1994 to 2000. From being a fan of these styles you end up noticing definite patterns in their life cycles and then it’s easier to spot them in forms I didn’t watch so closely, such as minimal techno and drum and bass.
There is always the hunger for the new, to be cutting edge, in electronic dance music, propelled by a lot of DJ’s/performer’s desire to be the first with fresh sounds. To be the one who breaks the new style before others is a great way to get noticed as long as the gamble pays off and others follow. To engage in this progress necessarily requires a dropping of some of what has gone before.Not that everybody operates this way. When the focus is on the value contained within the music, rather then how the music is popularly thought of, things aren’t cast aside so quickly. Of course many people swing between these two tendencies.

Folks Escape a Dying Scene That doesn’t Scare the Shit Out of Them Enough

Of course there’s other factors. When scenes become bigger they tend to become more saturated with formulaic tunes by producers that seek to satisfy popular expectations. The more popularly supported a flavour of the scene is the more rigidly these formulas seem to be adhered to and as time progresses some producers will create more to feed the scene rather than personal music for themselves. This squeezes the room for inventiveness, while still being popularly accepted, into smaller spaces and the more creative producers can either continue without popular support and move more underground or jump ship to another less restrictive scene until that in turns become crystallized.
Unless, of course, your so ridiculously talented you transcend these earthly concerns and you can’t leave a voice-mail on a phone without it going into the Beatport top ten.
You can see this today with producers opting for the post-dubstep sound as they become alienated by some of the scene’s more aggressive and formulaic (re: chainsaw wobble) direction. At the start all styles of dubstep co-existed creating a diverse and colorful scene which then fractured as people became as active in stressing what they didn’t like as much as what they did. You could also see it ten or twelve years ago in techno when it became dominated by very percussive and loop driven material and a lot of people dropped tempo down to house speeds, included more clicks and cuts style elements and this in turn seemed to mutate into minimal techno which over time developed it’s own formulas causing some to reach back to the techno sounds of the mid nineties.
Something similar happened in the electro scene in the start of the last decade when, just as the scene was becoming more and more popular a lot of music appeared under that name that kept the upfront synths and melodic sensibilities yet dropped the very beats the genre was founded on.This drove the scenes hard working originators back to the underground where the original sound of the name is kept alive.

These Headings Bare Little Relevance to The Text, But Break Things Up Nicely

This onward movement leaves behind a lot of good music that could of become unpopular because it was released at the wrong moment, perhaps when the support for the scene was vanishing or maybe it got overlooked in the rush of bad sound-alike tracks. There are also quality tracks that were anthems of their time only to become played out from over exposure yet few know about them today. Some great tracks establish formulas that are copied again and again with diminishing returns.
There are many reason quality music gets left behind but these days with sites like Discogs it’s easier than ever to dip into the past and follow the trail of breadcrumbs until you discover the song that blew you mind from a nameless cassette tape thats nearly twenty years old. That’ pretty much what I’ve been doing with hardcore acid music from the 1992 to 1995 period and It’s been a rewarding journey so far. I’ve come across others who share my love of the sound which was very hard to learn anything about back in the day.
Hardcore acid itself fell prey to the shifting goalposts of what the hardcore scene required. The initial sense of shock the unthinkable sonic shapes acid weaved wore off after a time to be replaced by faster, harder almost gabba style music in some circles and the, almost as fast, pulsing and shuffling tough psychedelia of Hardtek. Around 1994 the free party scene was becoming more and more known as the Teknival scene and initially I was alienated. I still had some conservative requirements of music and could rarely get any satisfaction dancing to anything so fast unless, like drum and bass, it had a half time feel embedded within it. Of course if you write off styles of music with sweeping statements you end up missing the good stuff like this and most of my mates loved the stuff.

Dave The Drummer is Sound! But Most the Tunes Aren’t My Cup Of Tea

In the main what I was wanted was nowhere to be found back in 1995 you couldn’t find any of this music in the record shops. At most around a thousand copies of most of these tracks were released and when they were gone they were gone. If there was a facility for buying second hand records back then I didn’t know about it. Besides you need some idea of what your looking for and I didn’t have tracklists from tapes or any real clues. I was buying up any vinyl with the word Acid on it but this rarely got me what I wanted as the styles of Acid are many and Acid house, whilst very cool, wasn’t the sound I was after. I was after Old School Acid techno and, unfortunately, the London Acid sound, while undeniably influenced by the same music as I loved, was not what I was after. I won’t go into why the London acid sound didn’t move me the same way just yet except to say there was of good tracks and then there was tracks that just copied those good tracks.
So now with the worlds information at my fingertips, thanks our at the Google corporation and they mighty Discogs, I’ve got a bit of a hold of the sound that started my obsession with dance music that was to shape my life in a very real way, and if your interested, I’m going to post about it here. I also hope to share my thoughts on why it’s still powerful and relevant and check in on some of the producers that made it and see what they’re up to now, if I can.
I’ll leave you with an example of the style I’m talking about.
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