Acid is a genre of music invented toward the start of electronic dance music history. A now-famous synthesizer, the Roland TB-303, entered the commercial market in 1981 but was discontinued in 1984. The instrument gained popularity when Chicago-based dance music producers repurposed the synthesizers to create the genre acid, which consists mainly of acid lines: staccato yet flowing synth sounds that live somewhere between melody and rhythm.
Whether it's acid house, acid techno, or acid (insert dance music genre here), the lines tend to lift the rhythmic foundations off the ground and take the listener to outer space. I discovered acid and its many subgenres when moving to Chicago and fell in love, frequently referencing the genre for my own musical work (my latest, Organism, was released in April), as I feel it is both extremely rooted in reality but also can make the ordinary surreal. These are five records that, to me, really define what this regional genre is all about.
Armando, who is a pioneering figure within the genre, created a track featuring Sharvette, who sings about the empowerment of women. Although the track clearly states that "this is the '80s, women are moving up in the world," the lyrics remain (unfortunately) ever so relevant today. The acid line seems to be stuffed inside a bottle but is constantly trying to squelch out in passion and just a bit of rage.
Kelli Hand, aka K Hand, is a Detroit producer. Chicago invented house music, and Detroit invented techno, so the two go hand in hand. K Hand has made a deep mark with her label Acacia Records, which largely features her own genre-bending productions. I was so inspired upon first hearing her music, because she can create hard, banging techno as effectively as she can make groovy, jazzy acid.
Chicago hard house producer [DJ Trajic] and his label Underground Construction prove, just as the name implies, that house music doesn't have to be groovy at all; it can also be hard. Although this is not technically acid, the low bass and synths throughout this record show that the late-'90s were just as important as the late-'80s in developing the quintessential Chicago sound, and I definitely vibe with a Latinx producer using Spanish in his tracks.
Fast Eddie's Jack to the Sound is one of the albums that is quintessential for acid house history and Chicago history. Acid lines blend seamlessly together with horns, vocals, and percussion to create 10 tracks that all bring something new about the genre to the table. My favorite will always be "Can U Still Dance," but there are so many gems on this record.
Armando released this record, "Transaxual"—a searing acid track that breaks down into a saxophone sample. I love a track that is carried by one small, slightly ridiculous repetition, and Armando's marriage of science fiction and groove really defines what Chicago acid house sounds like. Although the title might be a bit dated, as a trans woman I have absolutely repurposed this track and its remixes in my DJ sets for the new millennium.