Acid Techno's 'avin It Heyday
03 Mar 2021
Really shouldn't talk about #303day without mentioning London Acid Techno - the music and scene of the mid-90s and on revolving around fast, hard techno beats with grinding, raw, dirty 303 acid lines, and underground parties of squats, drugs, travelers and sound systems - epitomized in the 1997 compilation It's Not Intelligent...And It's Not From Detroit...But It's F**king 'avin It!
With a tight knit group of producers all making tracks, collaborating with each other, running a slew of labels and DJing on the party scene, it was definitely a whole thing. Productions were raw but very well done. Strong beats and 303 basslines maximized to effect, many of the tunes were a force to be reckoned with. Closer in relation to the hard trance scene than anything else, the sounds and djs circulated amongst the same flyers and releases sometimes. It was the purely dance-driven, raw techno sound that was appealing and the focus of the core set of producers. While the outside dance scene evolved to include things like things like superclubs, watered down trance becoming mainstream, and even the broader techno scene heavily rooted in trends from Detroit and experimentation, the acid techno scene carved a niche out for itself representing another segment of partying and society even. A punk attitude, alot of the DJ/producers hailing from a rock/punk background, a rave spirit and drugs like ecstasy (with some KET to keep it hard), and an assortment of associated characters like travelers and activist 'crusties' in the mix, made it stand on its own underground cultural force in London.
The heroes of the scene included names like Chris, Aaron and Julian Liberator (brothers best known as the Liberator DJs), The Geezer, Lawrie Immersion, D.A.V.E. The Drummer, DDR, Rowland The Bastard, and Steve Smitten and all feature on numerous releases. Labels with names like Stay Up Forever, Smitten, Routemaster, Cluster, and Hydraulix all have a number of classics to their catalogues. Some of the stuff was so hard to get ahold of it you weren't right in the thick of it going to central shop Choci's Chewns in London, that it's fun to look back now and search on Discogs for all the lost 12"s and some mixcds that were super rare.
The Lochi (Chris Liberator & Lawrie Immersion) tune London Acid City became an anthem both for the free party scene and the community that existed in and around it. A protest movement in London in 1996 called "Reclaim The Streets" would blare it during street marches, it's simple but effective 303 loop and vocal snippet "Our Time Is Now" capturing imaginations and moving feet. On a personal connection, I had some editorial influence over my high school yearbook (I was the Editor) and was inspired to sneak it in - as the title no less!! An inside joke for myself, yep. I also loved treating the neighbors to some of the toughest acid tracks :-P. When it came time to collect some of the many underground vinyl favourites into a more 'mainstream' release, a cd compilation, the Liberator's Stay Up Forever label lead the compilation It's Not Intelligent...And It's Not From Detroit...But It's F**king 'avin It! with the track.
Success definitely extended beyond just the London party scene. You could find all kinds of scenes farther into Eastern Europe in places like Poland where acid techno was played regularly by djs at parties in fields. Made sense, anywhere that rules are a bit more lax and the culture is a bit more free-for-all could be a place for acid techno to thrive and rock it!
The party scene thrived and required constant new releases. There are so many releases in the 6-7 year span. Things seemed to roll along fine for years into the 00s with even another massive hit "One Night In Hackney" causing waves. But that tune also is noted as a changed tone from the early years. But it represents both the darker tone of the music and the change in society where the scene existed. Around the mid-2000s apparently the party scene and music got a bit darker and weighed down by drug influences where the balance between tunes and getting smashed at gatherings increasingly dominated by K-holes tipped coupled with the London scene very much threatened by gentrification trends etc. I lost track of it as the releases became less frequent and the pressure elsewhere from the global techno scene's shift to minimal, slower sounds, no doubt affected how things went also. Thing is, the music with it's simple arsenal of tools, 303 basslines and hard pumping beats, and focus on having a good time and the parties, made it kind of timeless. Returning to these sounds still make you want to dance and if you can appreciate a good acid line like we all can, you can still appreciate acid techno in all its raw, 'avin it ways.
Listen to the mix cd portion of the It's Not Intelligent... compilation here:
Cover photo: Magazine ad, similar to the cover art for the compilation It's Not Intelligent...And It's Not From Detroit...But It's F**king 'avin It!, February 1997.