Resurgence of the Underground Acid House in Portland

By Conor Bulkeley-Krane

CatlinSpeak (Portland, Oregon)

Acid House, a music movement created in Chicago in the 1980s and brought to mass appeal in London in the 90s, shaped electronic music and is making a comeback in mainstream music and Portland today.

During the 19080s, the famous music supply company Roland released a drum machine, the legendary TR 808, as well as a bass synthesizer, the TB 303 which they claimed made accurate acoustic sounds. Many professional musicians in Chicago bought these machines to accompany their band, but were highly disappointed with the 808’s clunky electronic drum sounds, and the 303’s squelchy bass sounds that did not even closely resemble a bass guitar. These skilled musicians then sold these pieces of equipment for $50 or less at garage sales and pawn shops.

The creative youths of Chicago then bought these musical tools because they were so much cheaper than drum sets or electric guitars. Instead of trying to make the 808 sound like a regular drum set, they embraced the unique sound of these drums to make beats that sounded nothing like the typical drum sections of the times. Instead of trying to downplay the 303’s resonant bass sounds, they made the oddest sounds they could, and developed the distinctive acidic sound. Combining these elements, artists like Sleezy D and Phuture developed a radical new genre of dance music: Acid House.

Acid House records began to be bought in London, and DJ’s like Paul Oakenfold capitalized on the rising popularity and began playing at clubs that gained massive audiences. The UK’s crackdown on afterhours clubbing forced the music and it’s fans into illegal warehouse parties. Thus “raves” were invented.

Acid house dropped out of the music scene during the 90s and early 2000s as electronic music shifted to Deep House, Trance, Techno, Drum n Bass, and Dubstep. However, it is making a comeback in the mainstream and Portland. EDM superstar Calvin Harris recently released a modern, commercialized interpretation entitled, “Slow Acid.” Additionally, Moguai released a cheesy festival big room house song “ACIID,” that bastardizes the original sound into something more easily digestible by “ravers” wearing store-bought Kandi who may actually be on acid. That being said, in Portland, artist Acid Farm are starting to produce modern interpretations of Acid House that stay true to the ideals of the original music.

Acid Farm makes the signature “acid” sound using an xoxbox, a modern emulation of the original 303 as well as a plethora of other analog drum machines and synthesizers. In an interview, Morgan Hynson (one half of Acid Farm) said that this machine is a big part of what got them into producing acid: “There is something about that machine. It’s the reason acid house is made, because that is what that thing does. It inherently inspires you to make that kind of music.”

Acid House and it’s relationship to the machines that make it have changed over time. Hynson comments, “it kind of fell out of folk for a while, and now it is more of an ‘element.’ I’m not sure that I would describe our music as strictly Acid House. Now we just make electronic music that has a lot of elements of Acid House.”

Jesse Mejia, the other half of Acid farm adds, “There is a fair amount of Electronic musicians in Portland that use 303 elements, but don’t identify as Acid House.”  When asked about the state of acid house and the dance music scene, Mejia comments, “There is a thriving underground live PA scene here. There are a lot of great people here making excellent house music and a lot of small music where that is happening. It’s a super supportive scene, everyone goes out to see each other play and has a great time.”

Ritzy Sheens (Jeremy Highhouse), a visual artist who works for many people involved in the local scene says, “Acid house is a staple of the underground after-party scene in Portland. While the constraints of the genre ensure a particular sound, local talent like Acid Farm is always pushing the boundaries of what is perceived as acid.”

Acid House fans are excited for the release of “Acid Dogma,” an electronic compilation featuring Acid Farm.

Image Credit: The Six Thirty

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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