RIchard Sen presents - This Ain’t Chicago: The Underground Sound of UK House & Acid 1987-1991
Wed 17th Oct, 2012 Music Reviewsin
Let’s go back…back to a time when these sounds were fresh, new, exciting, edgy, and where they shaped a scene which at that point, no one knew would get so big. And thanks to producer, Richard Sen of Padded Cell and Bronx Dog, we can do just that with This Ain’t Chicago: The Underground Sound of UK House & Acid 1987-1991.
Much could be said about this period in dance music history. And although I joined the dance music scene ten years on, I’ve read enough and heard enough about it to know that during the mid-80s, Chicago house was initially met with hesitance in the UK. It remained underground until house and acid caught on, to make a substantial impact. Those pushing and producing the sound proved instrumental in the way UK dance music unfolded in the years that followed. This two-disc set of UK house and acid music attempts to capture what happened during this innovative time.
It encompasses precisely what the title suggests: inspired by the Chicago tracks that taste-making DJs were already bringing to the dancefloor, it’s a collection of early house and acid out of the UK, documenting the moment when producers there began making original tunes. Tunes that even today are still very memorable for those who embraced this scene during this time, and I’m sure that they are going to revel in the opportunity to hear these tracks yet again. The compilation attempts to give you a fairly broad sampling of the house sounds that were making inroads in various clubs throughout the UK between 1987 and 1991, however be warned, there are no references to “jack your body” or “get up” here. This is purely dance music focused, with party music a distant second.
As Sen as our time travelling tour guide, we are transported back to this exciting time in dance music – via a selection of a wide range of sounds and samples, and not necessarily the biggest tracks of the time, but tracks that sit comfortably next to each other as you listen to each CD. Thankfully Sen has largely chosen to ignore some of the more familiar UK house records of this period – Voodoo Ray, Hustle (To The Music) and the like are all avoided in favour for more underground cuts. What a wise decision on his behalf; the 23 tracks here have arguably stood the test of time and also make for a far more interesting compilation for the listener.
CD 1 sets the stage kicking off with Bang The Party’s Bang Bang You’re Mine, which distinctively lets you know that you’re in the 90s, and Man With No Name’s From Within the Mind of My 909, a moody slow burn with its squelching acid synths and work on the keys. One that I immediately recognised was the Latino percussive Rio Rhythm Band’s Cuba Jakkin’ , a track that I’ve heard at some of the daytime parties last summer, one that makes you want to dance! Sticking with the 90s yet again, is with Playtime Toons’ Shaker Song, a robotic, Kraftwerk-inspired chill that is consistent (or monotonous, depending which way you look at it). Sen tastefully chose to include Jail Break’s delicious deep house track Mentality (I once read described as “an E-muncher’s touchy-feely take on New Order’s The Beach !), as well as Baby Ford’s Crashing and Julian Johan’s brilliant Jealousy & Lies, all maintaining that Chicago deepness.
CD 2 serves up a more acid direction, with the wonked-out heavy house excursion of Ability II’s Pressure Dub, J. Soul Kane mix of Static’s Iron Orbit, the underrated early track by Bizarre Inc, 1989’s Technological. Highlights of this compilation will depend on who’s listening, but for me it was the inclusion of CXX’s The Comfort of Strangers (Mix by Rhythm Doctor – Richard Sen remix), Andrew Weatherall’s Balearic ideal seen through his remix of Sly & Lovechild’s The World According to Sly & Lovechild (Andrew Weatherall Soup of Europe Mix), and Paul Rutherford’s Get Real (Happy House mix). The acid mix of S.L.F.‘s Show Me What You Got does provide a highlight, working in a bit of piano house for good measure.
From a purely historic point of view, it’s a fascinating collection. It also is incredibly interesting to see just how much this period was one of great experimentation, as British house producers pushed to find new places to take the sound and stamp their mark on the genre. If you were there or not, you can’t help but be intrigued by this collection and the mixture of influences that have gone on to impact much of the dance music we know today. This Ain’t Chicago does exactly what it’s supposed to do: make you wish you were there – and I sure know that after listening to this, I couldn’t help mutter that today’s scene, well “it ain’t want it used to be”.