Pearsall presents Pearsall presents 30×3.1: Your Mind on 303s
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Mixed in Berlin, August 2019
(112:27, 259 MB, 320 kbps mp3)
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01. Underground Resistance – Cyberwolf (Underground Resistance)
02. Tata Box Inhibitors – Plasmids (Placid Mix) (Touche)
03. Hardfloor – Acperience 1 (Harthouse)
04. Circuit Breaker – Creator (Probe)
05. F.U.S.E. – Substance Abuse (Plus 8)
06. HMC – Dirty Acid Trax Vol. 1 (Side B) (Dirty Acid Trax)
07. HMC – 6 AM (Reflector)
08. Freddie Fresh & Woody McBride – Vulture Psycalopic ’95 (Analog)
09. Frankie Bones – Pure Ecstacy (The Recall Remix) (Groove World)
10. Orbital – Ooolaa (Joey Beltram Mutation) (ffRR)
11. Drax – Acid Generation (Oscillator)
12. Dynamo City – Urban & Free (Stay Up Forever)
13. Morph – X-Ex (Synewave)
14. DJ Randy – Pandomia (Smoke Free DJ Tools)
15. Dogs On Rope – Acid Boom (Organgrinder)
16. DJ Misjah & Groovehead – Delirious (X-Trax)
17. Underground Resistance – The Seawolf (Underground Resistance)
18. The Dentist – The Trip, The Roland A Dentist & His Dagley (Boscaland)
19. Mike Dearborn – Birds On E (Djax-Up-Beats)
20. Nico – Hope (IST)
21. Encephaloid Disturbance – Renegate Ectoplasm (Dance Opera)
22. Liberator DJ’s – Mellon Pharm (TeC)
23. Pagemaster – Drug Center (Thai)
24. The Montini Experience – Restriction (Nitric)
25. Jeff Mills – Berlin (Tresor)
26. D.A.V.E. The Drummer – Fat Arse (Smitten)
27. Chris Liberator – 23 Seconds & Counting (Routemaster)
28. Geezer – The Long & Short Of It (Smitten)
29. Ramos, Supreme & UFO – Judgment Day (RSR)
30. A&E Dept. – And The Rabbit’s Name Was … (Stay Up Forever)
Note from Pearsall:
No single sound has defined my life in electronic music like the sound of the Roland TB-303. This Japanese synth, originally designed as a fairly prosaic bassline synthesizer, contained a secret power that was waiting to be discovered, one that was first revealed to the world by a group of Chicago house music producers in the mid-1980’s: with a little creativity this funny little synth could issue forth some of the strangest and most magical sounds known to man. The acid box, as it came to be known, was the fuse that detonated the UK’s second Summer of Love in 1988, as acid house arrived like a missile from Chicago and detonated in the heart of Thatcherite Britain, altering British youth culture forever.
By the time my family arrived in the UK in the 1990’s the aftershocks were still very evident and very obvious, even to me as an American youth who had previously only liked heavy metal.
For me, my first exposure to the magic of the Roland TB-303 came in the mid-90’s when I first got into dance music – my ears always perked up when I would hear acid lines percolate through tunes, but this wasn’t that common to begin with for me, as jungle / drum n’ bass was my first love in electronic music. What really changed things for me was buying the 1997 Liberator DJ’s mix compilation It’s Not Intelligent…And It’s Not From Detroit…But It’s F**king ‘avin It! – besides having one of the best mix titles ever, my mind was thoroughly blown by the combination of punk rock attitude, high bpms, and nonstop 303 hijinks. One benefit of having friends with older siblings who were into the London underground rave / club scene was that within a year we were joining them at the London squat parties where this acid techno sound was really thriving.
It’s hard to explain how amazing these parties were to me as a 17 year-old – pounding kicks all night, all laced with this strange and compelling sound that could twist and turn all kinds of ways – spaced out and psychedelic one moment, and as intense and direct as any 1977 punk single the next. On a large sound system the acid lines would slither through the speakers like a sonic panther, or rear up and roar like a monster from folklore; dribble down the walls or strafe everyone like a crazed future soldier with a lazer rifle.
With the decade about to end, therefore, I wanted to create and share with you a special and very personal project – a mammoth dedication to my encounter with this life-altering sound.
I call it 30×3 – three mixes, each with 30 tracks, each dedicated to a different chapter in the story of how electronic musicians have utilized the Roland TB-303. I will be presenting the next two chapters over the following Mondays.
This first mix in the series is thus a celebration of that raw 90’s acid techno sound – that pounding synthesis that reverberated around raw warehouse spaces from Detroit to Berlin to London to New York to Rotterdam to Melbourne and beyond; all cities that are represented on this mix.
As ever, my goal with this mix is to tell a sonic story, to craft an audio narrative that works over 30 tracks, so that you can move from the beginning to the end in a way that makes sense as you listen. I also mixed this like I always do, with plenty of cuts, spinbacks, fast mixes, and surprises – because this is the style and attitude that I learned to love in those dark, loud post-industrial spaces, and this is the attitude that ever since I have wanted to put across in my mixes.
Since this mix is about my love of all things acid techno, I thought this would be a good opportunity to republish my good friend Marc Mewshaw’s essay on his London squat party memories, originally published with my mix Beyond the Valley of the Acid Vixens.
Squat Party Memories by Marc Mewshaw
I’ll begin this little essay with a disclaimer: I’m nowhere near as well-versed in the minutia of hard dance as Pearsall. The man’s knowledge, to put it simply, is compendious. Not just of dance music, incidentally. In a pinch and need some statistics on steel production in pre-colonial India? Ask Pearsall. Need to know what brand of aftershave lotion Napoleon used? Talk to Pearsall. He’s an old-school trainspotter, Pearsall is, and, in deference to his frighteningly retentive brain, I’ll leave the long guided walks through the annals of dance music history to him. What I do have to offer are some fragmentary reminiscences and meditative noodlings on the subject of squat partying, circa the millennium.
First, some background. My own love affair with dance music began, as these things often do, with an unexpected conversion experience. Without prompting one night, my friend Dan Durnin played me a mixtape. What came out of the speakers caught me by the guts and refused to let go. It sounded like a platoon of robots playing didgeridoos at ballistic velocities and high frequencies, the screeching riffs slithering around, building and plunging, entwining, copulating, all of it punctuated by a kick drum whose every thump registered as an intestinal fact. I asked Dan what this lunacy was. Acid techno, it was called. What an evocative label. I pictured gouts of highly corrosive fluid melting through shrieking circuit boards …
Prior to that fateful night, my taste in electronic music tended towards the mainstream. I listened to Orbital, the Chemical Brothers, the Crystal Method – the sort of stuff that, while not without its charms and different enough from Blur and Oasis to make me feel recherché, was undeniably engineered for mass consumption. But this acid techno business was rawer, purer, purpose-built for one end only: whipping ravers into a fury. In one of my previous teenage incarnations, I’d been a fan of death metal, and it seemed to share a certain driving, primal energy with that genre but, thankfully, without taking itself half as seriously. That was ultimately what I came to like most about it: that its fierceness was put in the service of fun. Like death metal, it was angry, crackling with aggression. But unlike it, acid techno, in its irresistibly danceable rhythms, contained the antidote to that anger. You couldn’t listen to it without developing the sudden irrepressible itch to thrash around and enjoy yourself, whereas I’d always found death metal encouraged me to withdraw and think about harming kittens. As I soon discovered, the same tension between ferocity and unabashed, balls-to-the-walls fun at the heart of acid techno extended to the atmosphere of the parties themselves and – for me, at least -was the defining feature of the underground experience.
The squats of my teenagehood were dark, grotty, intimidating places. Some of them were downright sinister. Merely getting to them often entailed a long trek through blighted industrial wasteland (granted, as a baby-faced nineteen year-old American, all of London east of Islington looked like blighted industrial wasteland.) And when finally we did manage to track down the squat, my anxiety was usually in no way allayed by the sight of the bleak industrial ruin hulking in front of me, the approach to which was almost always hemmed in by a gauntlet of drug pushers and assorted scumbags. (Once, as Pearsall and I were staggering out of a squat at dawn, we witnessed a small group of Italians who, having just arrived, took one look at the skinheads, rude boys and Yardies milling around at the front door and hopped right back into the cab that had brought them there.)
Once inside, things weren’t much more reassuring. There was a rank, pervasive funk about the places – a stew of curdled milk, dumpster-in-summer and wino-ass. (And often, if you explored upstairs, you’d find the source of the stink, the squatter encampment itself, a miscellany of sleeping bags, butane cookers, jugs full of urine, etc. all patrolled by unfriendly dogs.) And, of course, squats were always soaking in darkness. Klieg lights set up at the DJ booths were the only source of illumination, opening little pockets of visibility at the margins of which lapped an inky unknown. To get from A to B, you had to grope your way, hand over hand, taking little shuffling, exploratory steps, through the mazelike bowels of the building, careful of the rusted, jagged bits of metal rebar poking out from the walls and hanging down from the ceilings and trying their hardest to claws at your flesh and jab you full of tetanus, perils made all the more hazardous by the cocktail of mind altering substances one was typically operating under the influence of. In health-and-safety-obsessed Britain, all of these features combined to make squats feel like a kind of parallel universe netherworld, a negative image of society at large, a faintly nightmarish escape from the sanitized, regulated, market-force-driven realities of life.
Often, just as ominous as the ambience was the human landscape. Anarchy hovered at the edges of any squat party worth its salt, constantly threatening to close in and strangle all the fun. Not only were there any number of rogue opportunists, rip-off artists, and predatory-minded fuckheads skulking around in the darkness but it wasn’t uncommon to see squats degenerate into sordid carnivals of debauchery by night’s end, half crack-house, half-shooting gallery. No big deal, right? But there were also frequently a lot of children around, and those children were doing things no father, not even Mr. Millwall-Supporter H. ASBO himself, would be keen on knowing his offspring were doing. I remember vividly sitting in a sweaty, steaming heap on the floor during a comedown and feeling my all my illusions of a benevolent order in the universe collapsing as I watched a kid, no older than twelve, smoking crack with a few older boys.
But “anything goes” meant anything went, whether you found that morally distasteful or not. And, indeed, there was a sense of having checked your membership in society at the door, of having entered into a space where law and order, as conceived of and enforced by the state, were suspended. (Recently, in Rome, I was caught in a riot and there was the same vertiginous feeling of the safety net having been taken away, that anything was suddenly permissible.) The playing field having been leveled, the referees sent off, the tug-of-war between light and darkness was free to take place all around you without interference, and the only force capable of counterbalancing the threat of chaos was something coming from within the partiers themselves, some instinct that had nothing to do with what authority figures were telling you, on pain of imprisonment, to do. It was freedom at its most unadulterated. Self-regulating autonomy. Of course, this freedom carried risk. But the potential for things to go catastrophically wrong – a very real potential, as I learned when I was mugged at a squat – was, for me, what invested squat parties with an almost mystical potency. This lurking danger made it all the more awesome (in the traditional sense) to see how often, against the odds any moderately realistic student of human nature would predict, a kind of tribal warmth and closeness — cemented, I think, by that fact that you were all dancing together and experiencing the ongoing narrative of the music in lockstep, achieving trancelike states of consciousness inaccessible under the circumstances of everyday life – prevailed over the dark side. Some might be tempted to chalk up this communal glow to drugs, and they certainly had a role, but I don’t think the use of substances invalidates the transcendent, sometimes quasi-religious nature of the experience of stomping around, along with your fellow man, for hours and hours on end in the belly of a massive post-industrial dungeon/cathedral and not caring one bit how much you looked like a fuckwit.
The fact is, partiers entered squats as strangers and left as something quite a lot more intimate. And the beautiful paradox underlying this transformation was that we’d fled to these decomposing relics of the industrial age to escape humanity, only to find a purer way of reconnecting with it – on own terms, not those dictated by corporations or governments. In this sense, squat parties were the ultimate reclamation projects, places in which to take back what the relentless, stultifying assault of advertising and social conditioning had deadened in us. And what better symbol of that reclamation than to invade an abandoned warehouse, a sad casualty of progress, and resurrect it for a night or two, reanimating a dead shell of concrete and steel with the heat of bodies moving in unison to music coaxed by human hands from cold unfeeling machines?
Undoubtedly, a lot of this will sound to English readers like typical Yankee gushing. And I’ll admit that I’m probably guilty of romanticizing the shit out of squat parties. That’s why, incidentally, I don’t want to go to any now and risk sullying my memories of the scene by seeing it through jaundiced, 30-year old eyes. On the other hand, I refuse to apologize if I come off as overblown. I think I revere squat parties as I do largely because they got to the heart of something I’d been looking for all my life and have ever since, but have yet to recapture and fear I never will.
I understand squat parties have become much more bourgeois affairs than I remember them being. It makes me feel nice and smug to think I got in on the action before it was flooded by hipsters in expensively tatty clothes and ironic facial hair; before, like everything, squat parties became a kind of imitation of themselves, clones of clones, genetically degrading over the generations into weak rehash tea.
Of course, I’ve no idea if squat parties have become watered down or not, but how can I believe otherwise? Because there’s little doubt in my mind that those who were squat-rocking in, say, the eighties, think they’ve got the monopoly on the authentic free party. If anything, this attitude of possessiveness, which at first blush might seem a type of snobbery, is a measure of the singularity of free partying – it’s such an immersive, intensely personal adventure that it’s somehow offensive to think others, five or ten years later, might be experiencing the same thing.
But maybe that’s what made — and for all I know, still makes — squat partying what it was: no matter when it was a part of your life, it was yours. It presented a doorway you stepped through into a darkness where you ended up finding yourself, a frightening, alien place where it turned out you’d belonged all along.
– Marc Mewshaw, London, 2011