One of the most interesting things about British music has always been its keenness in giving a home to all sorts of musical waifs landing on our shores from God knows where. Back in the hazy, lino floored days of the early sixties it was blues that made its way across the water from north America, and found an audience in nerdy young men willing to take what they heard and re-breed it into something that would have been familiar to its original exponents, but carried enough altered DNA that it seemed like something new. It has happened time and time again over the years.
In the late 80s, when the first acid records began arriving from the states, sometimes directly, often via Ibiza, those same nerdy British youths went to town on it. The guitars had been swapped up for all manner of wire trailing boxes, but the same impulse remained, and British acid quickly grew and changed and split, fostering entire musical scenes that bore little relation to the sounds that had first come from Chicago only a short time before.
Bournemouth producer Chris Moss’s own take on the acid sound has moved between very pure interpretations of both the original Chicago and wonkier British forms, occasionally wrapping tunes in a tight fabric of experimentalism and adding shining synths that accentuate the silver box’s ability to push out from its ghetto and reach skyward without having to fall back on brute, trancey touches. It is a style that has seen him win many admirers, not least those fine folks at Mathematics Recordings – as natural a home as I can think for his sounds.
Righteous Acid Beats, on Northern Irish label Computer Controlled, takes Moss’s previous work as a starting point but adds a slew of muscular touches and broad sweeps of frequency to the mix. There is something reminiscent of Unspecified Enemies broiling, dirty funk to it, but where UE drag those electro and Dance Mania influences through the ringer, Moss is harder to pin down. His sound, for all the thunder, is more fluid, drawing in elements and little touches of genres like rave, even big beat that further shape the roar. I’m not sure I can remember Moss being quite as visceral as this before. It suits him.
For all the echoes of other genres it remains an acid record at heart even if that it sometimes more evident in the energy than in the actual squirt and yelp of the 303. When they are afforded some up-front time, such as on the throbbing Righteous Acid Beats, they dominate the low-end, which is always where they do the most damage, and raise their beaks occasionally to tease out strands of dark melody from the hulking beats and claps. On the electro infused shuffle of Getchu they marshal the spectral Spanky style vocals and patrol the points where the heaviness of the music rises and falls.
Best of all is What Size Is Your Jack. Maybe the lightest of the tunes in terms of atmosphere but it’s in possession of an utterly enthralling groove that uses the 303s to work out a cold Drexciyan melody on top of a clattered drum track that dances between prime Detroit and something altogether more Latin in nature.
For all the evidence of 2015 being the Year Of The Nice when it comes to house music, there is no doubt that there has been a counter movement of sorts growing in the shadows. It’s one which remembers that house wasn’t always about slick tracks and cool trainers, that there was always a meanness, a brutality even, that lurked just below the surface of the very best records. Righteous Acid Beats fit snugly into this new – and increasingly important – reaction. Result.