Acid techno, or just “Acid,” is a subgenre of techno that developed from Acid house in the 1990s. Acid refers explicitly to the use of the Roland TB-303 or any other synthesizer which mimics its distinctive sound. This is generally considered one of the most distinguishable sounds of techno music.

This style was the embodiment of counterculture, with anarchic roots and a rebellious attitude. People frequently associated it with illegal gatherings everywhere around the globe. The UK’s underground acid rave culture, which was particularly strong in London, developed its very own distinctive network. This made it exceptionally popular. It gathered a crowd of punks, rebels, and anti-heroes, going against what purists at the time considered “true techno”. This spawned a resistance movement opposed to anything corporate and conventional.

However, London was not the only location where Acid was popular. The sounds of this genre were first heard at free/squat parties in a number of other European countries. Amongst these are France, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Wherever Acid appeared across the world, it pretended to stretch the boundaries of societal and political ideals and questioned the current system.

The acid in acid techno

Individuals involved in the rave scene were aware that the name “Acid” referred to the 303 synthesizers. However, the uninformed general public mistakenly believed it had something to do with the hallucinogenic substance lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as “Acid”. Since the genre was already connected with crime, it proved simple for some to assume a reference to drugs.

Acid techno made allusions to psychedelia, even though it wasn’t explicitly associated with LSD. It included songs with names like “Two Lines of K…,” “The ‘E’ Spot,” “T.H.C.,” “Mushrooms on Daleks,” “White Widow,” “B.4.U. (Come Down),” and countless more. The purpose of Acid culture was never to deliberately glorify the use of psychedelics. However, this didn’t stop the media from portraying the movement in a hedonistic, immoral light.

Artists and musical characteristics

History credits the Chicago-based acid producer DJ Pierre, also known by his stage name Nathaniel Pierre Jones, with creating the genre. His 1987 EP “Acid Tracks” made use of the 303 synthesizers. It’s one of the first known examples of the style, and one which ultimately proved to be important in the growth of the subgenre. One of the main figures of Acid techno, and a three-time DJ Award winner under the alias Plastikman, is Richie Hawtin. His 1993 masterpiece “Sheet One,” which experimented in ways no one had before, helped redefine the genre.

Acid techno has an exceptionally fast tempo because it combines a pounding, relentless beat with brief, quick repeats. As mentioned above, the major sound source is the 303 synthesizer, which produces the squelchy, alien-like noise that defined the genre. It also features various sounds in addition to the 303, including those from the TR 909, 808, 707, and 606 drum machines.

The genre typically plays at a fast 135+ BPM. Because of this, German trance, hardcore, and rave music largely influenced it.