A very short documentary that sums up in three minutes the importance of the Roland TR-808 drum machine for electronic, hip hop and pop music in the last thirty years. Originally designed in 1980 as a tool for studio musicians to create demos, due to its relative cheapness it became used in the then-underground electronic and hip hop scenes to compose beats.
The by now vintage, distinctive, artificial sound of the 808 not only gave birth to the techno scene (in addition to tools like the TB-303 bass synthesizer), but also influenced the evolution of all kinds of relevant styles in the last decades. By now, their sounds are available digitally, but original machines are highly sought after. If you listen, you hear those kicks and hi-hats everywhere.
Also check out this video, already blogged about earlier, demonstrating the possibilities of the 808.
A while ago, we presented y’all a documentary on the early 1980s origins of warehouse raves and techno, Real Scenes: Detroit. Now, get ready to submerge in the following documentary on its British successor movement: acid house!
During the late 1980s, acid house, with its distinctive sound produced by Roland bass synthesizers and drum machines such as the TB 303 and TR 808, presented the first full-blown electronic dance music movement in Europe, including a booming underground scene. It also presented the first coming to the surface of ecstasy, which contributed to the summers of 1988-9 being called the second Summer of Love (after the lsd-fueled first one in 1969). Acid house parties took place in warehouses and out in the open, thus continuing the Detroit phenomenon of the “rave”. Fueled by sensationalist media reporting, however, British authorities came crashing down on the acid house scene.
This great documentary from the BBC’s World in Action strand is like a full blown acid house flashback. Broadcast in 1988 at height of acid house fever, it follows the typical weekend rituals of a group of very young fans, tracks the working life of an illegal party promoter, speaks to some of the producers of the music and charts the the then-growing moral panic which surrounded the scene and its copious drug taking. Raving, and acid house, had a huge (if subtle) effect on British culture, bringing people together in new, democratised contexts free of class and social boundaries, opening people’s ears up to a new world of music and opening their minds to new ideas.
So here’s the entire documentary. Enjoy!
More electronic music history documentaries on LSD:
Listen to this. It sounds like it was produced on a laptop yesterday, and could be played at some underground art festival or rave, possibly in Berlin or Amsterdam.
Yet, it’s from 1981 and it’s coming from Nijmegen! It’s part of the oeuvre of the New Wave/experimentalist electronic band Mekanik Kommando, that was formed in 1980 and released albums until late in the decade. How’s that for digging up some obscure shit?
Mekanik Kommando was part of the Ultra movement, a Dutch variety on the post-punk/New Wave/early electronic wave that had been developing in Germany and Great Britain since the late 1970s, with of course Joy Division being the most prominent example.
I find it very remarkable how fresh and modern the tracks by Mekanik Kommando sound (dig their name too). It they’d release stuff today, Pitchfork would be on to them. Listen to this, it’s all great: