Originally, the term "house music" was used simply to apply to the disco and discofied R&B spun by Frankie Knuckles at the Chicago nightclub the Warehouse. Starting in 1983, though, house developed into a distinct genre--or better put a distinct genre containing divergent subgenres. Some of house's architects (sorry) advanced a high-tech, economical variation on '70s-style disco and Philly soul. Others used the same technologies (the Roland 303 bass synthesizer, for instance, and the then-new digital synths) to create experimental, four-on-the-floor dance music with no use for traditional song structure and an open mind toward strange noises. Anyway, you can't fence house in (sorry): Deep house like that made by Ten City is some of the most soulful music of its era; acid and jack tracks like those found on the new double-CD collection, Can You Jack? Chicago Acid and Experimental House 1985-1995
(Soul Jazz Records), are often deliberately soulless.
The compilation is partly a tribute to the late Ron Hardy, a DJ who spun at the legendarily intemperate Music Box and competed with Knuckles for house-DJ supremacy. Hardy was the more accessible and adventurous of the two spinners, favoring hard, abrasive music and often turning demos from aspiring house producers into underground hits. He was also the guy to first spin "acid house," tracks for which 303 tones were distorted and abused to sound like demonic bird chirps, Miro squiggles, and other odd things. Can You Jack?
includes a few (relatively) famous singles, such as Phuture's archetypal "Acid Tracks" and Marshall "Sleezy D" Jefferson [pictured] epic "I've Lost Control," which is at once absurd and harrowing. Most of the other selections are obscure but not unworthy. Larry "Mr. Fingers" Heard's "Beyond the Clouds" just might take you there, and Tyree's "Acid Crash" is fabulously over the top and polyrhythmic. This is trashy, intense (also occasionally warm and sorta pretty) DIY music, recommended even to folks who'd just as soon hear it on a quiet night at home. --Dylan Hicks