Sizzling inside the cold hearts of machines, the acid house heard on Mad on Acid makes for a study in contrasts: ceaseless, jacking funk oozes from the stiffest mechanical rhythms, virtuosic solos get played by equipment on the fritz and vocals that would seem to make things personal sound unfailingly alien, freaked out, inhuman. Pulling from the archives of the seminal Trax label, this two-disc primer serves as a solid collection of the original '80s acid classics from Chicago, where shifty DJs and producers set the stage for rave culture the world over. The beats and synths scan as minimal in retrospect, but the moods fan out to evoke lost nights in underground clubs where disco broke from its spangly past and slithered into the future. The snaky synth squeals of acid-house feature in most tracks here, but they're just one part of a style that sounds no less immediate decades down the line.
On Disc One, Maurice kicks off with "This Is Acid," a manic mix of screams, whirring sirens and drums that simmer so much they practically sweat. Stacker Humanoid's "Slam" throws some frantic old-school rap into the mix, while Phuture's "Cocaine" stammers beneath the robotic voice of the drug itself ("This is cocaine speaking…I can make you do anything for me"). Then there's "Acid Trax," the first anthem to subject the Roland 303 drum machine to a full-fledged sci-fi exorcism.
Lest the point of origin be forgotten, on Disc Two Mr. Lee drapes a dizzying vocal stutter over "House This House," a clacking vortex of sound and meaning that speaks to the circular logic of the dance floor. Armando lets a synthesizer do the talking (and yelping and crying) in "Downfall," while Maurice chops up a pretty choice vocal assertion in "I Gotta Big Dick."