If you’ve moved away from home and you really want to know what’s going on in Chicago, Eargasmic’s latest release is almost always a kind of treasure map to the real scene and the various wizards and witches and heroes that populate it. I’ve never seen a label like this that gave less of a fuck about what a distributor whispered would sell more copies.

For the alien ravers that need to know, FUCK ACID (I’m not sure if it’s meant to be all caps but I’m going with it) presents seven tracks of “acid house from the current state of Chicago’s underground.” There’s always a surprise on one of these records and the surprise feels like it’s placed there just for me. On Thoughts From Chicago Vol 4 it was Isoke’s remix of Frique’s “Are You Here for the Music?” – a track from a wholly different label which I’d liked enough to write a whole feature about. On FUCK ACID it’s the shock lead-off appearance of Julio Bishop – a loft king from the ’90s and simply one of the best DJs I’ve ever heard in my life. “Acid Drums” is infused with a thunderous groove and a heavy hand wrapping it up in layers of steel percussion and 303 screams. Huge track right here (and if you want symmetry: Julio also has a new track out on Frique’s label. How about that?)

Eargasmic has a house crew, like a troupe of actors cast by an auteur director. One by one for the rest: “The Sun God + dcee” make machines sing lullabies on “Confused Transportation.” Isoke’s “Albion Beach” is dreamy, celestial and simply wonderful for the body and soul. Chicagodeep’s “Clear Remedy” stays in the same range (note that even in putting unmixed V/A compilations together, Chicago DJs can’t help but to think like Chicago DJs and how the tracks flow). Our guys from Secret Studio make an appearance with the hectic, electrifying techno of “Tres Amigos” featuring another Eargasmic fixture, Chicago Skyway. “Melt” by Heuristics toys with the line between techno and atmospheric deep house in the most pleasing way: it’s hard to place this track, but it feels like I’ve never heard anything like it. Dcook’s “Litmus Test” closes out with a squelching acid beast chained down by analogue drum machine patterns and ribbons of dramatic synths.

We seem to be confused by what having an ear to the underground means in the modern age. I’ve talked to star DJs who seem to be puzzled that an “underground” even exists outside of the stationary and infinitely long digital racks and stacks of Beatport. I come across mixes every day in which the only “journey” the DJ takes you on is a trip through the promos that showed up in his inbox. Labels like Eargasmic are the closest thing we have to a connection in this world that is simultaneously wide open and atomized, with the artist able to reach out to billions of fellow citizens but finding they have little in common to talk about. Here are seven tracks from Chicago that are worth talking about.

Various Artists: FUCK ACID (Eargasmic Recordings)
1. Julio Bishop – Acid Drums (09:45)
2. The Sun God + dcee – Confused Transportation (06:55)
3. Isoke – Albion Beach (06:12)
4. Chicagodeep – Clear Remedy (07:14)
5. Secret Studio – Tres Amigos feat Chicago Skyway (06:31)
6. Heuristics – Melt (07:01)
7. Dcook – Litmus Test (05:59)


5 Magazine Issue 159First published in 5 Magazine #159 featuring Jimpster, Lester Fitzpatrick, Pool Boy, Chip E. & more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music for only $1 per issue!