The sixth installment of CTM Festival’s Polymorphism series presents Charanjit Singh and A Guy Called Gerald, two electronic music pioneers who provided crucial contributions to the birth and development of acid house, a genre that is inextricably connected to the unique sounds of the legendary Roland analog synthesizers.
Without knowing it, in India in 1982 Charanjit Singh created what could be considered to be the first acid house album; Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat came out nearly 3 years before the first tracks of the genre emerged in Chicago. On his end A Guy Called Gerald was busy developing his own acid house flavour in mid-80s Manchester, fuelled by his musical roots of blues, reggae, soul, jazz, and electro funk. Recognized as the first British acid house track, Gerald’s “Voodo Ray” was published in 1988, just in time for the UK’s “Second Summer of Love”, whose unruly raves changed electronic music culture.
On May 16th the septuagenarian Indian Bollywood composer and musician Charanjit Singh will perform his legendary album live with original instruments: the Roland TB-303 bass synthesizer, the Roland TR-808 drum machine, and a Roland Jupiter-8 synthesizer. A Guy Called Gerald will bring his Roland machine outfit to the Berghain to give a rare 100% analog improvised live jam that goes back to his roots, even incorporating some of his early tracks from 1986-88.
Mobiletti Giradischi (CTM program director Remco Schuurbiers) sets the tone beforehand with a special DJ set of pre-acid electronica that venture near the characteristic sound signatures of acid.
When the album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat was released in 2010 on the Bombay Connection label many believed it to be a hoax. The music sounded too modern, and the story of its making seemed too absurd. But everything was shown to correspond to the truth. In 1982, shortly after Roland released their sound machines TB-808 (1981), TB-303 (1982) and Jupiter-8 (1981), Charanjit Singh, who had already created many soundtracks for the Bollywood film industry, traveled to Singapore in order to obtain a copy of each synthesizer. Back home, Singh explored ways in which he could use the new machines to bridge Indian classical music motifs with the programmed beats of the disco music of the time. The result was a unique music that, in the ears of today’s listeners, sounds remarkably similar to acid house, encompassing the characteristic sounds and squelches of the TB-303, the psychedelic effect of its glissando function, and inspiration from contemporary disco beats. The Raga-based structure of Singh’s compositions, however, results in works that are more complex and that display a greater variability than acid’s usual offerings. Recorded in one take, the album was released the same year by EMI India, but was a commercial failure due to its strange novelty. It soon went off the market and faded into obscurity until its rediscovery in 2010, which finally brought Singh’s pioneering work to the attention of a wider audience.
During the 60s and 70s Singh composed numerous soundtracks for the Bollywood film industry. A multi-instrumentalist (Farsifa, steel guitar, electric violin, electric and acoustic accordion, Transicord…) and talented arranger, he also continues to perform and has released several other albums, including Instrumental Film Tunes (1973) and Bollywood Steel Guitar (Sublime Frequencies, 2008).
A Guy Called Gerald
Berlin resident Gerald Simpson made his mark on the Manchester rave sound when he founded the band 808 State in 1988, along with Graham Massey and Martin Price. He began his solo career in parallel, under the name A Guy Called Gerald, in order to work on his own sound designs. With over 25 years of tireless dancefloor experimentation in a wide range of electronic music genres, his ability to combine dancefloor functionality with profound musicality and artistic daring made him instrumental to the UK acid house sound. Through releases on his own Juicebox label, and his work with Goldie in the mid-90s, Gerald’s experimentation also notably helped pioneer hardcore, drum & bass, and jungle. Automannik (1990), one of his most successful releases, was followed by collaborations with the likes of David Bowie and Tricky, as well as a session with the legendary BBC Radio DJ John Peel. Gerald recently returned to his acid house beginnings in his 2009 album, Proto Acid: The Berlin Sessions (Laboratory Instinct). In 2012 he gave what was the first concert in a long time with 808-state colleague Massey, under the name Rebuild Live Acid Jam.