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The Essential… Dance Mania

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The two labels most associated with early Chicago house will forever be Trax Records and D.J. International, but whatever Dance Mania lacked in pedigree, it made up in hustle.

Over 15 years, the label founded by Jesse Saunders and run by distro boss Ray Barney chronicled the rise of house from disco’s ashes and the development of its acid house and ghetto house derivatives.

The latter strand — a rough-around-the-edges mix of breakneck beats, raw bass, and sexually explicit calls-to-action — would come to define the sound of Dance Mania, influencing everyone from Daft Punk to Night Slugs. Recent interest in the label has even led to it re-opening its doors for the first time in a over a decade, re-releasing records by Parris Mitchell, Robert Armani, and Paul Johnson, with more in the works.

Picking just ten of the label’s nearly 300 records (whether singles or EPs) was not an enviable task, but in assembling this list, we’ve tried our best to account for both the label’s growth and long-time favorites. Apologies to Lil Louis, Da Posse, DJ Slugo, Gant-man, and the other producers whose records we had to leave in the bin; they’ll serve as a reminder that this is simply a jumping off point when it comes to Dance Mania.

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