(Post-)Hardcore Continuum & UK Music Writing


I think this is v interesting and broadly agree. I don’t think ‘nuum policing is particularly a good or interesting way to thinking about new music. While identifying certain movements as being part of that heritage cld be interesting or illuminating, can’t get behind saying non-nuum = bad or unsophisticated.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the technological aspect of HCC and how tied it was to various hubs of economic activity, many now massively reduced or totally disappeared. And how this made any talk of a present day manifestation of the HCC inherently a bit wobbly.

But at the same time there is clearly appetite & yearning for similar pseudo-nuum technologies eg the proliferation of internet radio stations clearly taking some inspiration from pirate radio. And the theory itself & the attempt to identify what made the HCC scenes ‘special’ continues to heavily influence modern underground scenes & producers. So it might be a tangled thing to try and un-knot. Wld be interested to know how Reynolds views this wrt ‘retromania’.

Re: post-Marxism, I think the problem today is too little focus on economic & geographic / sociological conditions. We need a more Marxist or at least materialist analysis imo (preferably readable with minimal jargon, Mark Fisher trod that line well in Capitalist Realism imo). The fact that this forum exists as a way to try and resist the way social media companies want you to consume information shows that ppl are beginning to think in this manner already, perhaps in a less academic way than Reynolds.

@zurkonic I will be interested to read what you come up with, I’ve found the Livity / Timedance / Mistry sort of scene a bit baffling in terms of its relevance to this stuff. I also think it’s a good example of a scene that isn’t exactly ‘working’ although I like a lot of the music. My first real dance music fandom came out of the post-dubstep melange so a lot of that music and the way many of those involved have assimilated into the techno and house scene vs those ppl trying to stay a distinct scene v interesting.

I have to say I am more or less the polar opposite of you when it comes to views of Reynolds’ aesthetic judgement and his views on scenes becoming ‘progressive’ or ‘intelligent’!

Coming at this from a relatively novice perspective. Energy Flash, a few Wire pieces, a bit of Blackdown, a few Kode9 interviews and that’s about it.


Oh @zurkonic also I wld probably disagree with your desire for objectivity & not trying to interfere with the development of music - to me that can be a valid perspective on how to do music criticism or writing.


@zurkonic What is it about the post-marxist angle you don’t like/agree with? I think the very essence of what someone like Fisher saw in the HCC was the potential for the continuation of Modernism, the idea being that we as a society are aiming at getting somewhere, at redesigning culture, stepping out of the dark ages into a new future, not only that but the working class propagating Modernism through its own culture.

From Fisher’s Crack Mag Interview:

'Crack: I see that critical admixture prevalent in punk as part of a movement towards something. Now, our experience is very different. We are individuals who navigate between styles, we don’t belong to any one movement. Do you recognise that tendency?

Fisher: Increasingly I think that is the case, but the range of options that people have got are so limited actually. Yes, ostensibly there is this kind of infinite fungibility about the self, but what does that amount to? Actually it amounts to choosing from a set of pre-given options really, and the capacity to collectively produce something that didn’t exist before has radically atrophied. I think that’s what’s been underlying everything that’s been said today, that a capacity to make an infinity of meaningless choices has replaced the capacity to actually change things. And underlying this sense of infinite fungibility is that overwhelming sense that nothing can ever happen again. I think this is the key dialectics of the current moment, of capitalist realism, that nothing is fixed, but nothing will ever happen. The two are totally related. There’s that distinction for Simon Reynolds, that the speed of culture has slowed down though the speed of everyday life has gone up."

So Modernism might exist in pockets today, but it exists as atomised in individuals, and it’s almost impossible to be understood in the popular imagination because there just isn’t a mutual language.

I think all this becomes very exacerbated when you get to the web 2.0 blogosphere-era. Where you lived didn’t matter so much, and there became an invisible decay of national borders and cultural opinions (you don’t see many of those british vs american arguments on Youtube any more, do you?). Before it became music for 15 year olds to study and relax to, wasn’t early Post-Dilla/Beats music linked to ‘beat-science’ and ‘shock-of-the-new’ of HCC, more specifically the stuff coming from Glasgow (Heralds of Change, Rustie, et al). It eventually fused with Post-dubstep in my view, but the cultural perspectives never quite made it.

This transmutation of cultural perspective (while remaining generally unaware of its own historicity) has really muted the possibility of progression. The US was never interested in collective expression, of popular modernism in quite the same way. It’s about individuals empowering the masses, rather than the masses empowering themselves. Wasn’t it a UK label (Planet Mu) who shed light on the Chicago Footwork / Juke scenes?

One of the most defining differences in UK and American thought in my view is cultural appropriation. American thought today maintains black music is for the blacks and white music is for the whites and everything should stay that way. The UK was always more class conscious and so it hasn’t been so much an issue for white and black people to trade ideas and build new vocabularies, as long as they were from the same class. It’s from this point Reynolds, rightly or wrongly, takes issue with the middle-classness of “prog” I would suspect. Its also part of the horror of Brostep, when Dubstep hit the states, it went from being something potentially inclusive and rejuvenating, to a white male genre for a white male audience.

These differences in perspective on a transatlantic basis I would guess is what @str_apx is alluding to, that a post-Marxist reading is necessary in understanding European strands of culture, as class is a an inherent aspect of its interpretation, segregation and motivation.


Yeah thoroughly agree. It’s the class, popular modernism, communities creating something new and imagining a new future kind of thing that makes this stuff interesting to me (and for some reason seems to imbue the music with some element of vitality that I find missing from a lot of stuff atm). The politics of it is vital, even if it’s not conceived of as political by some participants. Auteur-based scenes or micro genres seem somehow to contribute to the atomisation of society rather than encouraging community? Even if they’re trying their best and the music is good.

It’s like punk music is associated with a certain political outlook (ill-defined, but broadly DIY and anarchic principles) even if the participants didn’t explicitly identify with a political movement or were (to an academic) not totally consistent or articulate about it. You can’t really look at it separate to the politics. And I think the HCC is similar although the politics are even more contradictory & knotty (eg acid house’s hippie-style Utopianism, sold to the masses by entrepreneurial young Tories).

This is the crux of it for me. It’s not just about music, nor should it be. Particularly as the world rapidly becomes more of a shithole and class politics has atrophied (or been hobbled by supposedly ‘left’ political parties) the ability to collectively organise something meaningful at both a political and cultural level (esp that which is powerful enough to make itself felt in mainstream culture) seems to be slipping away.

The UK vs US angle on cultural appropriation is interesting. Never thought of it that way but cld go some way to explaining why it doesn’t sit that well with me in it’s more aggressively segregationist forms.

This in itself is interesting to me - that there wld be a name for something that shifts so dramatically in sounds, fashion, & the self-perception of the scene.

I think the desire for future-shock comes a lot from the desire for any sort of future at all - a hope to subvert ‘the end of history’ and ‘there is no alternative’ views of politics.

The Bradley book sounds fascinating! And I’m not a veteran of any message-board discussions from back in the day but I’m generally suspicious of attempts to police HCC boundaries. Exceptionalism tends to wind me up.


To me, and why I’m interested in the subject (as I barely listen to ‘club’ music of any variety now), I see this subject as a way of discriminating a punk ethos within music that is no longer ‘punk rock’. Music that’s DIY, non-conformist, non-elitist, a certain kind of darkness or ‘rudeness’ (although I hadn’t really thought about the term before now), music that can be adopted by others but not so easily co-opted, new in form or content rather than providing pure gimmicks. That could be Lukid, that could be Sophie, that could be Mumdance, that could be Dean Blunt, that could be patten’s Ψ, that could be Tirzah, or Smerz. (all these artists being UK except the latter)

In my opinion, defining genre stylistics is the least important aspect in defining what we humans do, we are in fact trying to break out of stereotypes and other dead-end roads, instead it’s ideas like this that go some way in defining intent.


Firstly, I just have to say how fucking wonderful it was to wake up today and see all these great responses and differing opinions and feel a bit overwhelmed even. It was a tad depressing to realize I was 100% expecting to read something nasty and not constructive as I clearly have gotten used to the idea that to participate in online discussion is to court trolling. Truly refreshing and heartening.

Ok, lots to cover. I’m finding it incredibly interesting how much I’m finding myself agreeing with the vast majority of the replies as I feel it speaks to the fact that while there may be different schools of thought at work, the fact that we all feel compelled to discuss this suggests more shared commonalities than irreconcilable points of view. I often find reading Mark Fisher wildly disorienting because I tend to agree with a lot of his observations and points, though he loses me when he invokes an end of history and other concepts that reveal the endurance of Marx’s philosophy in his thinking.

Which got me thinking about the fact that one aspect of the HCC debates I always found particularly frustrating as an uninvolved observer was how much of it came down to differing philosophical and theoretical approaches to history. Fisher would take (unusually superficial) swipes that really pissed me off the first time I read the following blurb: "This often finds support in an Anglo-American empiricist disdain for theory, which has entered into a kind of unholy alliance with a certain Deleuzean anti-theory celebrating flows and multiplicity, the two combining in a hostility towards any theoretical generalization. ‘, I found myself thinking back to all the self-professed ‘Deleuzeans’ I’ve met over the years that treat the philosophy like any other, a system to be learned and enacted in one’s academic work (while seemingly not trying to live a conceptual life). And thus could more readily empathize with his characterization (Guattari once wrote that it was his and Deleuze’s fear that one day their philosophy would be taught In the normative way other philosophies are taught and that people would one day refer to themselves as ‘Deleuzian.’ This is a crucial point most academics gloss over.) And in the research I’ve done in reaching out to certain critics, it quickly became clear that someone like Martin Clark—who really excels at abstraction—could talk about what fisher would call) the ‘abstract reality’ of the HCC with such lucidity while not having any philosophical training.

I have always been taken with intellectual history as my brain just seems pre-disposed to hone in on abstract patterns of ideation. And in studying theories and philosophies across disciplines, one quickly realizes that trying to talk about ideas in relation to their creators is a fraught endeavor as unfamiliar readers/listeners get understandably overwhelmed and tune out while others have very specific ideas about what, say, Marx signifies (without always being aware of how their viewpoints were shaped).

It’s also hard to talk about this stuff without being called a pretentious piece of shit…the anti-intellectualism in America is alive and well ( ). But I personally believe it’s by identifying the ‘ideological stowaways’ within the HCC debate and similar points of disagreement that is necessary to move the conversation forward.

Which finally brings me to @ETC’s point what I think is a good starting point to respond to the different points raised above:

What is it about the post-marxist angle you don’t like/agree with? I think the very essence of what someone like Fisher saw in the HCC was the potential for the continuation of Modernism, the idea being that we as a society are aiming at getting somewhere, at redesigning culture, stepping out of the dark ages into a new future, not only that but the working class propagating Modernism through its own culture.

So my main issues with anything tied to Marxism is that it typically projects a teleology into human history I don’t believe is there. This takes some form of the end of history or capitalism. Now, I am speaking in wildly broad strokes here but the general thrust of my point boils down to the fact that I do not believe there is some a priori structure to human development, language, culture, etc. A lot of my disagreements can be attributed to the post-structuralist milieu of philosophers, historians, anthropologists, etc. But I also think just looking to the material world around us and taking an approach to history that could be characterized as nonlinear is essential to move away from our anthropocentric approach to history that often prioritizes historical (human) actors and linear causality (hardcore led to jungle led to ukg, etc) over the complex systems and networks of nature. To once again over-simplify, I believe to study history is to study complex systems of which we are just beginning to develop the tools and methodologies to model. So, for me, ‘post-marxist’ tends to mean ‘being devout to an ideology’ in the sense that Marx and his scholars provide the semantic framework through which to understand history.

Also, while no one can dispute scientific progresss (or can they?), that language of human development from rising out of the dark ages into a new future just strikes me as without any real meaning (a discussion for another day perhaps).

And please note, I’m just trying to be upfront about my own philosophical biases and the fact that while it’s impossible to move beyond bias, it helps to be aware of it. I don’t believe any thinker or intellectual movement has had the means by which to construct a theory through which all of human history and reality can be understood. I’m more interested in the different meanings the same word can take on in different historical periods and localities and looking to any and all academic disciplines to extract concepts and theoretical tools one can deploy in a non-dogmatic fashion.

To see such earnest conversation makes it so much easier not to become a snide asshole:)

And much more to come…gotta do some work tho;)


Same, I realise now how much i’ve learned to bite my tongue on any social platforms, the pool of people is just too wide and someone is going to barge in and call you a dickhead at some point.

On to your points then: that’s cool, so you have your own lines in interest and that’s a good thing. I mainly know Fisher for his non-music philosophy actually, I love his talks on neoliberalism and postcapitalism. But I always remain somewhat aloof, it can be inspiring to take ideas from other realms [talking as a musician] but also stifling if taken too literally. Most of the music I’ve seen Fisher mention I thought was actually pretty rubbish, but it doesn’t discount my interest in his ideas. I also think it’s obvious no working class people in england are thinking about marx when they are making grime tunes for their mates, they aren’t thinking about marx at all, the working class in UK/EU are generally anti-intellectual today, but again that doesn’t discount the fact he provides a startling critical perspective that might not have been there before.

I think providing such a distinct perspective on goings on out there, and doing as ‘critique’ was traditionally intended to do in actually pointing out what you think is important/relevant to ‘progress/sociology/non-linear’ and what you think misses the mark, is super important. You shouldn’t be afraid of flaunting your bias and being prescriptive, you should actually follow your bias as far up your own arse as possible, because then you have a point of view, and potentially one worth listening to. So few people put the time in to develop their own ideas, and far fewer have the courage to stick to them.

Somehow again, this thread seems linked to the Criticism thread, that there aren’t perhaps any negative reviews out there because there’s not a lot of alternate opinion being voiced, or people weeding things out and saying why certain strands of music might be worth giving another look at, or how differing strands may actually be connected.


@ETC and @str_apx keep giving me ideas I can’t hold back on! To both of you I ask this: What’s so great about modernism anyway? I mean, it is great but why would we want to continue something that ended several decades ago (considering that modernism’s central tenants are often at odds with our present moment. As @etc quotes Fisher: “Yes, ostensibly there is this kind of infinite fungibility about the self, but what does that amount to? Actually, it amounts to choosing from a set of pre-given options really, and the capacity to collectively produce something that didn’t exist before has radically atrophied. I… I think this is the key dialectics of the current moment, of capitalist realism, that nothing is fixed, but nothing will ever happen. The two are totally related. There’s that distinction for Simon Reynolds, that the speed of culture has slowed down though the speed of everyday life has gone up.”

OK, so first and foremost, you notice how he uses the term ‘dialectics.’ Post-Hegelians and post-Marxists LOVE them some dialectics, a vitalist (geist, spirit) account of development that takes the thesis and antithesis and brings about synthesis…this is a primary organizing structure/system in which metaphysics play a central role. And that metaphysical level has remained in some current strains of historiograhy.

I’m a bt scattershot rn, but a dear friend in London sent a much-needed UK updated edition of Energy Flash today and I was struck by this introductory sentence on: I’m lucky enough to have gotten into music at the prcise moment–punk’s imediate aftermath–when it was generally believed that ‘the way forward’ for rock involved borrowing ideas from dance music.

I’ve never enjoyed punk…I’ve gotten my catharsis-through-muic via other means, but the three-chord template just drove me up the wall. So this has always been my perception of traditional punk rock: much like grunge reterritorialized a group of artists in the 80s (Front 242, Nitzer Eb) with extremely conventional melodic structures that was rockism coming back after not really being away: stronger, leaner, and even more full of bullshit (and I grew up on rock and it has a massive influence in the music I like and spin and make).

Also, your description of rudeness, no mater how ad hoc, helps me to better understand the major language Reynolds was indexing. AND “Ideas like this that go some way in defining intent” resonates with how rock and punk represented an attitude more so than they did a musical paradigm shift (tho I’m sure some will disagree.) This idea in particular is feeling like something bigger…

Lastly, I know I can write super densely and while people are not being shy about asking me to clarify certain points, I’m never not astonished by how people will clearly not know something I’m referring to and pretend like they do bceause they worry I’ll think lss of them. It’s maddening cuz we all have different smarts and every converation is a chance to encounter a different way of seeing things.

OK, another incomplete rambling, but hopefully I’m at least starting to communicate what I perceive to be the problems inherited from the last round of debates, the need to expose bare philosophical biases and approaches, and in general, try to get everyone on the same page in terms of no one feeling left in the dark or having the writing or ideas go over their heads. To me, that’s a brave new way to do actual criticism afforded by a forum like this.


Well I think Modernism might have ended, not because its goals were reached but because it’s more beneficial for those in power today to just relax and keep going. Of course, Fisher isn’t talking about reviving communism, or impressionism, or whatever old ideas Modernism coughed up, but to continue in that general vain of “what should we do to actually improve things”. I personally don’t summarise my own beliefs in a single word, nor can I, but after growing up in a dysfunctional place with dysfunctional people (like most others) I do wonder, ‘is this all we can do?’. Also, just looking at all the brilliant ideas that came about up until the last 100/50 years, there was something fertile about that period, Physics, Psychology, Invention, Literature/Philosophy, Art, Biology, Sciences, you could go on and on and on. Today it’s Reality TV, Finding Your Inner Self, Ted Talks. People want to talk but they aren’t nearly unplugged enough to have something to say.

At the same time, Modernism isn’t necessarily what I’m looking for in music, it could be one aspect, but then I’m also very interested in primitivism and folk… punk is folk, electronic is folk. It’s the music that individuals make to describe their day to day.

The punk you talk about has clearly been co-opted by mainstream neoliberalism, punk in my mind isn’t chugging 3 chords. going back to Fisher, he was totally against stuff like The Strokes or whatever, because it’s just rehashing the ‘appearance’ of punk rather than finding any ‘lines of flight’. Go back to No Wave, stuff like Liliput / Raincoats, post-punk, it’s actually very open, and about finding lines of resistance or flight, it’s not Sum 41 or Tony Hawks Pro Skater. Same with the Hardcore Continuum, most the time these genres were charting in the UK, Craig David or whatever, and underneath the surface people are continuing to keep pushing music beyond co-option into something that still feels, something that still redeems.

Lastly, I think the term ‘rudeness’ essentially describes a clear violation of what should be allowed to happen within a song, a surrealness, something inappropriate.

I think of basslines like this at 1:06:

or the sparse bassline around 1 minute on:

pretty much everything about this song

and somehow everything about this one too

it’s almost a kind of loutish playfulness that I think is a uniquely UK characteristic

this is of course my own idiosyncratic take and probably not shared by others


i’ve not read everything in full depth here tbh but jus wanted to jump in again to say that i agree with the questioning of modernism as this elevated form that the continuum advocates seemed to be involved in. don’t want to repeat my earlier post too much but i think if ur linking music and politics, which mark fisher and simon reynolds (to a lesser extent?) always did, and advocating for modernist forms on the basis that they are inherently linked to collectivity and social/political progress i reckon ur wading into murky waters.

i heard a recorded lecture & discussion that mark fisher did about the end of modernism in contemporary electronic music and one question that the speaker asked him at the end, when he was like asking ppl to name just one artist who was doing something truly ‘shock of the new’ (like jungle/hardcore was), was ‘isn’t this just the death throes of colonialism?’ modernism was always tied up with some dodgy approaches to other cultures. the image of being hit by something that sounds like it was from ‘another planet’, ‘alien’, or suddenly revealed a load of ‘uncharted (musical?) terrain’ always came off sounding dangerously close to colonial/imperial mindsets to me. i started thinking yeh maybe jungle and hardcore was a massive shock for someone like reynolds, and for the musical/cultural establishment etc etc, and yeh it did sound fresh and exciting and mdma/pills were involved in a big way that intensified all that, but maybe the sounds weren’t such a shock to the ppl involved at its core, the black americans and black working class british ppl, djs and dancers, trading sounds across the atlantic, ykno? but that’s just a possibility that crossed my mind, not something i would want to argue about with any evidence.

again at the risk of repeating myself, if the continuum ppl really love that shock of the new, modernist stuff, fine, but it seemed to me that they only drew on its social and political ramifications (being able to collectively imagine something better/utopian aspirations/real change etc etc) to back themselves up with arguments about why newer music wasn’t as good. like after uk funky, there was the deep/tech house scene, and the biggest dude in that was mark radford, who had been in the game since the days of jungle and basically could trace his musical lineage thru most of the continuum genres in London, and u could say the same about many djs and producers in that scene. so to me that means deep/tech house is/was quite clearly part of this theorised ‘continuum’, but nah, simon reynolds wasn’t really feeling it because the music doesn’t sound new enough, it’s not from the ‘ends’ enough etc.

here’s a few quotes from simon reynolds blog about deep tech to show u what i mean

“must say i can’t hear the connection between this techy house he’s doing now and what came before … to me it’s where the teleologic of the nuum peters out”

“but to me, the techhouse-ification of the pirates = the end of the road(z)”

"The hyperstatic aspect can even be seen in the name “deep tech” "

the end of the roadz? so u are no longer interested in music from inner city london if it doesn’t sound how u think it should sound? if the teleologic of the nuum peters out here it’s quite obviously time to question ur theory, perhaps confine it to a specific time period, and step back and reevaluate.

this is where they fully lost it for me. building up the ‘continuum’ based around a set of sounds, injecting it with their own attachments to modernism, and then rejecting, even subtly encouraging ppl to ignore, what the ends came up with next. if ur looking to make political and social claims about music, u need to evaluate it with more reference to its production and consumption, the types of ppl involved, what effects it is having etc etc, rather than saying that music has to sound modernist to have social/political impact.


Rainer Maria Rilke said “Fame is finally only the sum total of all the misunderstandings that can gather around a new name”.

Or an old name, for that matter.

And under the category “misunderstandings” you’d have to file “selective quotation” and other distortions that seem more willed, if perhaps unconsciously.

So to Parrishcouncil:

You do realise that - although initially doubtful - within a few months I was blogging very enthusiastically about deep tech, and that by the end of that year my Fave Tracks list was over-run with the stuff?

Here are some blog comments you didn’t quote:

"Deep tech works according to classic sceniotic/ “changing-same” principles. Its form is stringently determined by function: DJ tools for adjusting the pleasure-machinery of the crowdfloor. Eclecticism is refused/refuted in favor of rigorous vibe-consistency. A sort of pleasure-principled puritanism: austere-yet-hedonist. Like a person with a very defined set of sexual kinks, returning fixatedly to the same narrow set of erogenous zones and turn-ons.

“It makes me wish I was back in London – something that funky didn’t manage, nor dubstep.”

  • and -

“It’s the bass that makes it distinctive (the drums seem like they’re very much in the Roland 909 palette, same sounds and similar sort of deployments as 'brutal house”, jack tracks, early Detroit). But the bass – the wet-look texture, the quiveriness, the surging mobility. A tremolo penetrativeness that must really rock your body through a club system, get deep-deep-deep inside.

"Also what I appreciate in a way is the samey-ness, the consistency - how all the tracks are like chips off the same block. Strung together they enforce a vibe. Another version of dark-swing, menacing sensuality. "


Despite its initial promise, the deep tech moment did seem to peter out quite quickly. Of all the phases of the London lineage, it has had the least impact on the “outside world” (chart placings, uptake by hipsters or the seeding of international microscenes). Deep tech did worse than funky (which at least produced Drake’s globally ubiquitous “One Dance”, albeit several years too late to help a now disappeared scene), and funky itself did much worse than dubstep (whose reach extended as far as Muse and Imagine Dragons!).

That suggests the dwindling of something… whatever comes after the dwarf star (smaller but still fairly hot) stage of the nuum, which is what I thought funky was. Non-existence?

For the road demographic seems to have gone into things like Afrobeats and road rap and UK drill.

Meanwhile postpostdubstep cycles on.


Tips for Zurkonic in his quixotic project:

1/ Be careful to keep always at the forefront of your mind that this body of writing - getting close to 30 years of it! - was mostly a real-time, running commentary on something that was itself in motion. In other words, don’t fall into thinking that there is some sort of omniscient perspective that was established at the start of the time period and has then unwaveringly been maintained.

The person blogging (for the most part quite casually) in the 2000s and 2010s is not exactly the same person off his head on pills in East London clubs in 1992 and then - during the week - crusading for a music that - and this is also important to remember - was universally maligned and shunned by the music press (very much NOT the revered and historically respectable entity that it now is, even a sacred cow worth taking a shot at maybe).

The later person has way more knowledge (and through the internet, access to far more music and data – and input from other people) than the person in the early 90s. And - hindsight being 20/20 - the view of what happened in the past and how things worked is in certain respects much clearer. (Instead of interviewing opponents, you could always approach the horse’s mouth - I’m easy to find on the internet! Really a very approachable fellow)

The earlier person has more direct sense impressions from the front line.

But the fact that the writing is stretched over nearly three decades means that ideas, opinions, stances, etc - they do zig-zag. They shift, evolve, double-back, undergo revision. Taste expands or alters.

An example: you quoted one of my opponents who claims that I reject jazzy and softer musical directions. Actually I was the first to identify and celebrate the ambient jungle sound. Then it became an over-tasteful dead end. These reactions and judgments are contingent and rooted in particular moments. Similarly when drum and bass got too harsh and mechanistic, I celebrated the sensuality and “feminine pressure” of UKG and 2step. So your source in the U.K. (whose identity is not hard to guess) is talking out of his arse, which is not unusual!

2/ Be careful not to conflate my ideas with Mark Fisher’s. We were good friends and allies in various joint campaigns like the nuum and hauntology. But we never co-wrote anything and we disagreed quite often.
Trained in philosophy of a particular kind, Mark despised empiricism - I’m sure he had his reasons. But the empirical, as a working journalist and historian, is what I’m all about. Most of the published writing on the nuum was informed by field research and active participation in the scene - by interviews, observation of behavior in clubs, spending time in record stores etc. If I was doing Energy Flash again now I would have even more of that element.

The experiential and social aspects of dance cultures – the rituals, the dancing styles, the clothes, drugs - intangibles like vibe – “peripherals” like flyers, record design, artist names and track titles and the names of clubs or pirate stations - all this stuff is at the very core of it to me - at least as important as the music and its evolution, social-political resonances etc.

It is this lived perspective which makes me assert with some confidence that – whether you want to use the term ‘hardcore continuum’ or not, and it’s perfectly okay not to – there is nobody holding a gun to anybody’s head ! – the thing it describes was an actually existing social reality.

You can theorize about its implications or the way it operates, or whether it still exists. You can also debate it in evaluative terms – disagree about how radical it was, or important in the scheme of things - or which phases or sectors of it are or have been most exciting or innovative or influential. That’s all up for grabs. Perhaps you think there are other musical continuums that are superior - great, go for it, make your argument, stake your claims. The more championing and over-claiming and enthused ‘this is the place to be’ (or the place to have
been, with historical writing) voices the better.

You can also be a fan of multiple musical lineages, either outside or inside dance music - this is not an impossible thing to do! (I do it all the time, in case you hadn’t noticed. The nuum is not a jealous god). Bigging up one lineage / genre / scene is not necessarily demeaning another. (It can be, though - and that’s valid too, at certain junctures. For me to argue in 93 that jungle was way more interesting than trance was A/ a different, highly unusual opinion B/ sticking up for a then-underdog and C/ correct!).

3/ Be careful to distinguish between the two modes of writing that are intermeshed in this real-time running commentary. There’s the more objective, analytic strand (discussing an actually existing culture and how it works) and then there’s the more value-judgemental, critic / fan mode expressing enthusiasm, or dismay. For instance, it’s perfectly possible for someone (such as me!) to respond to funky as the next phase of the hardcore continuum, but also to find it not as exciting as previous phases. Someone who was blindly patriotic for the Nuum would never have expressed misgivings as I did on many occasions about directions the music took. Indeed I have often been the first one to believe that it was all sputtering out. But then some new direction would generally emerge to restore faith.

4/ Ask yourself why you feel so peculiarly oppressed by this concept? What is it that is stopping you from simply enthusing about the past five years of postpostdubstep – from coming up with a narrative suited to its modes of operation, or a new explanatory model?

Couldit be that in this brave new internetty world in which we’ve left behind “scenes and genres”, some potentialities have also been relinquished?

I feel that there is an unconscious drive behind a lot of “revisionism” – a desire to make out that scenes and genres in the past did not exist and did not have the effects (and affects) they did.


OK, still need to get back and re-read the preceding three posts and I’m working on my own writing so will first respond to @PiLhead’s feedback (which sounds oddly familiar…I wonder why;)

  1. Per your first point, I totally agree and will be the first to admit that my attempts at brevity in forum posts are always going to cut out certain important facts, like the fact that I have zero clue what it was like to experience the 90s outside of the bucolic midwestern college town in which I grew up. Reading the writing that is available from the past thirty years, I certainly saw the honing of ideas that I see in my own writing (paltry tho it may be). But I do believe there is merit in analyzing a writer’s early work to pick out potential biases (ones you’ve made clear in later writing) and approaches…I was really gobsmacked re-reading The Wire pieces how such writing in a print publication is unthinkable today (and it reminded me of how I wrote when I was 24;)

And as I have been deep in the Dancecult articles and blog posts surrounding the 09 conference, it’s hard not to get overtaken by the debate itself and take superficial sides. One thing I haven’t gotten to express in this space is how my viewpoint in fact softened considerably after talking to a number of the producers I like so much about how they view the hardcore continuum and I saw it as a positive concept (though also emptied of much of the nuance). But it was a real revelation for me as it was a cold reminder that theoretical arguments (or any sort of antagonistic debate) can truly infect the reader simply trying to understand the various points and counter-points while ignoring the real effects a concept can have outside of an extratextual debate,

And for the amount of time I’ve spent reaching out to other writers involved in the debates, well, I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t take the time to reach out…an unfortunate thing happens when you learn about a culture from blogs and forum posts…you conflate the often antagonistic nature of the posts with the person writing it and make unfounded assumption. Will pen an email in the next few days once I finish the ‘nuum and its discontents’ series.

  1. Again, it’s an unfortunate byproduct that for the sake of being succinct, so many nuances get ironed out and I would NEVER dare conflate your ideas with Fisher’s as I’ve read enough to see the difference. And yeah, he obviously read a bit too much Berkley in uni, which could turn anyone against empiricism!

And as I said earlier (I believe…or meant to), it is not my intention to invalidate the lived experiences that informed the writing. I think criticism has moved past the idea that musicians can’t be critics (per a 2002 Sasha Frere-Jones piece), participants can’t have incisive opinions and crucial observations. I do not, however, think that those first-person experiences mean that the topic is closed off for any more historical insight and my own personal project is to approach that period with contemporary ideas, concepts, and insights to see what was missed or perhaps mis-framed. While ‘the nuum’ happened at rapid speed, I often wonder what was overlooked or disparaged due to certain biases that might not exist today. Which brings me to…

  1. (Sorry, but the segueway was there) I never considered myself feeling oppressed by the HCC concept, but the fact that it’s the primary framework in which to make sense of this period of musical development makes me instinctively wonder how other approaches might uncover ideas and movements that were overlooked at the time (and maybe not…I wasn’t there;) But in talking to the producers of my beloved music from the past five years, they’re all operating in response to dubstep, ultimately, even at their most abstract moments. The idea has framed countless articles on UK dance that I’ve read in the past 12 years and when I see it used today, it’s often used as a hollowed out genre term. So part of my interest in it stems from understanding why it was so enduring to the media apparatuses that helped amplify it and whether or not it is relevant for the producer operating in a space adjacent to the HCC concept (or perhaps within! who knows!)

Going back to point 3 now…and I 100% agree with this.

What potentialities do you think have been extinguished by our internetty world? Personally, I think the idea of the ‘new’ is an outmoded one as the rate of technological and scientific acceleration has leveled off since the 70s (see David Graeber, “Of Flying Cars and Declining Rates of Profit”). That said, maybe it’s not…so much of this is an attempt at an earnest interrogation into why the HCC does perturb me like it does and the rest is to try and account for whether this historical reality is still at work and if not, what is?

Instead of revisionism, I like to think of it as expansionism…looking to artists, scenes, and genres that might have been overlooked for, as you noted above and many others have been quick to point out to me, you were writing about rave music when it was looked down upon by the traditional rock establishment. So within that moment, you saw something else going on that the press was eliding and you sought to correct that. And perhaps I’ll find the HCC is indeed a historical reality. I’m trying to remain open to any conclusion that I reach and not stubbornly hold onto any one opinion. Loving music for me has always meant to love being proven wrong…how many times have we disparaged artists (often for unfounded reasons) only to find ourselves asking someone what a banging track is and it is made by that very artist. Writing at a period when these genres are not so new and developing, one can both read the texts with a different eye (and thus come to different conclusions) and learn of certain facts that were kept secret at the time.

Also, ‘revisionism’ could be symptomatic of a desire to overturn a history that is seemingly beyond redoubt, and I just don’t cotton to that idea.

OK, this feels insufficient as a response and I’m already thinking about how certain things may be interpreted differently than I intended, but hey, isn’t what writing is all about.

Thank you for chiming in…wish I didn’t have to get back to work rn (so please apologize any grammar or spelling mistakes). But alas…more to come, I’m sure:)


Ah, just ran some errands and while not thinking about this on the subway and realized what my principle question/concern is. And I apologize in advance for using a nine-year-old text as the catalyst for my question…your thoughts might be totally different now. OMD knows that I hope my thinking has developed considerably nine years from now;)

In your essay “The History of Our World: The Hardcore Continuum Debate,” you being by mentioning “field research and theoretical speculation - are inseparable,” which I would agree with 100%…just listening to music is a catalyst for theoretical speculation and is what led me to my current project to try and construct a new model through which to understand the contemporary network of producers and labels that inspire me. Building on Fisher’s attractive theory of ‘abstract realities,’ you deduce the following:

And it strikes me that the hardcore continuum could be usefully seen as a system: a structure, a set of relations, a means of musical production. Although vastly smaller in scale and significance, it is analogous to socioeconomic and cultural-political formations such as imperialism, slavery, or manorialism (a.k.a. serfdom). All three of those things are at the same time historically existent entities and sites of theorization on the part of scholars.

I’m skipping over a bit since you wrote the damn thing, but this following part always stuck in my craw:

_History is not a closed book, but it is not a completely open one either. Interpretations are constantly changing; new information comes to light. For instance, when I studied history in the early Eighties, I specialized in American history, including the Civil War, slavery and Reconstruction. At that point, relatively recent research had significantly expanded and altered the understanding of slavery as an institution and practice. As it turned out, the plantation system - everybody’s received idea of the Deep South (the big house, the labor and cultural division between house servants and the field workers, etc) - was an incomplete picture of slavery. Many slaves were actually owned by small farmers: a few slaves, sometimes just one, often lived in intimate proximity with their masters, who didn’t comport themselves as leisurely aristocrats in some Walter Scott-type Dixie fantasy, but lived modest, hardworking lives.

But there are limits to perspectivalism. Slavery existed, imperialism existed, the manorial system existed. The hardcore continuum is an historical phenomenon of that kind.

What confused me with your tautological example of slavery scholarship is that despite new evidence revealing slavery to be different than previously conceived, it’s still slavery (but what were it’s affects on slavery studies? How was slavery redefined/reconceptualized? How did you understanding of slavery change?) The HCC always seems to pre-empt such questioning for it exists and thus why quibble about it? It’s always felt to me, just from reading your many writings in print and on the web, that since you ‘lived’ the HCC, there’s no need for any further research or the need for any more information on the subject (no matter how much context it provides or shifts our perception of what the HCC supposedly was). As your Big Beat example shows, other provincial genres occurring outside of London are excluded from the HCC by their inability to meet the criterion for entry, which stymies me as while they lack the key aspects of the nuum genres, the fact that it was a largely homegrown scene and genre would make me at least assume that it belongs to the nuum (though reading your analysis, obviously not).

The HCC is an idea authored/discovered by you based off your own experiences (that are informed by your background, where/how you were raised, persistent normative ideologies not yet thrown to the side). And in one piece, you state that you’re attracted to rockist elements within HCC musics. It always felt like we were getting the Simon Reynolds Experience with the HCC, meaning that there hasn’t been much research (unless I’m totally mistaken) to definitively demonstrate that it’s no different from imperialism or serfdom. What you call revisionism, I call reading for patterns of bias that may distort our understanding of something no less real than slavery. Yet, we have slave studies, I studied imperialism in school…but there is no HCC studies, just your account and others whose experiences line up with your own.

Now, obviously such a ‘field’ would likely not get the funding needed to establish itself, but still, I’ve always felt like I’m supposed to just accept the HCC as an historical reality based off one person’s experiences (and not to discount those experiences…they birthed plenty of fascinating observations). Could the same unconscious drive to create history that didn’t exist within revisionism perhaps be at work in your interpretation of your own lived experiences. And is the HCC only confined to London? I’m inherently distrustful about accepting as fact one person’s lived experiences (and theories that emerge from it…not to mention the theories unconsciously informing that theorization).

As I mentioned in an earlier comment before you joined in, we all have unchecked biases and one way to guard against those is to have respected colleagues and peers identify these when one is unable to oneself. Whereas, for how I approach history at least, to understand the HCC one must also understand Simon Reynolds and what in his own history would lead him to interpreting things as he did. I think you would agree this sounds like a dreadful use of one’s time. Yet for you to claim such vaunted status for what amounts to a reading of the present carried into the future as fact, I feel it would then merit that degree of formalized scrutiny. Or maybe not…clearly this is a topic that captivates a niche group.

And to quickly swing back to my oppression by the concept and inability to creating an exploratory model divorced from the HCC is that the HCC frames most people’s understanding of the development of UK dance and thus, if it did exist as a linear historical system that persisted well into the 00s and is still rippling through UK electronic music, then it would be reckless of me to theorize about this current milieu without first proving the HCC or defining a new model that would still exist in relation to the HCC. After all, in your account, this music not only fails to fall into the HCC but is regressive and backward-looking (or maybe not, but that’s been my impression from your writing about contemporary music)…so to formulate a new model, one must show either why the HCC is insufficient or irrelevant so we can move onto a different concept or how it does fit into the HCC as the entirety of a certain strain of UK dance music has been subsumed by this theory. But maybe I’m delusional.

tl;dr - The spectre of the HCC looms large over UK dance…and ignoring it would at least strike me as myopic as that’s the primary framework through which the first two decades of UK dance are typically viewed. It’s a bit of an oppressive idea to be frank.

Funny enough, a friend in London sent me a copy of Energy Flash that arrived last night as finding a copy within my price range here was proving difficult…am looking forward to re-reading it for the first time in ten years (fucking loved that book when I was 23…curious how I’ll read it now!)


Cheers for your first set of comments, Zurkonic

Re your next batch

I have to say, I do think you have some slightly odd - slightly off - ideas about all this, although I can see where you might have got them.

First, which edition of Energy Flash have you got? You really need the 2013 update which has a lot of new material on the 21st Century – dubstep, electroclash, grime, trance of various flavours, Berlin minimal and microhouse, EDM, footwork, pretty much everything of note that happened is worked in there! Also there is an auto-interview in which I lay out a lot of over-arching ideas.

But yes I know how it works - a book can seem like an imposing thing. (There are actually other books on this subject though! Quite a lot of them - several on drum and bass, a couple on grime alone, with more coming including a serious study by Dan Hancox this very month… for some reason dubstep i don’t think has been done at book length, surprisingly.)

A book can only be written from the author’s perspective - I can’t second-guess some other viewpoint, it would be a very dry and disengaged text, I think, if I tried to, and ultimately impossible. You can for sure try to be fair and cover a spectrum (Energy Flash’s contents are actually varied and close to comprehensive - which is not to say that my partiality for nuum is not apparent! but hey i actually write sympathetically about psy-trance in the book, to give just one example).

Re. The History of Our World essay

The analogy with slavery or imperialism, the point I was making was that historical scholarship continues to expand our understanding of how these things worked… but none of it was attempting to say they didn’t exist.

At the time I wrote those series of “Nuum and its Discontents” essays, there was a concerted attempt – by a small faction of people admittedly – to prove that the hardcore continuum – meaning the family tree of genres running hardcore>jungle>UK garage/2step>grime / dubstep>funky - was not actually a continuous subculture.

There’s always scope for new research, new discoveries, new insights. I personally know far more about the HCC now than I did in the Nineties when I was very actively involved as a fan. And have a better understanding of it as a phenomenon.

But if the drive of the revisionism is to make out that this lineage was not actually a lineage, then that’s where I take exception.

your Big Beat example shows, other provincial genres occurring outside of London are excluded from the HCC by their inability to meet the criterion for entry, which stymies me as while they lack the key aspects of the nuum genres, the fact that it was a largely homegrown scene and genre would make me at least assume that it belongs to the nuum (though reading your analysis, obviously not).

Again, this to me is a somewhat bizarre image that people construct - there’s this genre Big Beat and it’s clamoring for admittance into a club and the bouncer (me!) is saying, “you’re not on the list, you’re not coming in”. (That’s an arcane rave-era reference BTW).

But the simple truth is that it was a different scene entirely – it had a whole different ancestry (more to do with Manchester and indie-dance - Norman Cook had originally been in the Housemartins and then did various dance-things before Fatboy Slim. Chemical brothers came out of indie) . Big Beat’s audience was different (much much whiter, more studenty) . The scene didn’t have a relationship with pirate radio. You didn’t have rewinds or MCs chanting over the music. I loved Big Beat but it was a whole other scene.

I don’t think it was “provincial” by the way - it was national, with a strong London base, and a particular connection with Brighton.

And it’s not like Big Beat “wanted” to be “included” in this entity - it couldn’t give a fuck, it was in the Top 10 of the UK charts! In fact it would have defined itself to some degree against rave. If it looked to ancestors it would be old skool hip hop and early house.

there is no HCC studies, just your account and others whose experiences line up with your own.

There’s tons of magazine writing on these music - both in real-time and retrospective - and actually a fair amount of academic work done on it too I think. If they end up reconfirming many of my conclusions that just demonstrates my razor-sharp eye and ear!

I’ve always felt like I’m supposed to just accept the HCC

You can use the term or not, I don’t care really – but yes you should accept the historical reality of hardcore rave, jungle, UK garage, grime, dubstep as a connected sequence of genres. It’s inarguable. Based not on my experiences or account, but on the thousands of people involved who will give very similar accounts of how it all went down – including most of the producers and deejays. They may not use the term but you can find dozens of quotes out there that lay out a sense of the history of pirate radio culture in these terms.

Think of it as similar to a tradition like heavy metal. It would quite nutty to assert heavy metal doesn’t exist - even though you can point to where it blurs into other genres, and even though metal today (blast beats and vomitous vocals) sounds very different from blues-based heavy and hard rock of the early 70s.

is the HCC only confined to London?

I think I’ve laid this out many times, but the word I would use is London-centric. London is the creative engine of this subculture for most of the period in question – partly because it has such a large number of pirate radio stations (owing to the number of high rise apartment blocks) and also a very large population – I think Greater London is something like 10 million and if you factor in the surrounding counties, which are very much in the orbit of London’s influence, it’s even bigger. And it’s also a very multiracial city, where white youth (and Asian youth etc) have grown up surrounded by black music, black street style, black modes of speech, etc for decades and decades.

The continuum as a creative force also has (had?) a presence in other cities in the UK with a strong black population - Bristol, Midlands towns like Coventry, various Northern towns. At certain points the North has come through with a very strong sound of its own – like bleep in the early Nineties, basslines in the mid-2000s.

And with all these phases and genres, obviously there will be fans of it all over the place and sometimes producers will pop up in odd out of the way parts of the country or suburbia. But the creative core of it was always quite concentrated in London with outposts in other London-like cities.

And because the sounds were so potent and seductive, at various stages they have seeded micro-scenes in other countries – Toronto, being Anglophile as fuck; New York; Florida had a breakbeat scene.

It depends on the current style – UKG became pop music in the UK but it didn’t really spread internationally anything like drum and bass did (which became very international and ultimately its own entity carrying on without much connection to the HCC / pirate source).

Dubstep is probably the most successful export.

Some of these seeded scenes overseas are quite flourishing and active but they often have had problems coming up with their own music - they’ve been dependent on imports from the UK.

Naturally the internet has changed that very localized syndrome significantly.

About bias

I don’t think any critical writing can be done without what you call bias, or assumptions – a prior value set. if you venture to make a value judgement, you have to have an evaluative metric to start off with – that might be unverbalised and semi conscious, something you’ve inherited or absorbed without any reflection. Or it could be something you’ve thought about and codified. But every piece of writing worth anything comes from a situated perspective.

I don’t attempt to guard against biases – I work off of them, and I make sure that they are legible. I’ve always been transparent about who I am, where I come from, what my musical background was prior to rave, where my political sympathies lie.

HCC frames most people’s understanding of the development of UK dance

One thing to consider is that the nuum zone is probably something like 1/8th maybe of UK’s total dance and club culture. Maybe less.

If you were to read old dance music magazines of the Nineties, Mixmag and Muzik and DJ and Jockey Slut etc, I think you would be really surprised how modest the coverage was of the HCC genres. Most of the content of the dance magazines was varying shades of house and techno and trance – progressive house tribal house, handbag house (and funky house – not to be confused with the funky on the pirate radio in late 2000s, a completely different entity!), minimal techno etc

Elsewhere in the non-dance specialist music magazines, you would be more likely to get writing on IDM and ambient as you would drum and bass.

Generally speaking, the UK dance press did a pretty solid job covering everything that was half way interesting and a good deal that wasn’t ! Perhaps among cognoscenti the more “plebeian” kinds of pill monster music like gabba, hard house, scouse house, etc got short shrift in terms of attention and respect.

As I mentioned earlier Energy Flash covers pretty much everything of note during the time period – including enthusiastic coverage of such non-HCC entities as gabba and big beat and elements within IDM. Even the things I dislike are regarded as interesting and worthy of comment!

If it is true that HCC has come in time to seem historically dominant, whereas other things have been left behind in the 90s that is probably a measure of:

The fervour of its advocates

Its strengths and appeal as music

The more socially-cultural interesting aspects surrounding the music – MCs, rewinds, dubplates, pirate radio etc - which you don’t get in Brit house or techno.

The fact that it has attracted intellectuals who find it rich food for thought

Its political resonances or multicultural aspects.

In a certain sense, that’s the proof of the pudding, really -what is it about this area of music and subculture that has inspired people to write about it in a way that handbag house or pop trance, didn’t? Fans of those genres could have written books or pretentious essays about them!

There are lots of reasons why the nuum has got this kind of intense attention - but I think there is also a feeling of a promise about this music - a promise that has perhaps not been kept but still tantalises – some kind of latent power – a glimpse of a better Britain. (The cultural antithesis of - or opposition to - Brexit, even?)

HCC persisted well into the 00s and is still rippling through UK electronic music

I don’t know if still is rippling to be honest …

There are still producers drawing on sonic debris or ideas and vibes from that time… and there’s also a lot of retro pastiches of earlier phase-sounds… tons of jungle replicas

The romance of the era is still strong… the legend of specific micro-eras within it

But in terms of a real strong and defined current of music that is the next stage of it… I dunno.

I feel like we are in different times – the Internet has changed the nature of the game


I really appreciate your candor, @PiLhead and admittedly, I was confusing myself during that second batch of comments…one of those situations where you start off writing with a super crystal clear image of what you want to say and soon find yourself entangled somewhere between the text and your own interpretations and biases. But the bulk of it was spurred by your comment about my “feeling peculiarly oppressed” as I don’t wish to be oppressed by anything and if I disagree with something, I at least like to find the ideas within it that work (e.g. I don’t like Lacan’s general system but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good resource). So thank you for taking the time to answer these questions and I hope they weren’t too frustrating…honestly feel I have twice the clarity on the HCC as I did when I woke up today, which is my idea of a productive day;)

Yes, I have the 2013 edition. I should add your writing was massively influential on me when I first started writing about music as being a fresh-faced college graduate/philosophy/history supernerd and musician/D, I remember reading Generation Ecstasy the following fall in a couple days time and being SUPER pissed that it was abridged (Americans don’t like long books not written by presidents, George R.R. Martin, and Stephen King.) So I was quite thrilled to open up the package my friend sent that arrived yesterday and see that pink cover of the 2013 version. I had read some of the additional chapters elsewhere but that was likely four years ago…and am looking forward to the auto-interview.

There are a lot of books on genres and scenes of music–and goddamn am I stoked for the Hancox book on Grime–but admittedly did not know there were any titles on drum and bass. Are there any you’d recommend? I’ve read the trance chapter before and I remember finding it fascinating and non-judgmental for the most part. But I think you’d agree there’s no book like Energy Flash out there that has the scope it does and while I do not mean to intend you’re trying to push this agenda, I’m saying that for someone who loves music, history, and writing, I’ve always been surprised the hegemony (for lack of a better word) the book exercises over any academic study into electronic music. Having reviewed around 50 bibliographies in the past week on different aspects of electronic music, the ubiquity of Energy Flash in scholarship since its release is staggering. And I’m certainly not begrudging you for writing a book that more definitely needed to be written…I’m more just intrigued as to why no one else has tried writing a book of that scope. I don’t feel like there’s just one history of electronic music, but maybe I’m wrong.

And I should add the addition of your personal perspective is what has made the book so enduring in my mind…am extremely curious to re-read it having spent a decade since utterly immersed in as many facets of dance music as I can reasonably find interesting. I regularly incorporate autobiographical detail in my writing as I find it’s just more relatable and easier to read…and I’m a wild narcissist, so there’s that;)

History of Our World

-That’s at least how I understood the analogy. But I’ve always struggled to see the HCC in the same structural terms, not least because I didn’t experience any of the analogies first hand. The structural axiomatics you laid out in the fifth discontent piece always struck me as risking over-simplification but then again, as much as I might loathe it, much of ‘reality’ is structured through binaries.

-Huh, thanks for the contextual background behind the Discontents essays. Personally, for me, reading those however many years ago was when I started to struggle with the HCC and that’s likely because I didn’t know what it was in response to…even until an hour ago, I just assumed it was written following the conference papers and the like. A couple weeks ago I listened to “Waremouse” for the first time in ages thanks to your 1992 Wire piece and while my jaw didn’t drop, it should have. At the end of the day, most of what I love in music has a dope bassline, sick drums, and cool sound design and only recently been digging deeper into 92-94 and it’s been fucking mindblowing.

But having spent a couple months trying to disprove the continuity of the HCC, I must admit, it hasn’t happened! I’m always wary of linear causation as a lot of history suffers from such a viewpoint (imo at least) and I abhor structuralism. But in this case, I’ve had to accept the fact that my age and personal context is such that it’s hard to fully understand how one discovered and consumed music back then for even though I’m old enough to have spent my high school years buying CDs with any spare money…the internet has disrupted so much so that lineage is way harder to pick out these days, I believe.

-Nice reference:) But I will add, while it’s clear that you’re not the HCC bouncer, since you set the nuum parameters I can see where it can feel like that.

“And it’s not like Big Beat “wanted” to be “included” in this entity - it couldn’t give a fuck, it was in the Top 10 of the UK charts! In fact it would have defined itself to some degree against rave. If it looked to ancestors it would be old skool hip hop and early house.”

OK, this really interested me…I always thought of Big Beat as ‘party-starting music’ (for lack of a better phrase…got their album when I was 13;) I’m hoping in re-reading Energy Flash I’ll pick up on a lot of what I likely missed the first time, namely to what degree scenes in the UK defined theselves in opposition to one another. And ‘provincial’ was a poor choice of words…though I am interested by what, if any, provincial music scenes did exist in the country that were isolated and not in conversation with other scenes or cultures.

-What magazines are you referring to? Obviously, I’m familiar with Dancecult and The Wire but haven’t seen this discussion elsewhere really…but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on dance music pubs like I was even five years ago. Would be curious what other academic work has been done…read the Lloyd Bradley book but that’s more on a current that ran through the HCC, so to speak.

-I’m still struggling with it as a historical reality–but perhaps it’s just the verbiage I’m struggling with–but my own research certainly confirms that the HCC is seen as very real. Though it’s also used in a whole mess of ways, from some who use it as a genre term to others as an ethos (Batu: I always thought the Hardcore Continuum was about not giving a damn). Much of why I’m writing this piece is to present the HCC to an audience who is likely less familiar with it (Americans my age (33) and under) and assess what its role is in today’s UK dance music milieu, if any (the word ‘tradition’ came up A LOT across the interviews).

-I’d seen you use the term London-centric before, but feel like it now actually means something to me…this whole section was very helpful, thank you.

-Man, I bristled a bit when you referred to my project as ‘quixotic’ this morning but I’m wonderfully less certain about particular theses than I was twelve hours ago. As I stated above, I try to embrace bias and I must admit, I was quite struck by how frank you were in the “Discontent” series…at one point you noted having a rockist disposition and found myself thinking, “well at least he fucking admits it” (as opposed to those for whom rockism is much more insidious). I’m certainly not trying to write in a vacuum…I guess my whole mentioning of bias was to acknowledge what you do right here:

-HCC as framing understanding->Yeah, that was wayyyyy off on my part, jesus. Talk about having a skewed perception…I feel like I was selectively blocking out the numerous conversarions I’ve had with British friends about styles of house both mainstream and otherwise that I wasn’t remotely familiar with…it’s more the fact that I came into UK dance through dubstep (circa 06) and the stuff I like tends to be of this (god, I’m going to say it) HCC lineage.

I also really appreciate the context you provided about press coverage. The original title of this thread was something like “Insights on UK Music Criticism in the 90s, Please” (half joking) before @alicks so kindly pointed out a more alluring title. Really, now I feel bad if my earlier posts came frustrated because as I now see, I was confusing some rather basic aspects of the nuum.

And I know what draws me to the music that falls under the nuum is that sense of promise, that sense futurity that we lost back in the 80s (at least)…even in the music I’d consider operating in the ‘tradition’ attracts me because I hear things i (personally) haven’t heard before…or new approaches to established forms. Pastiche is a real problem in so much of today’s nuum-inspired/influenced music though we’d likely agree over what is pastiche and what is not. Honestly, having MUCH more clarity on a few crucial points I realize I was taking your opinions (as well as Fisher’s) over contemporary culture (from the wonky debates to Retromania) that I did find to be a bit ‘culture bouncer-y’ and connecting them to the HCC in a way that wasn’t accurate. I’m not saying I’m a born-again nuum evangelist, but I at least see what ideas I find useful and those not so much a lot better. Considering that I am about to sit down and offer an overview of it, as a writer, I am extremely grateful and apologize that I didn’t reach out directly…was being kind of a chicken shit on that one.

I’m always wary of ideas that seem so totalizing and as I mentioned above, for me, the HCC always boiled down to historiography (namely a Hegelian model–and I don’t mean that as a four-letter word and would be eager to hear if you disagree with that characterization–versus other, non Hegelian (or post-Hegelian/Marist). And I also hold a healthy skepticism to the idea that the sheer volume/endurance of the idea is proof of its existence. At the same, as I said earlier my getting into dubstep (2562, DMZ, Kode9) meant understanding how it arose out of UKG and the variants of Garage that were synthesized to create what became dubstep. Actually, that reminds me of another long-standing question I’ve had which relates to how you view genre synthesis versus genre mixture, but that can wait for another day.

Apologies if I came off an asshole, but I get super passionate about this shit…I also try to remain flexible and open to be totally wrong…I don’t know if I eve agree with HCC or not, but what matters to me is that I understand it far better (and got to hear it from the horse’s mouth…not to call you a horse;) And I’m sure there’s plenty of other things to disagree over…seriously though, thank you for taking the time to clear up some of my blockages. And I will most definitely be adding to this space as my project progresses…


Well if you didn’t know what the HCC was, you do now. Very lovely summary of the whole thing. I think it’s true that it doesn’t exist today as it did then, if at all. There are of course plenty of artists inspired by those genres, but reading @PiLhead’s reasoning as to what it was, you can see why it can’t go on as the same thing today.

I’m too young to have experienced most of this first hand, and coming from Coventry, too far from pirate radio and the epicentre. Grime was what sketchy white kids listened to at the back of the bus, and Bassline / 4x4 would come piping out of some chavs hatchback. It was only when Dubstep made it to the city that me and friends started to dig into old jungle, grime, etc. and get a thrill out of enjoying the kind of music you normally stayed away from (Coventry being a particularly rough city, you NEVER wanted to accidentally end up in a Trance/DnB night as a teenager circa 2006). In fact, one of my first ‘rave’ experiences (if you can call it that) was amongst a hoard of shirtless chavs, and it somehow didn’t seem to matter, to this day one of the most transcendent moments in a city that doesn’t know the term.

Big beat, again, was something else entirely, the DJs still having it large in Ibiza to this day. It’s just not something I’ve ever even linked to Garage etc, culturally speaking. I think this is all cultural information particularly invisible to anyone growing up outside the UK, none of this stuff was popular in the international mainstream the way it was at home.

@zurkonic Perhaps what would be interesting as an interrogation of the ‘post-HCC’ would be to how the structures that gave rise to the initial HCC have transformed since web 2.0. Is there such thing as pirate radio today, or has it taken some other form (UK Drill videos?); is there still MC culture today in some form, has it morphed or extinguished? Perhaps you may begin to sketch if and whether there is anything in connection today, but looking only for stylistic tropes might not do much justice to the original concept.

Whether it’s HCC or the punk ethos, there seems to be a contradiction in that the internet is conceived as a DIY utopia, and in that case, what do such cultures exist in opposition to?


This thread has been a brilliant read. Have to say that @PiLhead sums up my feelings towards the HCC perfectly… both as an intellectual framing device and as a way to describe music which points towards an alternative, brighter future.

Interested to know how the unhelpful narrative of the ‘hcc generals’ vs ‘non-believers’ came about… seems kinda silly to me considering that the overall theory isn’t particularly controversial/divisive. Nothing wrong with discussion, just don’t understand how people can’t at least acknowledge elements of it or dispute it critically, rather than speaking vaguely about ‘gatekeeperism’ and ‘branding’.

@zurkonic Glad you’ve got the most recent edition. As a country bumpkin who first experienced dubstep as a teen in the mid/late 00s, that later chapter mirrors my own experiences ridiculously well.


As @pilhead noted over his comments, the internet has changed the game and the whole thrust of my project is to construct a dynamic model or framework for the dissemination of ideas and how they become tropes and whether any of this constitutes an actual scene or genre. I’m seeing far more (to borrow another term) centrifugal forces at work not just in the decentralized nature of the producers and labels I’m looking at–there is no city-centric center of gravity and connections can be made not on shared localities but rather on more conceptual levels (see vaporwave). But what’s the most fascinating take-away I’ve found is that the group of artists who are working in a space inspired by and vacated by post-dubstep and are motivated by factors different from what we saw in the HCC proper, so to speak (particularly the 90s). These artists are deeply inspired by the synthetic nature of dubstep while also having watched it turn into a parody of itself and seeing the genre bubbles that arose and burst during the post-dubstep period (which I consider as 2009-2012). Where you had countless articles about wonky, the purple sound, UK funky, et al, you might see a piece on Timedance but the absence of a hype-mongering piece connecting all of these artists–many of whom consider themselves as part of a scene while hesitating to articulate it much beyond their dubstep inspiration (which leads to them studying both ‘HCC genres’ as well as experimental and other musics from outside the UK). I consider mimesis a crucial aspect of the HCC period in that genres often quickly hardened–or “got formula-ed”–and you had lesser artists making ‘dubstep tracks’ or the like. In this case, the artists are intent on defining themselves both as separate and not being tied down to a particular genre. Look at Bruce: he’s gone from the weirdo Derbyshire techno of “Not Stochastic” to the broken bass of “Steals” to the eMego big room techno of “I’m OK Mate” to the abstracted soundscapes found on the Patina Echoes comp. Or Laksa who noted in our chat that none of his records sound the same and the general re-definition that each release tends to bring…I’ve charted a lot of these and I hope it provides a solid introduction to the music.)

“There are of course plenty of artists inspired by those genres, but reading @PiLhead’s reasoning as to what it was, you can see why it can’t go on as the same thing today.”

Absolutely…that was very much what started this whole mess;) And I should note, there’s plenty of debate amongst older fans over whether this music is even that remarkable…he described a lot of it as track-y techno w bass to make it ‘British’ (to paraphrase) and then you have Simon’s whole Retromania line of thought that sees music culture as having slowed down and become less innovate (while also much more referential). I think it’s more complicated than that, just from the way this music has captivated me, and we need to conceptulaize it in terms perhaps different than ‘genres’ and ‘scenes.’

So yeah, have a lot of work ahead of me…fortunately it’s fun:) And I feel much more confident in proceeding (and will not hesitate to email @pilhead if I require any further clarification, if he’s cool with that).


Hey Zurkonic

titles on drum and bass.

There was one called All Crews: Journeys Through Jungle/Drum & Bass Culture by Brian Belle Fortune – that was a bit like ‘the voices of the scene’, as opposed to heavy duty analysis. State of Bass: Jungle : The Story So Far by Martin James was good - and the first single tome solely devoted to it. He also did a whole book on the Prodigy. I guess the memoir by Goldie would be useful.

I’m sure there’s more… and must be a fair bit of academic work. I remember having read a fair number of essays. Jason Toynbee’s Making Popular Music has some close analysis in one chapter of certain drum and bass tracks from a production and musical structure angle.

But I will add, while it’s clear that you’re not the HCC bouncer, since you set the nuum parameters I can >see >where it can feel like that.

But I think this is where the misperception comes in.

A lot of people seem to think it goes like this: I have this analytical apparatus, this model, and I choose who to apply to it.

Actually, from my perspective it’s like this: there is this thing that actually exists (a sono-social-historical reality) and it’s this thing that brought into existence the model. The reality precedes the modelling, or in a certain sense it contains the model.

All I have done is apprehend what’s going on and articulate it clearly.

Other people apprehend it but don’t articulate it particularly - they just live it – live inside it. Others articulate it but slightly differently – some prefer to make it purely London - as that seems neater, maybe. Or they periodise it with a cut-off at a different point.

The thing itself dictates what gets analysed according to this model, because it generates a series of extensions of itself.

And it really has nothing to do my taste or preferences – I loved Big Beat but Big Beat was another scene altogether and it makes no sense to shoehorn it into this model. Similarly, funky as a sound I enjoyed much less than Big Beat, but there’s no doubt it was a stage of this culture, this ongoing thing.

Big Beat as ‘party-starting music’

Yeah it definitely was … I used to think of it as rave ‘n’ roll pt 2, with rave ‘n’ roll pt 1 being Primal scream, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and various other indie bands who got caught up in the Ecstasy culture.

But going mental and getting messy on the dancefloor, that’s not a unique property of either Big Beat or the HCC - a lot of different club scenes and sound in UK (and elsewhere) were about serious hedonism. Nearly all of them actually! The kind of (to me uninteresting) music synonymous with Ibiza is probably the most hedonistic of them all, or up at the front.

What magazines are you referring to?

I’m not sure what exists anymore – Mixmag is still around, I rarely look it, and there’s DJ, which I think is a solid publication.

There used to be a lot more in the UK from mid-90s to early 2000s. So many in fact that for a few years you even had a magazine solely devoted to UK garage and what were then starting to emerge from it, ie. grime and dubstep. Deuce - it was largely written by Martin Clark and Chantal Fiddy, as I recall - perhaps they edited it as well, I can’t remember. It was very good - and essential documentation - but how you would find it, I don’t know. They also often had cover-mounted CDs that captured a lot of early grime and so forth.

Also at the turn of the millennium, Hyperdub - which is archived on line - was Kode9’s theory-dance website before it was a label. and for which Mark Fisher (as Mark DeRosario), Kodwo Eshun, Bat, Steve Goodman, and various others contributed (I did one thing).

And then there’s Knowledge, which I think is still going in some form - the drum and bass magazine.

In the US there was Urb and XLR8R, I’m not sure if they still exist.

All of these UK and US dance magazines would have stuff to varying degrees on things from the nuum area.

In terms of books that present a counter-history of US-into-UK dance history, the big one would be by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life. That’s much more of a disco into house continuum. Dave Haslam has written books about DJing and club culture from a similar perspective.

A superb book that actually – annoyingly! – came out not long before Energy Flash was Altered State by Matthew Collin - while oriented primarily around the impact of Ecstasy it tells the story of UK rave from acid in 88 to jungle in 94 with great vividness. (He has just done a new book on club cultures and rave internationally)

An academic book that’s very good is Discographies by Jeremy Gilbert and Ewan Pearson. Other major academic treatments of this area came from people like Hillegonda Rietveld and Sarah Thornton. I’m sure there’s others I’m forgetting.

Mireille Scott did an Altered State-like treatment of North America rave (with a great chapter on the nuum-following Toronto scene).

Yeah ‘tradition’ is a word that could be substituted for ‘continuum’ but I think – unconsciously – I veered away from ‘tradition’ because it makes you think of folk music or the past, and with such an ardently future-minded music, that didn’t seem like the right emphasis. Continuum seemed a bit more… neutral, and also even vaguely scientific – again suiting the 90s style of writing that so many of us adopted (lots of machinic this and viral that!). But I should emphasise I started using the term in a very casual way, really as a shorthand, and on my blog it became the even shorterhand, nuum.

Of course now HCC is a tradition in the full fusty, musty sense – with an overly strong sense of heritage. Which may well feel a tad suffocating to the youngers.