Wonder if a topic title something more like ‘(Post-)Hardcore Contiunuum & UK Music Writing’ might bring more eyes to this?
Thank you for confirming that I should have listened to my gut;) Seriously tho, changing now…made it that title as that’s what I wanted to get some feedback on but also, just curious to get people’s thoughts on the HCC. Thanks for the constructive criticism!
Enjoyed reading this and looking forward to more.
Always struggled to articulate what style of music this is when sharing what I listen to. As you say, it’s an amalgamation of all the historic UK music references starting from jungle through uk garage, dubstep, grime, UK funky, “UK Bass/Post dubstep”, and house & techno.
This difficulty in naming specific movements without a set genre parameter was also the case within the aforementioned UK Bass/post-dubstep “Hurfyd” early years of Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Joy Orbison, Blawan etc.
But when you say “producers […] who aren’t seeking to make […] genre-specific track[s]”, could it not be argued that they are genre-specific tracks, but just within this amorphous and as-yet undefined/named genre?
Also a lil spelling error in the title
Ugh, while my writing has improved a bit since I started the site the past two years, my ability to self-edit has not…thanks for the heads-up!!
And fantastic point/question…one could say they are indeed genre-specific track but with a ‘flava’ particular to this milieu. (to borrow an annoying concept from Reynolds…feeling a bit consumed by his ideas at the moment, but fortunately just in a transitive sense).
But here’s the thing I find so goddamn fascinating (or one of them)…while a producer like Batu might make a track that’s clearly meant to be an “electro” track (see his two collabs with Lurka on Fringe White), it’s done in a way that starts from that genre’s fringes and even the most formulaic tracks are created with an attention to detail that sets them well apart from artists working solely in that genre. OK, feel like I’m dancing around what I’m trying to say as it’s tough to talk about these producers collectively without eliding their individual voices–and that’s what I find most remarkable about this ‘scene;’ it’s full of the ‘auteur-types’ that Reynolds would be all about if he hadn’t given into his Retroparanoia. I’ve interview seven of the producers I consider to be amongst the most representative of the ‘scene’ and I was struck by how across the board, dubstep was that formative influence as well as a cautionary tale. As Facta put it, part of the reason we don’t know how to talk about these producers is that it’s a scene lacking all of the typical hallmarks: a dedicated radio show, club night, a shared sense of locale. That said, it also became clear that it’s a scene that exists ‘behind-the-scenes’ in terms of the producers being geographically dispersed but remaining in contact with one another, offering support/tips, releases, etc…it’s a real community and one that is self-aware in a way that dubstep aspired to and became a parody of itself in doing so, making fear of success or attention a defining characteristic.
Ultimately, what I hear is rarely genre-specific but rather intra-genre or existing in the undefined or grey area between genres while also remaining faithful to the idea of making functional club music that carries on the type of innovation and synthesis initiated by dubstep. Sorry for the confused writing, but am very much in the process of boiling down months of research and pre-writing into an easy-to-read piece…easier said than done! And thanks for the feedback…genuinely helped me in thinking about the whole thing:)
yo interesting to read this cuz i’ve been thinking the same about reynolds being overly prescriptive for a long time.
if ur interested and ur going real in depth and haven’t already i would say maybe check some of the discussions/arguments on dissensus about whether or not ‘shuffling’ or deep tech is part of the hardcore continuum. or even some of the stuff about uk funky and whether that was part of the 'nuum
i’m going to just copy and paste something that i wrote and never posted on dissensus about the ‘death’ of the 'nuum, because i think it makes sense in regard to what ur talking about, and for me it wasn’t the “post-marxist” aspect of reynolds so much as his attachment to modernism
…surely the ‘death’ of the ‘nuum’ that is being talked about is just the end of the usefulness of that concept. it was good cuz it got ppl who otherwise wouldn’t have taken black music from london/etc ‘seriously’ to pay proper attention, mostly thru its association with modernism and the ‘shock of the new’ stuff. it was like a really good and creative birmingham cultural studies historical look at a particular musical moment.
of course it’s not going to make sense anymore. the ‘nuum’ was a theory that was really tied to a particular era & particular technologies - vinyl, pirate radio, hardcore, jungle, garage, maybe even this particular notion of ‘bassweight’ and importance of sub frequencies. these things are not around anymore (to varying degrees) by the looks of it, so why would the ‘nuum’ so closely linked to them adequately apply to what’s happening now?
where i think ppl started going wrong is in trying to decide later what newer musics were part of the ‘nuum’. surely you don’t come up with a theory about black music that u enjoy to make ppl take it seriously, and then flip it on its head and start using the same theory to explain to ppl why black music like funky, deep tech, whatever, that u don’t really like, should be excluded from serious aesthetic considerations?
i reckon that’s what happened when simon reynolds wrote that blogpost about deep tech not being nuum. or it’s like when blackdown does his annual update on facebook/twitter about how uk drill/afroswing/whatever the next genre is, can’t really be expressions of dj music n culture. the subtext is that this is because these genres don’t fit with the ‘nuum’
i think trying to work out the cultural make up of drill and afrobeat/swing is cool cuz then ur accepting them as musical moments in their own right first and coming up with the theorisation OUT of that. what was kinda crazy about the discussion of the deep tech thing and maybe funky before that was that ppl were seeing that this black music clearly didn’t fit with the ‘modernism’ of the nuum, so instead of adjusting the theory or considering something else, ppl just said it wasn’t part of the nuum and therefore justified why they were right not to like it.
back slightly more on topic to what u were asking about critical music journalism and ppl trying to articulate properly what has been happening in music scenes post-2011, i really think with the scenes that u are talking about there are not many music writers that have come thru that have the skills for it. i loved joseph jp patterson’s writing about deep and tech house in london, but that was a different scene, and it never got more attention than some round-up type articles, probably because music mags didn’t have the appetite for it.
other writers that have written about music scenes in RA and the like seem to miss out on the bigger picture or genuinely get a lot of things wrong in their attempts at theorising. Adam Harper is really brilliant at what he writes about (hasn’t done anything for a while) but he does it more from the point of connecting scenes to artistic movements critiquing capital, and i think he misses out on more details about actual cultural production and economic realities. can’t blame him for that tho cuz it’s not really his angle, but it can skew the bigger picture of what’s happening in specific locations i think.
i partly blame the whole music mag internship culture and the content driven way that music websites have to operate now to satisfy the ad business model. internship culture keeps ppl who are more firmly grounded in local realities out of the big time writing game. and ad business model generates mindless articles about how air max ones are the shoe of choice for the new house music resurgence
Yooooo, I really appreciate you sharing this…I’ve actually been trawling through the Dissensus archives and it’s a bit exhausting! Like, what you just shared is EXACTLY what I’m looking for but it usually appears once every fifty pages;) Going to read this when I have a few minutes to really focus on it…looking forward to it.
And yeah, have been giving Reynolds’ blog a similar treatment and have been pulling out nugget after brain-scrambling wack nugget. Though so far my favorite line comes from his 1992 piece on hardcore, which was a parenthetical point in the piece used as an example as to the dangers of seeking “sophistication” in dance music…I find his value judgments over taste just wildly tone deaf, even for the early 90s:
“In an unfortunate echo of Prog rock, some have even erected the concept of ‘progressive House’ (The Future Sound Of London, The Orb, Guerilla Records) as a bulwark of good taste against the hooligan hordes of Ardkore. Well, history shows us that the despised Black Sabbath subsequently went on to be perhaps the biggest influence on alternative rock in the Eighties and Nineties (from Black Flag through Butthole Surfers to Seattle grunge), while Jethro Tull, ELP and Pink Floyd went on to influence practically nobody.”
Just a thumbs up for the OP, really enjoy your writing and I believe I’ve stumbled upon your blog before.
I agree about the timely critique of SR/the HCC and it has always seemed to be an overly UK-Centric, post-marxist Birmingham School of writing and while interesting seems to miss a lot. I read a of german reviews in the 90/00 (Frontpage/Debug magazine) which had a completely different viewpoint.
Hope to comment later when I’ve figure out something more intelligent to say.
oh man, too bad we never ran into each other on Dissensus…this was exactly the critique I’ve had for this whole decade, though it’s been getting more refined. I was talking with an older (and respected, by me at least) London-based dance music writer last summer and he had a line about Reynolds i thought was just too spot-on: “He has solid ideas but he tends to overplay his hand and make academic landgrabs.” One of the most astonishing aspects of his 90s writing (which remained a habit well into the 00s) was how many genres he created that were ultimately just developments in jungle’s or hardcore’s evolution. As a gas, I once kept track of the number of genre names floated in just one essay (or maybe a few) and walked away with this amusing list:
darkcore (the second coming of late 80s avant funk)
One thing that often bugs me about genre titles is how they’re ultimately transient…they’re linguistic space fillers until we have more distance with which to better assess music history (like post-dubstep which technically never ended lol).
I’ve been delving into a lot of different philosophies on history or historiography and I’ve always been wary of anyone or any concept that views any historical structure as linear. As I was writing in my own piece this morning, ‘continuum’ is a deceptively attractive word because it implies freedom of movement (ie the ability to exist both in the present and the past and project into the future as well). But as we all know, the continuum seems to be much more unidirectional and cumulative, building on each subsequent stage towards…something. It’s all very post-Hegelian, armchair Marxist thinking that ultimately tries to gloss over the complexity of looking beyond humanity to understand how our present moment is constructed. And the idea that nostalgia seems to have limited creative potential just reeks of grumpy out-of-touch uncle syndrome. Never made sense to me why he wouldn’t try to make the idea (or reality) more dynamic and responsive…Blackdown’s essay from the nuum conference in 2009 offers a nice critique while remaining a bit mystifying in his apparent faith in the 90s iteration of the nuum…I spoke with him about it and while he professed not to know philosophy, the way he spoke about the nuum showed me he has no trouble with abstraction (and there’s nothing wrong with abstraction except when it’s used to exclude historical agents and paint an exceptionalist history).
Going back to your second, contemporary assessment, I again totally agree. I don’t know Joseph JP Patterson and will check him out shortly. When you say “skills,” I personally read ‘ability to detect nuance’ and ‘be non-prescriptive,’ which is something not many writers do in general. There was a great Chuck Klosterman interview from earlier this year that talked about how the center of cultural criticism has essentially inverted…meaning, where most music writing on Hootie and the Blowfish in the 90s focused on basic biographical detail, there was always a small contingent of writers asking extratextual questions like “what does hootie and the blowfish mean?” and whatnot. Today, however, these kinda questions have become the norm, sorta…tho what he’s seemingly too nice to say is that not many people are able to do this type of criticism well, which is why you get 1000s of pieces on whether Justin Timberlake would use his Superbowl performance to make amends with Janet Jackson, something very few people watching the superbowl were actually thinking…so I would say we’re seeing celebrity-centered narratives take the place of those big questions.
I really like some of Adam Harper’s and Jeremy Gilbert’s stuff as well but nothing has really grabbed me as of late…we should create a new thread tracking the music writers that we all find exciting as I definitely have a few names in mind. One thing I think is missing from your analysis of internship culture is the role that ‘artist relations’ have come to play in ridding us of negatie reviews…seriously. I have heard too many stories from journalists across the board, be it AP Magazine or XLR8R, who have told me horror stories about having old articles and reviews pulled because an artist who works with a powerful ad company wants it pulled. This article about the failed MTV News Experiment illuminates that dynamic well while wrongly focusing on the ‘failure of longform journalism.’ (No shit long-form journalism is failing in terms of how many clicks it gets and that it’s not a great investment…but I think it speaks more to the quality of the writing than the audience, tho that’s one serious chicken or the egg question).
Last summer, a childhood friend who I grew up playing music with said something that’s been haunting me ever since. Commenting on the lack of new bands in our town playing new music–you’re either a cover band or nothing–he said, “We’d have more bands if we knew how critique the bands we already have.” And that’s kinda been a big inspiration behind my own work.
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.