(Post-)Hardcore Continuum & UK Music Writing


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.


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.

Well, I could speculate here… BUT having had strange motives attributed to myself often (not just in this context), I will refrain. Let’s just say there’s an element of generational jousting going on…

gatekeeperism and branding

i do find this sort of accusation quite puzzling

Gatekeeping is daft - because this commentary (by the mid-2000s almost entirely on blogs) had very little impact on the scene itself, or magazine coverage, or record company interest. There was no gate and there was no keeping going on! Just people pontificating on blogs and message boards - and - to me at least - in a quite fun, boisterous, argumentative way.

But it was actually much the same in the Nineties - i should think the majority of people in the actual scene itself were blissfully unaware of this running commentary on them, they wouldn’t be reading The Wire or Melody Maker. Those pieces weren’t conceived as interventions in the scene - more like urgent dispatches from the front. If they had any motive or purpose beyond relating what was going on, trying to understand it, and to convey excitement, it would be to recruit outsiders from the scene to join in, or at least pay attention.

The scene had its own dynamic and evolutionary drive - and it was a question more of keeping up and trying to map it - freeze-frame the moment before it passed.

“Brand” is another odd one - i guess it aims to “lessen” or “lower” it somehow, down to the level of a Kardashian perfume line or something. Brands generate revenue, surely? It would be glorious if I got a quid every time someone used the term “hardcore continuum”, but sadly, that’s not the case!

(Same with ‘post-rock’ - the proliferation and staying power of the term does me no good, since I’ve not written a paid piece about a p-r band since Godspeed You Black Emperor back in 2000. The two books on post-rock are by other people).

it’s like with “intellectual land grab”, Zurko’s source’s other term - that tells you far more about him than it does me.

Just like any writer, I’m trying to persuade people that what I think is true is actually true, and I’m trying to be interesting. I can be pretty persuasive.


@zurkonic Absolutely, that understanding of genre you describe is one I feel quite comfortable with since coming of age during the time of its dominance… @PiLhead’s description illustrates quite well the geographic, format-lead understanding of scenes that has always felt quite impalpable to me, and I may have been willing to overlook.

Just going back through some of Mark Fishers writing on the subject, and his view was certainly different than Simon’s. For him the futurity seemed a defining factor, rather than only socio/physical conditions.

The issue of whether funky house or wonky have the same modernist velocity as jungle, speed garage and 2-step is far more significant than the - still contentious and interesting - question of whether they can still be classified as belonging to the hardcore continuum. It is not as if either funky or wonky have fully succumbed to the conditions of nostalgia and pastiche which are elsewhere completely dominant in postmodern culture. And there is no doubt that these scenes produce “good records”. The problem, though, can be grasped by a little time travel thought experiment. Imagine if it were possible to slip a wonky or a funky house track into a jungle set in 1993. Likely as not, there would have been a sense of incongruity, but there wouldn’t be future shock. But jungle would have provoked a sense of future shock if it were played to ravers in 1990, never mind if it were played in 1977 (the same difference in time between 1993 and now).

{The Abstract Reality of the “Hardcore Continuum”}

I think there’s a problem with this analogy, which would be the relevance of breakbeat-laden jungle to both a hardcore 1990 and the early turntablism / still-strong funk-soul mainstream 1977. The kind of reference points necessary for Wonky to make any kind of futuristic sense just didn’t exist in 1990 or 1977 and it couldn’t have come any earlier. Moving back to the postpostdubstep/non-scenes, the fact that producers today are trying to push beyond genre really actually limits the potential of future-shock. There’s barely any ‘Woah! did you see that coming?’ factor because there’s virtually no common reference point from which the audience is perceiving. It’s only when the brain is familiar with something that the dopamine really starts to kick in, and any micro-mutations within a genre are communally felt. But when genre is purposely scattershot, the ability to feel such a popular resonance is severely diminished. From this perspective, perhaps the HCC still exists but its ability to be felt as real does not.


Need to go re-read the above once I’ve cooled off from this heat but really glad you brought up that example of Fisher’s as it always really perturbed me. For a thinker who could be so methodical and incisive, I always found that analogy shockingly daft and purely hypothetical…I’ve had chats with older mates who recounted hearing jungle for the first time and just thinking it was sped-up funk breaks (just one or two compared to the countless who spoke rapturously about the first time they heard jungle)…but it just speaks to HOW FUCKING SUBJECTIVE all this is and that’s what makes music so goddamn wonderful. I love hearing something I find repulsive only to turn to my left or right and see someone seeing along to it…we all have different frames of reference. And sorry if I repeated anything you already said, just got excited to see that quote as I’d been meaning to at least point to it.


we all have different frames of reference

yes, but the implication being that during the HCC the commonality of these frames-of-reference were much closer. Garage was a kind of formula and the audience knew it. Deviations then had to quickly be given a new name. When this sense of a common perspective is lost within an audience, as we are seeing now, there can be no collective response, the psycho-entity of the HCC as a functional scene ceases to exist.

All this is completely different from Simon’s concept, it’s a completely different concept that shares the same name, and I love both.


Thanks for adding that @ETC …that’s a super important fact that is shockingly easy to gloss over from this vantage point…I also committed the cardinal sin of forum discssions and didn’t read your whole post, so I apologize for any accidental over-simplifications. But yes, from what I’ve read, the future shock narrative was seemingly embraced by Fisher as a chief reason why he found wonky and other post-nuum (or para-nuum) mutations lacking.

Whoa, well-fucking put…and I should add, I’ve encountered differing takes from Parris who argues that the idea of genre has been irrelevant since 2011 (right when you really had labels becoming shorthand for a certain style or scene…see Night Slugs, Numbers, Ramp et al.) to Batu who seeks to work at the margins of a genre, retaining the music’s functionality but presenting it in a way where the shock is more akin to having one’s language production abilities scrambled.

This quote from Parris has really informed a lot of what I’ve been writing about and researching…I LOVE the idea of creating a space that’s at once nothing and everything.

I’ve felt like the term genre has been pretty irrelevant in the current space of music over maybe the past 5-6 years due to the fact that there’s so much middle ground. labels like Hessle Audio and Hemlock helped in opening doors which most people didn’t even know existed and helped in using the hardcore continuum as a catapult into exploring different spaces. Its also more that I’m just more interested in the negative space of being part of everything but also part of nothing. Great examples of this are people like Beatrice Dillon, Actress, Minor Science and Bruce. These are 4 producers who I would happily mention because their music sits nowhere but at the same time sits everywhere.

And I agree with all four examples, but in particular, Beatrice Dillon and Bruce…to be honest, this interview was one of those feelings of, “are you in my mind rn homie!!!”

I feel like the perfect example of this is Bruce’s EP on Hemlock. Every track is so distinguished but at the same time what is it? Before You Sleep is probably my favourite tune to come out this year and yet where would you place it? It sits in nothing but everything at the same time and also Beatrice DIllon’s ‘Can I Change My Mind?’

I find myself actively seeking out music where my response is simply, I don’t know how to describe this. In the two examples he uses–the B1 on the Bruce mixes beautifully with the Dillon btw;)–both use musical language that is quite conventional but synthesized with other styles and sounds in such a way that it’s maybe not reducible to the sum of its parts…maybe. But in an era where hearing 99% of new music results in my doing the mental calculus of “ok, so they’re operating in x tradition and drawing upon y and z style while emulating a, b, and c,” to be able to do that and still not be sure how to class a track…well, I’m still coming to my conclusions as to what this means, if anything! That Dillon track was just such a fucking revelation to me because here was an artist who I could see being heavily influenced by Mark Fell, Jan Jelinek, krautrock, dub techno, house, and god knows what else. But does it actually sound like anything else? (Really, does it?)

But then again, it would likely be described as a rhythmic techno track in most publications and that’s what drives me up the wall…not that this track should constitute the creation of a new genre term but at least I would hope writers would seek to come up with some more descriptive language. I was clowning on @PiLhead’s writing from the 90s earlier for its ample use of genre neologisms, but at least he was making a goddamn effort to create terms that would help readers better conceptualize what he was writing about (especially since they couldn’t just YouTube it). And perhaps that’s the issue? Why stress yourself trying to coin a new descriptor or genre when you’re just going to be mercilessly critiqued by the internet and they can simply listen and draw their own conclusions? And that’s why I keep coming back to that quote from a friend I mentioned earlier: “We don’t have any new bands because we lack the language with which to critique the ones we do have.”

Sorry, realized I moved into a more music criticism direction but I think both threads have shown how concepts/theorization and criticism (can) go hand and in hand.


I think we’ve essentially honed in on what defines the ‘Post-HCC’ as a entity itself, there’s a cohesive approach to genre, there is its own sporadic modes of dissemination, the scenes seeming inability to really go beyond the hardcore into the popular imagination. It would appear via many of your quotations that the HCC is alive and kicking in the minds of producers today but they also actively refuse to abide by it’s tenets. The fact it may be given a singular name like ‘Techno’ is only an issue in as far as the term itself describes a very particular approach to genre that isn’t inherent in the post-HCC.

I’ll just quickly paraphrase that Fisher article for ease of annotation, as I think it really addresses where this convo is at:

[in dispute of Reynolds:] The reality of the hardcore continuum is not of the order of a physical fact, but of an abstract entity. The notion of an abstract-real materiality may cause commonsense to recoil, yet a moment’s reflection makes us realise that, not only that abstract entities are real, but that there is nothing more real than them. Unless we posit abstract entities, what sense can we make of the credit crunch and the recession we are currently living through? For me, the hardcore continuum is rather like capital: it cannot be experienced as such, but it has clearly identifiable effects.

Part of what was interesting about the concept of the HCC was that “it” rather than individual artists seemed to be the creative force in generating music. The actions of producers, DJs and dancers were both constrained and enabled by the vicissitudes of the continuum; they could not enforce a change in style by fiat.

Part of the reason that it is important to reflect on the hardcore continuum is that it was an example of a culture in which, to use archaic and perhaps misleading terms, “tradition” and the “individual talent” could interact. There was a system in place tight enough to ensure a kind of evolving consistency, but loose enough to enable innovation. Here was a culture in which there was “interactivity” and “participation” but it happened at the right speed - the circuit in place didn’t flatten out into immediate access for everyone. Unlike Web 2.0, the time of the HCC was still a punctual time. It was still the time of dub plates, clubs and record releases, not the dissolute and distributed Web 2.0 time of leaked mp3 downloads, play-anytime webcasts and instantaneous comment.

This decade’s dance music is held to have moved beyond critical models established in response to the music of the 1990s, and the disputes here bring into play a certain generational antagonism… The complaint of the older generation here is not the familiar one that new music is incomprehensible. On the contrary - the problem is that the music being produced this decade is all too comprehensible.

I do disagree with the last sentence (it was written in 2009), because as you’ve said, the understanding of one song by one artist today actually requires that you comprehend Mark Fell, Jan Jelinek, Krautrock, dub techno, and house. This goes back to the atomisation into the individual we mentioned very early in the topic. But I think this is the distinction between then and now, and the self-immolation of the continuum/birth of a new one.

A note for another time perhaps, but isn’t there some similarity between this and the post-punk movement of the 80s?


I must admit, but you lost me a bit with the first line…what do you mean by “cohesive approach to genre?” Now, I will be the first to admit that at the moment, I feel like I’m reporting from an abyss in outlining the post-HCC as I’m just so in my own thoughts and still figuring out how to present them in the most lucid manner. But for me, one of the defining aspects is the noncohesive approach to genre. But perhaps I am not understanding your phrasing. As I was trying to communicate with the Bruce example, even when he goes the 4X4 techno route, he does so in wildly different ways. For instance:

“Not Stochastic,” a song that I see as something of a starting point for ‘the new school’ of producers operating in this space.


“I’m Alright Mate,” which is 130BPM bigroom techno that’s a Trojan Horse for “digital noise devastation”:

And by “inability to go beyond the hardcore” do you mean the underground or the HCC? As @pilhead mentioned–and this is what really helped my own understanding, or at last my understanding for my purposes-- “‘tradition’ is a word that could be substituted for ‘continuum’” and that’s really how I’ve come to understand its role in the present moment. In some interviews, the HCC almost felt interchangeable with Britshness (in the sense of their being shaped by the particular musical culture of the UK, from dub to dubstep). And as Simon noted, he started using the word ‘continuum’ in a causal way, which is what was tripping me up…the use of the word tradition by the artists I interviewed felt much less deterministic as I don’t think any of them expects to achieve the singularity of a dubstep or jungle, which seems to be both frustrating or freeing depending on whom you’re talking to.

I admittedly bristle at the second except you pulled as it was characterizations that seemed to almost grant the HCC a certain volition that felt like they were perhaps overextending the argument (at least past a point where I could really relate). But then again, I’ve had to set that one aside as I lack the historical knowledge and first-hand experience to dispute such an assertion.

One phrase you used that I’d like to hone in upon is “sporadic modes of dissemination.” I’m not sure what you mean by this, but perhaps it’s the “sporadic” characterization that’s throwing me off. Indeed, the labels release schedules do follow a certain rhythm but also isn’t beholden to, say, having dubplates or promos ready for trendsetting DJ’s on a weekly basis. BUT what is most certainly sporadic is how tracks are now disseminated as there is no real ‘middleperson’ between a producer and a DJ (hypothetically) and you so often read how a DJ starts playing someone’s tracks due to meeting them at a gig or through a friend and they start being sent tracks (most often as part of a mailing list of sorts comprised of other DJ’s and label types). And as regards the techno banner, while I think it’s frustrating for them to a point, I probably bare the brunt of the irritation as it speaks to an issue totally separate from the HCC (inasmuch as it applies to the whole world) and that’s both the growing dependence of broad genre terms like house, bass, or techno and music that, to these ears, cries out for a term or characterization that reflects some deeper understanding of music history.

This project grew out of my frustrations as a writer over both the lack of nuance in terms of dance music reporting–I swear, if this were Pitchfork or some respected indie rock rag, you’d see a more attentive characterization of the music…and that’s really a from-the-hip opinion. But, as an older DJ/writer friend makes constant pain to note in our discussions about the dance music press, to intelligently discuss, spin, and make dance music kinda requires a lot of time and work that is arguably unlike any genre outside of classical music. To appreciate a track often means to understand what came before it in the preceding thirty years and beyond. And that’s not to disparage other genres nor am I trying to risk being called an essentialist (along the lines of rockism or poptimism, the latter of which began as a critical strategy and hardened into an ideology…this Quietus piece elicited a lot of out-loud “EXACTLY”'s when it appeared).

I could be easily wrong, but to me, it feels as if this is exactly what Fisher is bemoaning, the ability for music to be reduced to those genres and artists…and the fact that music-making itself is often approached in this way (as it’s always been, but in a much more plural manner than ever before, I feel). And I agree that it has become extremely comprehensible as I mentioned in how I hear most music as a math equation of influence and re-appropriation (and you can too…just by listening to Diplo;) Sorry, cheap shot on poor ol’ Wes.

But yes, absolutely there’s’ an atomising going on as @str_apx noted …I had to backtrack a bit to read your earlier post and the Firsher quote from Crack magazine really highlights a quality of his I both admired in its perceptiveness and abstraction and disliked for his constant framing within a post-Marxist framework (but that’s just my own bias obviously). What I find interesting though is how he makes these rather acute generalities such as “underlying this sense of infinite fungibility is that overwhelming sense that nothing can ever happen again” which I 100% believe is one of the primary anxieties within art today. If you haven’t read it, the second essay in this David Graber book is just marvelous in grounding that claim in concrete examples (leveling off of patents, the commercial goals of research, the great unspoken disappointment over a future/potential unrealized).

OK, I realize I may not have advanced anything here but just wanted to clarify my findings/theories so far and to clarify your points…the internet really facilitates assumption-making and I think just taking the moment to stop and ask, wait, what do you mean, is one of the most radically effective actions we can take as a means of possibly one day reaching our potential. I so do appreciate being afforded the space to do just that:)


Everything that can be read in that passage by Fisher, the characteristics of HCC, is in fact the complete antithesis of the post-HCC. Now it’s a celebration of the individual, a destruction of the tradition, the younger (read, newer) generation are actively dismantling what the HCC meant. But all in all, this approach is (subconsciously) a cohesive one. It is a contradiction, but the rules of the ‘genre’ are simply to confuse them, and that approach is uniform and cohesive, to obfuscate and render classification obsolete.

By ‘inability to go beyond the hardcore’ I did mean the ‘underground’, yes. I don’t see this scene as being able to chart in the UK or elsewhere as happened with Grime or Garage (or as Wonky and Post-Dubstep didn’t).

Yes, sporadic as in sources of distribution rather than release timings. The places to go and find this stuff are as obfuscated as the music. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around who could be described as a ‘tastemaker’ today, and I just don’t think there is such a thing now.

I think its worth reading Fisher’s full essay I was transcribing from, maybe it makes no sense being torn up the way I did in this topic. But he’s essentially challenging the notions @PiLhead put forward in this very thread, that actually it’s more than just cold hard facts (and also a few other peoples theories, including that HCC is just pure abstract theory with no basis in reality) but is actually an abstract entity, and that abstract entity is in fact real.

From Simon’s account, it’s very hard at all to see what came/comes next, the scene died, but from Mark’s one can deduce where it all went, and that was what he was bemoaning, he didn’t like the postmodernity, the individualisation, etc. But it was perhaps these biases that lead to the ignoring of what the conceptual framework the Post-HCC is. The newer generations’ rejection of critical models of the nineties, the tradition, the lineage, the collectivism, even the futurism. What exists today does exist and it exists in antithesis to the past, the HCC.

That’s my reading, and i also see a similarity with what happened with post-punk (although I may be way out of my depth). That was the destruction of punk as a genre and the continuation of punk as an ethos. The atomisation that happened then of taking wider and wider frames of reference, incorporating african tropes, reggae, everything to destroy what came before (just listen to the chronology of The Raincoats discography, as a clear example). Unfortunately, I never got round to reading Rip It Up And Start Again, and I don’t know if Simon or Mark saw post-punk with the same postmodernist horror that (Fisher, at least) saw in the then unfolding Post-HCC. But again, his horror wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the music, but that it didn’t fulfil his own sensibilities, or the continuation of popular modernity.

These things that are pointed out though aren’t just specific to one genre or scene, but I think are felt as a wider cultural movement, like you say with Art. There’s a sense I’ve been coming to terms with as an artist myself that actually what I’ve been working towards, however individual it felt, has actually been in keeping with the general trend, and that all that general trend may not hold much potential to change anything at all (in that old shock-of-the-new type way).


i also see a similarity with what happened with post-punk (although I may be way out of my depth). That was the destruction of punk as a genre and the continuation of punk as an ethos. The atomisation that happened then of taking wider and wider frames of reference, incorporating african tropes, reggae, everything to destroy what came before (just listen to the chronology of The Raincoats discography, as a clear example).

this is a good analogy - up to a certain point - with postdubstep

because with postpunk you have two things going on at the same time

postpunk is not the cancellation or rejection of punk, indeed the term contains ‘punk’ within it - in a sense punk is honored as the starting point, the Event that breaks apart rock history.

at the same postpunk breaks down a lot of the barriers that punk created - in its necessary singlemindedness and fanaticism - to embrace other kinds of musical possibility

so it’s like punk is what postpunk takes its bearings from - even as it goes off in all kinds of exploratory directions (and ends up sounding not at all punk rocky)

most postpunk artists saw themselves as the true fruition of punk spirit (change, experimentation, radical commitments, independence etc) - whereas punk-fundamentalist sounds like Oi!, they felt had missed the point badly

similar thing with postdubstep - there’s a combination of a sense of reverence towards and deep knowledge of the HCC tradition (of which dubstep would have been the last instance, the immediate point from which bearings are taken) with an ongoing musical praxis that entails breaking with most of what defined a/ dubstep b/ other earlier HCC stages

or you will get elements of the HCC archive being combined with things that were historically elements of other electronic dance lineages (or continuums, even)

the difference between postpunk and postdubstep that make the analogy shakier - the former is as much about lyrics, vocal delivery, political stances, etc as it is about sonics - postdubstep is much more purely about sonics and rhythm - both have strong intellectual discourses around them but with postpunk it’s a lot more intense and driving: the weekly music press, fanzines, etc.

another key difference is that postpunk is largely about groups - bands. whereas postdubstep is more about individuals so i think there is a greater tendency towards atomisation

i tend to think groupthink is much maligned - and that the strength of scenes and genres is when people “swarm” or “flock” around a currently reigning sound-template and stretch that template in all kinds of ways, without actually abandoning it.

i’m very into this idea of “the sound of the radio changes” - and that’s on the pirate radio level (e.g suddenly the pirates nearly all switch to UK garage) but also on the mass level (suddenly in the early 90s grunge and alt-rock take-over the radio). because it’s exciting - and you feel like the popular culture is going somewhere

it relates to this thing I’ve started calling “positive unoriginality” - when an innovation is copied. So e.g. Timbaland comes up with some new beat structures in the mid/late 90s and he’s widely copied - and the sound of R&B radio changes. The copyists are actually playing a valuable role. Because of them, innovation becomes installed at a culture-wide level.

You see this syndrome again and again in the electronic dance music - the Beltram and Belgian sound, sped up breakbeats, the French filter disco sound.

It also means as well as that when the clones come marching in, an idea-template will get used up quicker and so there is pressure to come up with something new - so everything rattles along at a fair clip.

The everyone-going-their-own-solo-path approach can produce wonderfully odd quirky things - but i think atomised auterism has an entropic tendency.


Yes, spot on.

This is unfair, I think. Marx never wrote anything about post-capitalism. Sure, he thought we had to go through capitalism and couldn’t say, return to the pre-capitalist fantasies envisaged by certain sections of the left, but that’s somewhat different to saying there’s a teleology in Marx. I mean, we’re in capitalism, and we will go through it, in one way or another, and saying that isn’t prescribing any end point towards which things must travel.

I think this kind of states part of the problem: how political can your aesthetics really be now? I’ve felt this way for a long, long time and it’s a feeling that gets confirmed more than rejected by what I see/hear. Surely the focus has to be the production/distribution now???