Friday, 6 March 2009

A square peg in a round (k) hole

The seemingly endless theoretical wrangling over the existence and extent of the fabled "Hardcore Continuum" reaches something approaching a tabloid bunfight today as noted theory gonk, Simon Reynolds (someone for whom the existence of the HC represents a something of a meal ticket) kicked wonky to the HC curb for ideological heresy.
The crime? Not fitting neatly with Reynolds' thesis and key producers rejecting Reynolds' analysis (and possibly implying that he's, like totally old). What emerges from this little narrative can be summarised thus:

doesn't really like wonky. He can't dance to it. It's influenced by musics outside those universally decreed to be part of the HC "canon". Some people might take Ketamine at dances. It smells. Luke Vibert probably did it first. It involves producers from outside London engaging with a broader community, enabled by the internet. There are no 'zines. Or if there are the 'zine authors are insufficently conversant with Marxist theory and refuse to engage with an overwrought dialectical style birthed by hip young journalistic gunslingers in early 90's London.

Heaven forfend! The struggle for the discursive high-ground regarding wonky fails to see the energy, invention and excitement in that "scene" at the moment.It seems Reynolds would prefer if the major players conformed more to geographical or ideological boundaries, he seeks to
compare/contrast it with sounds that have a more philosophical basis. He doesn't seem to want them running around, hanging out, collaborating and learning from producers from all over the world. It's disappointing that a writer, who professes allegiance to the energy, anarchy and vitality of hardcore seems so intent on decrying ideological heresy among young producers.

I like Reynolds' writing, he's written some superb analyses of significant recent music history. But there are limitations to how far you can apply theory to reality. Throughout the history of dance musics there has been a "folk" element to certain scenes, locality and the sense of community that's formed through friendships and going to the same parties, listening to the same records, hanging out in the same pubs all contribute to productions.
Disco in 1970's New York was a diverse genre with certain clubs forging a distinct musical identity. From this chaos history is made, certain records were deemed "Garage" records, certain ones "Loft", certain ones "Studio". The Glaswegian Numbers crew are clearly influenced by Dopplereffekt and other US musics, undoubtedly through the Club 69/Rub a Dub crew. This is its own continuum, one that doesn't begin and end at the Watford Gap.
The Scottish Hardcore continuum (if such a thing even exists) is a significantly different beast (and has a different legacy) to that of, say Ireland. Through donning the straitjacket of Reynolds' theory we only see part of the picture, and one that is possibly seen through the rosy tinted specs of hindsight.
In a recent post, ISM's Pipecock really articulates the excitement of discovery, the simple joy of playing, listening to and losing your mind to records; looking to a musical continuum that isn't theoretical, one that's personal, that's formed through friends, great parties and just fucking doing it without fully understanding it.
One that "inspired damn near everyone I know to go buy record by cats like Drexciya and Basic Channel and start throwing them in the mix with any old funky electronic shit we could find."
Amen to that.

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