The Wire

In Writing

The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

ad-miring the 'nuum

Lisa Blanning

Here's my slightly revised presentation from last week's Hardcore Continuum seminar (thanks to Steve and Jeremy for making it all happen). I was actually going to do more revision, but as K-Punk reminds me, one can endlessly revise and then it'll never get posted or published anywhere. Plus, perhaps it'd be disingenuous to present something here superior to or bearing little relation to what was actually presented there.
For anyone interested who couldn't make it, you can find Alex Williams's and Blackdown's pieces on their respective blogs already. As well, if you haven't seen it already, footage of Simon's talk on the 'nuum from earlier this year can be found from FACT Liverpool's site here. And of course, his original articles which outlined his ideas about this have been made available on our own website, (introduction to the online re-publishings here)

Redefining Hardcore
As an American living in London, I’ve got something of an outsider’s perspective to all of this. In fact, when I first heard the term "Hardcore Continuum" I didn’t know that the reason Simon Reynolds named it as such was in homage to the trend that kicked it off: Hardcore Rave. Yet the idea of a Hardcore Continuum made instant sense to me, without any need for explanation.
But with the knowledge that “Hardcore” refers to Hardcore Rave comes an image of the ‘nuum like a line (or lines) of dominoes, each microgenre along the way acting as a catalyst to a successor down the line, furthering the kinetic motion. Unfortunately, the linear quality of this may be exactly what prevents some from fully embracing what is otherwise an insightful example of pattern recognition.
For myself, I prefer to think of another definition of ‘hardcore’: something or somebody completely uncompromising in vision or commitment to an idea – in this case, the music. For me, the Hardcore Continuum is hardcore in this manner for two reasons. Firstly, the rigidity of the format: electronic beat-driven music originating in the UK, designed to make people dance. Secondly, more importantly, it’s the constant search for new ideas; an undertaking to innovate instead of resting on tried and tested formulas. When thought of in this way, ‘hardcore’ becomes defining ethos instead of ground zero for the phenomenon.
This hardcore drive in the UK producers whose work we’re talking about today may differ slightly from the more political rock and punk artists the term is more often associated with. While it’s probably safe to say that all of these key producers have strived to be a little different than their predecessors, it’s often the case that there may be additional underlying motivations. These can include relief from boredom, the hope to turn a quick buck or perhaps only the need to feed an audience that thrives on novelty. It’s not a question of “doing it for the right reasons, man”. Instead, the end product maintains strict standards of one-upmanship that hone an edge of competition and permutation. This ever-shifting landscape of club culture is both the cause and effect to the constantly evolving sounds until neither the audiences nor the artists will settle for less than the newest and the best. There’s no time for complacency when you’re hardcore.
When ‘Hardcore’ is redefined as above, it helps clean up the more contentious issues of Reynolds’s existing model. It’s easy to throw out the more arbitrary presuppositions – “ridiculous sublime” is one – and a seemingly necessarily causal relationship between the microgenres. It doesn’t matter that they come from each other (although a connection is certainly audible almost all of the time); more that they all come from the same place – Britain – and serve the same purpose – making people move, stepping it up beyond the previously established sounds, one mutated dance form at a time.
Once you give birth to something, it has its own life, it exists in its own right and belongs to the world. Reynolds knows this and has stated that he is happy for others to grapple with the notions that he has proposed and take up the development of his ideas. They are not so sacred that his framework cannot be adjusted. But the limitations are not within the concepts surrounding the Hardcore Continuum, but rather lie within the people who would deny the value of its ideas and refuse to take it upon themselves to improve upon them.