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
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)
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.
A (very) late notice to say that The Wire's David Stubbs will be appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme tomorrow morning to discuss his new book, Fear Of Music: Why People Get Rothko But Don't Get Stockhausen. He'll be on at 8:20, I understand.
While I won't claim that early 90s junglists Tek9 aka 4Hero had the power to warp the spacetime continuum, "Del Die Gogo" from their recently reissued early Reinforced material certainly had me checking my iPod and counting out the beats to check it wasn't skipping. I think they've sampled the synth riff of Human Resource's "Dominator", but screwed up into micro black hole.
I can't be alone in noticing a subtle shift
in the public appreciation of Krautrock. Press release after press
release comes into The Wire HQ suggesting a group sounds like Can,
Faust and Neu! – a ridiculous claim, as they hardly sounded alike
in the first place. Nevertheless, the number of projects coping a
Krautrock feel – The
Horrors on their new album (after a pretty weak cover of
Suicide recently – another act who are threatened with looming
Brand Neu! tribute album (title says it all), featuring Oasis,
of all people (Neu! is "great tour bus music", I think Noel
Gallagher was quoted as saying), and most bizarre of all, David
Holmes. Add Portishead's Third into the mix, and
it's almost ubiquitous.
Generally they take only the most basic common denominators of German experimental rock – the motorik rhythm, the spiralling guitars, but particularly, motorik rhythm. What's going on here? Krautrock has suddenly become a signifier of seriousness, the never-ending autobahn of Neu! a kind of aspiration to never-ending longevity, but also a melancholic nostalgia for when there were still roads to be built. Often these days, dropping into a motorik rhythm isn't the sign of innovation, but a lack of anything more interesting to do. It no longer conjures up wide-open possibilities, but an aesthetic retrenchment when there's nothing else they can bring to the table.
Of course, the last thing proper Krautrockers would have done these days is just hammer away at a long-overused rhythm. And just as I was typing this post, a press release just crossed my desk namechecking Cluster and Popul Vuh, too. Of course, one shouldn't blame the artists for such material, but it does suggest Krautrock has become a currency (in all senses) in music industry speak these days.
We're running a competition to win tickets for this week's screening in London of Sunny's Time Now, a new documentary about the influential drummer Sunny Murray, with a Q&A; afterwards with saxophonist Tony Bevan and Tony Herrington from The Wire. Here's the details:
Win a pair of tickets to the London ICA Screening!
The Wire presents: Sunny's Time Now + Q&A;
London ICA, Cinema 1
18 April 2009 8:15pm
£8/£7 Concessions/£6 ICA Members.
"Bang! Let's go on. Like Louis Pasteur. They ain't fucked with the milk since then, except maybe diluted it a little bit." Sunny Murray
Sunny's Time Now retraces the rough-and-tumble life and career of influential free jazz drummer Sunny Murray. Directed by Luxembourg film maker Antoine Prum, this documentary includes interviews with key witnesses (including Cecil Taylor, Val Wilmer, Robert Wyatt, William Parker, Grachan Moncur III) and exclusive concert footage of Murray in performance with the likes of Bobby Few, Sonny Simmons, and his trio with Tony Bevan and John Edwards. As well as casting some light into the shadows of a star-crossed jazz life, the film reassesses the intricate relationships between the libertarian music movement and the political climate of the 1960s.
After the screening there will be a Q&A; with the director, saxophonist Tony Bevan, and The Wire's Tony Herrington.
A great part of Cath & Phil Tyler gig at Dalston's Café Oto a couple Friday's ago (20 March) was hearing their version of the trad tune "Courting Is A Pleasure" one of my favourite recordings by the guitarist/vocalist/fiddler Nic Jones - a tune from his excellent Penguin Eggs album. Jones's recording is a great example of his impressive guitar skills, with its faultless and quick, almost harsh rhythmic picking complementing and intertwining with his vocals creating an uncomfortable and driving effect.
The Tyler's version on the other hand, broke the song down into slowly shifting fragments and a sleepy pace, a great version that translated the song into a kind of lullaby (well, compared to Jones's version...) Either way, the Tyler's show was a great gig, different from the studio recordings I've heard (Dumb Supper) which were far more dry, droning and harsh, than the rounded folkiness I heard on Friday.
There's other arrangements of the song out there... One by the Watersons called "Meeting Is A Pleasure" and another version that goes by the name "Loving Hannah" and another whose title is also the refrain of the tune, "Lovely Molly"... I'm pretty sure Cath said that she first heard a version of it on a fund raising compilation released by the New Jersey free form radio station WFMU... I tried to find out which CD she was talking about but to no avail...
Chris Bohn's Adventures In Modern Music show on Resonance FM last night included a mix from Ekkehard Ehlers, with scratchy vinyl delights from Alice Coltrane, Caetano Veloso and more. Other good stuff from the show included The Threshold Houseboys Choir, Trembling Bells and Super Vacations.
Took a while, but our Adventures In Modern Music show on Resonance FM from 12 March is finally online ready for download etc. Includes tracks from Mordant Music, Evan Parker & John Wiese and Alasdair Roberts. Available here. Sorry for the delay, normal service is now resumed etc.