Wednesday, May 13, 2009

THE NUUM AND ITS DISCONTENTS, # 2
GENRE versus SCENE


Strange that my innocent analogy with Australia should prove such a stumbling block with the assembly!

The choice of Australia was arbitrary, but I almost seem to have been guided to it by my unconscious, as it's perfectly suited to my argument.

I was referring--and I thought this would be obvious--not to Australia as a political unit, which is obviously a man-made convention, nor to the population, but to the land mass denoted by the word Australia. No one, surely, would deny that this land mass exists and would exist whatever we had decided to call it?

What makes it such a fitting analogy for the hardcore continuum is that it is a substantial body of land, large enough to have several different climate zones in it, but in the grander planetary scheme of things it is eclipsed by much vaster, more densely populated continents. Australia is also relatively isolated. There are territories quite near it--the Philippines, New Zealand--but it is cut off from the other continents. And as a result its ecosystem has a number of animals and plants you don't find elsewhere in the world. Evolution took a different path there.

Until really quite recently this has been one of the striking things about the hardcore continuum: its relative insularity and its evolutionary peculiarities. Note the word "relative". Nonetheless I believe it operated in a relatively self-contained way through the Nineties and a good way into this decade. It assimilated stuff from outside--as influences or through sample theft--but this was funneled into its own internal dynamic of evolution and the creative war of all against all. The scene's focus was inward; centripetal, you might say.

But what about my contentious assertion that the hardcore continuum is an entity, some kind of thing?

I'm not a philosophy student so don't have the squeamishness about certain words ("empirical"; see also vitalist, Romantic, etc) that seems to come with that training. I have what I suppose must seem like a rather literalist/realist--even commonsensical--approach, in so far as I think that things I've witnessed and participated in actually… existed. Perhaps if I'd used the word "phenomenon" rather than thing it would have gone down better. Probably not, there are so many forbidden words in philosophy, aren't there? (Such that certain texts often seemed to be produced out of the contortions made to avoid contamination by certain yuck-yuck concepts or unclean bodies of thought!).

The philosophy students haven't actually had too much to recoil from in this discussion, though, because the experiential and empirical have mostly been eschewed in favour of musical taxonomy. So far the discussion has almost entirely been on the level of genre as opposed to scene. The scenic aspects of the hardcore continuum--the stuff you can see (and feel and smell)--hardly came up at all at the UEL seminar. My Liverpoool talk had a bit more on this aspect, especially at the start but quickly fell into the typical mode of genre-focused talk, tracking the evolution of the music, etc.

Genres can exist without scenes, but it doesn't happen often and in the case of the hardcore continuum the two things are virtually indivisible. When you contemplate the scenery of the hardcore continuum, the analogy with Australia makes complete sense, merely states the obvious. The scene is everything that surrounds and supports the music: the clubs and raves, the media (pirate radio primarily) and the retail network of independent specialist record stores, the labels and DJ agencies. The scene consists of flows of money and of drugs, of energy and emotion. The scene is everything that the music catalyses in terms of behavior and discourse: dance moves and crowd rituals, clothing styles and the graphic imagery of flyers/zines/ record sleeves. And finally the scene consists of the punters, the individuals who come together to form the massive(s).

In a nutshell, "scene" contains and refers to everything in the hardcore continuum that isn't music.

(I think I could make a case for the music as a thing, to be honest: soundwaves have material impact on the ear drums and limbs and other body parts of the dancing crowd; until it's activated the music is trapped inside various recording formats, vinyl or mix-tapes; the music has discernible patterns and structures in it. But we'll leave that argument for now).

So when I say the hardcore continuum is like Australia, what I'm saying is that for a period of some duration, multitudes of people gathered repeatedly, participating in a great number of events that took place at various geographical sites--sometimes one-off parties, more often regular locations--where they behaved in particular ways, expending energy and passion and time and money in a fashion that had direct consequences on their day-to-day lives, and, indirectly, incalculable (meaning hard to calibrate but also "big") effects on the society they lived in; that there was a material infrastructure supporting this through which substantial revenue passed, ranging from the legal (promoters, retail, record labels) to the criminal (drug trade, etc). The nuum was (maybe still is) a socio-economic force in the world and a cultural force (maybe even a proto-political one, more on this in a later post).

In all these senses, the hardcore continuum was (maybe still is) a concrete, material entity of real consequence and impact. By all means stop using the term; that won't unmake the referent it was coined to describe, any more than a worldwide ban on the use of the term "Australia" wouldn't cause that isolated continent in the Southern Hemisphere to cease existing, let alone cause it to never have existed. The only difference is that the hardcore continuum was a historical entity as opposed to a geographical one.

Of course there's another difference, which is that the term "hardcore continuum" is a specialist one as opposed to a generally used term like "Australia". True, it has currency only within a milieu of people who enjoy analyzing music and subculture, and if you went up to most actual inhabitants of the nuum they would look blankly if the word "hardcore continuum" was uttered. But the thing that it describes--a family tree of genres + scenes that runs, in the simplest formulation, hardcore/jungle/UK garage/grime/dubstep--is material and consequential in the same way (if not degree) as Australia is.

"Scene", then, is everything in a musical subculture that isn't the music itself. Scene, but not heard.

Why did we hear so little about "scene" then, and so much about genre?

Genre is easier to talk about. To illustrate a talk, you can play examples of the music much easier than you can convey what it's like to be in the thick of the scene, what the vibe is like (although I tried to get some of that across with the flyers and other ephemera projected on the FACT big screen). There isn't much footage and what there is doesn't really convey what it was like to be on the dancefloor, the sensory overload, the crowd reactions, etc.

At UEL, as Dan Hancocks was quick to point out (and pat himself on the back for), he was pretty much the only person in four hours to actually mention dancing, what this music is ostensibly created for. And the snippet he offered--that the rhythms of funky prompt a different kind of dancing than dubstep or earlier nuum genres--was fascinating. It actually gave me a way into funky, to learn that moving to it involves the hands and arms and shoulders much more than hips or feet. (Perhaps it's the case that different zones of the drum kit activate different zones of the body, so that the higher in tone/timbre percussion sounds tug at the upper body? Or is it just the intricate flickering rhythm patterns invite sinuous finger and arm movements?). This one, brief morsel of data opened up funky for me much more than all the detailed breakdowns of influence-constituents in Track X or Track Y, the micro-taxonomic analyses of miniscule eddies of style-flava within the genre. (Such a pity he immediately went back to dredging up 2006 blog posts of mine!).

Here's an article from early 2008 where I talk about dance music journalism's strange silence about dancing.

"Scene" is the most objectively undeniable and vividly concrete aspect of the nuum, yet it's the thing we habitually neglect to talk about, instead wrestling endlessly over genre theory, tracking various auteur-hero musicians and the influence they had or the influences that made them, discussing intricacies of technology and production. Meanwhile, the affective, the experiential, the behavioural, the social, the participatory… all these "aspects", which are less aspects and much closer to being the whole raison d'etre of the music, get short shrift. Why do we do this?

The pro-nuum camp tends to fall into this approach because of the emphasis on theory, which abstracts the music from the experiential; it will talk about scenius dynamics in an abstract and machinic way, but rarely about the specific ways that the massive create the screenplay to the music's soundtrack; it will celebrate "energy" but in a depersonalized way, as though it was not embodied or enacted by flesh and blood people. The anti-nuum camp has little motivation to evoke the vividness of the nuum as lived historical reality, since it wishes to wish it away. Besides, as I pointed out in my previous reflection, anti-nuumers tend to have an auteur-ist bias and are therefore less interested in scene reporting or participant-observer type documenting of the scene.

Plus, it's what boys do, and the majority of us appear to be boys, regrettably (and the reasons deserve further investigation). Boys like getting stuck into the aggy business of taxonomic disputation and border skirmishes.

Thinking again of Australia (a small continent or large island, who can say?) led me to another analogy with the hardcore continuum that may be less contentious and even more apt. A smaller island that is (or was, until really quite recently) also a relatively isolated music culture. Jamaica. Yes yes, reggae starts with New Orleans R&B misheard, rhythmically inverted. But the focus of Jamaican music culture was inward: the sound systems in the early days might have sent people to the U.S. mainland to scoop up obscure R&B singles but the systems were warring with each other and very soon the music evolved into a totally indigenous sound. There are obviously historical links between Jamaica and the hardcore continuum (transplantation of the sound system/MC, rewinds, dubplates culture to the U.K.) but the parallel works on a more abstract level, in the sense that you have a relatively insular music culture that becomes a kind of pressure-cooker of runaway musical evolution. And what you have in Jamaica is both a macro-genre and a macro-scene. The two things are tightly tethered to each other but they are not identical, which means that the genre can slip out of alignment with the scene and even have a kind of lingering post-scene afterlife. The classic example here is what happened to reggae. It's commonly thought that reggae is synonymous with Jamaican music but strictly speaking it's a phase--after ska and rocksteady, before 80s digital dancehall and ragga. What happens is that reggae-as-genre slips away from the scene that spawned it and becomes a global music, thanks to Bob Marley, The Police, et al. In response to this internationalisation, the native scene renamed itself dancehall, as if to acknowledge that the local audience must always takes primacy over any specific genre of Jamaican music; it named itself after the social spaces in which the music is heard, where its audience gather. At first dancehall was just digital reggae but then it gradually becomes what we think of dancehall today. And that is based around rhythms that actually predate reggae and predate ska, folk rhythms from rural Jamaica. Ultimately though "dancehall" means whatever the Jamaican audience dance too, which includes dancehall-as-genre, old style reggae riddims now and then brought back into favour, hip hop instrumentals from the States, other Caribbean rhythms like soca, and now, it's said, even some funky from London… But if the Kingston massive started shimmying to Radiohead instrumentals that would become "dancehall" too.

I think the relationship between nuum-as-macrogenre and nuum-as-macroscene is similar to Jamaica. The paradigm example in nuum terms is the switch-over from drum & bass to speed garage--drum & bass becomes untethered from the scene, becomes a UK-nationwide and increasingly international genre, while the scene itself, the nuum heartland of London, embraces a new genre that restores some of the junglistic things that D&B had lost but in a new slower and sexier rhythmic template.

So if not Australia, then perhaps we can accept the notion of the hardcore continuum as a sort of Jamaica-like entity within the UK… a nation within the nation, without borders in the conventional political or geographic sense, but certainly with privileged sites, gathering spots, centripetal zones. The fact that the idea of "nation" even rises to the discursive surface of nuum culture sometimes, with names like Jungle Nation and Garage Nation, suggests this analogy is sound. A tribe is a small nation, and likewise a subcultural tribe is a form of micro-nation organised around musical affiliation.

Finally, I have to disagree with a notion several people have brought up, the idea that the concept of the hardcore continuum is motivated by a canonic impulse, and therefore rooted in snobbery (boo, hiss! Critics should never say what's good and bad, should they?). This is a misconception. A canon--as with Harold Bloom's The Western Canon (which I've actually read in its entirety--meaning his book, as opposed to all the books he anoints therein!)--is the selected masterworks within an art form. In terms of the nuum, the canon would be the tracks that a community of informed opinion nominated as groundbreaking, innovative, epoch-defining anthems, or just plain killer. But the hardcore continuum is the sum total of all music made in this macro-genre during its historical span (1990-to-20??), not just the first division but the second and third division too, the mediocre and substandard. (The hardcore continuum also consists, as I've argued in this post, of the sum of all the behavior, the socio-economic and infrastructural etc--it's the macro-scene as well as the macro-genre).

The nuum is not equivalent to the canon of Western Literature; it's equivalent, in this argument, to Western Literature itself. Or to sculpture, or cinema, or... any vast body of artistic activity that varies widely in quality. The nuum is that entity itself, in its entirety, prior to the filtration exercise of aesthetic judgement and fan debate (which creates a canon).

To say that the hardcore continuum never existed (as a lunatic fringe now propose) is to me as silly as saying Western Literature never existed. The latter is a category that humans invented, for sure, if you really want to be pedantic. But it exists in the sense that millions of pages of "Western Literature" exist in the world, millions of hours were spent on the writing of it by real persons in the belief they were contributing to it and a similar amount of time and energy expended in the criticism of it by people who believed they were furthering it or protecting it; it led to billions of hours of enjoyment and also non-enjoyment by innumerable real readers who really existed. That's real enough for me.

Ditto (on a much smaller scale) for the hardcore continuum.

16 comments:

NHuthnance said...

I'm an Australian, and I have no problem with the analogy in this particular instance. What I most appreciated about the piece is that it affirms something I've long thought about Simon; he's refreshingly different in the sense that he's one of the few to be closer to a sociological approach than the philosophers who dominate the music blogosphere.

It reminds me as well of how Rip It Up & Start Again acknowledges the work of Simon Frith. Here's a link which I think lends further support to the methodological emphasis Simon Reynolds discusses here on musical "scenes". While the readings focus on rock, it is obvious they set useful parameters for studies of other genres as well:

http://condor.depaul.edu/~dweinste/rock/

droid said...

Just a couple of comments in relation to the reggae connections (here comes the taxonomy!).

I'm not sure that I'd place reggae between rocksteady + dancheall as a distinct entity. f you were to take this approach you probably have to shoehorn roots/dub between the 2 anyway. I think the nature of the riddim and the fact that most early dancehall up until the mid 80s (and beyond) still depended heavily on reggae (and rocksteady) riddims - plus you have the fact that roots and conscious reggae never really went away completely and those sounds have enjoyed regular revivals - see the recent one drop phenomenon that is only now running out of steam.

I think the relationship between nuum-as-macrogenre and nuum-as-macroscene is similar to Jamaica. The paradigm example in nuum terms is the switch-over from drum & bass to speed garage--drum & bass becomes untethered from the scene, becomes a UK-nationwide and increasingly international genre, while the scene itself, the nuum heartland of London, embraces a new genre that restores some of the junglistic things that D&B had lost but in a new slower and sexier rhythmic template.And maybe UK steppers and lovers rock could be seen as equivalents in reggae? Breakways from the core scene that aren't consumed at the local level but retain much of the sonics.

12 said...

Joe Muggs here.

Simon, please, this is very undignified. I am really not interested in raking over all this, but the insults are getting a bit silly. You have accused me first of being a sophist, now of being "lunatic" - and you've made unnecessary personal attacks on others in this debate as well. Attacking the person and not the argument is a clear sign that no matter how many words you spend on defending your construction, you are realising that it is increasingly unhelpful to anyone.

Yes I would question the existence of "Australia" just as I question the existence of the "Nuum". You think it's self-evident - but why is it? Why is it just the landmass above the water that deserves the label "Australia"? Do you include Tasmania? Why not the entire tectonic plate? Do you mean the landmass now, or the landmass 10,000 years ago when it had a very different coastline? When you name something, you CHOOSE boundaries to associate with that name. If you meant "as real as the landmass we call Australia" you would have said so - but you didn't, you said "as real as Australia". "Australia" is an artificial construction. And so it is with the "Nuum".

In my address, I showed how many of the qualities which you have chosen to define Nuum music can equally apply to other records, sub-scenes, artists. I showed how if you zoom in or out, the focus changes and a continuum that seemed so very real proves to have been a gestalt. You say that the Nuum is not a canon, but is the entirety of the actions and creations of a particular culture - but who defines what is and isn't a part of this entirety You do. And you decide when your chosen rules do and don't apply. In the turbulent systems of culture, you may see a pattern, but to give it a "real" existence distinct from and - implicitly - superior to the culture around it, is to say that a pattern in the clouds is a real thing. It is over-amping natural human pattern-recognition in the way that acid heads, schizophrenics or the very religous do.

What you have done is roughly marked off an area of culture, and branded it. This is understandable, this brand has been very helpful to you, perhaps even lucrative, and has emphasised to the world that you had a sense of belonging in the hardcore, jungle and garage eras, that this was "your thing". And brands can have huge power and longevity - just look at the Catholic church, for example - but far more often they tarnish, fade, and lose their novelty and usefulness.

The Hardcore Continuum remains an excellently observed set of connections between musics and musicians, between cultures and subcultures - but this continued insistence on its existence as a THING distinct from all else around it smacks of defensiveness, and also of reification and an attempt to create an approved model of history, stifling other ways of interpretation.

For all that we all love sociological and cultural theory, it is THEORY. We are in a pre-Newtonian state - there is no science to this, it is on a par with alchemy, acupuncture, voodoo. These are all things that I love, but I would never attribute hard, cold reality to the humours of alchemy, the meridiens of acupuncture or the loas of voodoo. It is not science, it is divining, and neither you, I nor anyone else can state with any certainty that the shapes we divine in the flows and blooms of culture have scientific reality. So, before you start insulting the writers who would examine the same subject matter as you, a little humility and sense of proportion, PLEASE.

SIMON REYNOLDS said...

tt

12 said...

Take That are in the continuum?

SIMON REYNOLDS said...

>"this brand has been very helpful >to you, perhaps even lucrative"

Yes and my millions are safely stashed in a Swiss bank account.

Trust me there's easier ways to make dough in the music journalism game than writing about jungle, 2step, grime, et al!

"Brand" is a cynical way of framing it. I mean, it's just possible that I actually believe what I'm writing is true, right? Or to phrase it another way, that I might actually be seeking to find the truth.

As to the rest of your comment, it's the usual mish-mash of:

nit-picking (Tasmania!)

hypersensitivity (where are all these personal insults secreted in the essay above, or elsewhere?)

nominalism

I-don't-want-to-be-here posturing ("I am really not interested in raking over all this"--so why, in fact, are you?)

Oh okay, there's that one personal insult: "lunatic fringe". That's obviously me asserting that you literally belong in a mental asylum, isn't it? I mean, there's no way it could be about an argument I find barmy, could it?
That argument being that all those record stores that stocked ONLY ardkore/jungle/UK garage/grime, all those pirates that broadcast ONLY ardkore/jungle/UKG/grime, all those raves and clubs that played ONLY ardkore/jungle/UKG/grime… all this is inadequate to prove that these scenes existed as distinct entities (as, in fact, a chain of distinct entities).

Then again, if the cap fits…

12 said...

No, you're doing it again, I'm afraid: going on the offensive instead of answering criticisms of your theory and the way it has become set in stone.

*"Brand" is a cynical way of framing it.*

"Lucrative" was - obviously, I'd hoped - a joke, but as to the branding idea, I was just positing a reason for why the "nuum" has become so reductionist: why you are writing off important lines of influence and points of overlap in past and present music. There has to be *some* reason why this is, and whether it's because you are simply comfortable in this simplified hardcore-begat-jungle-begat-garridge-begat-some-other-stuff narrative or because it gives you a selling point (a brand), it's not a healthy reason.

*nit-picking (Tasmania!)*

How is that nit-picking? You have chosen, and repeatedly defended, your Australia analogy - I am showing how revealing that analogy is of the way "nuum" theory is constructed: how its details make your claims of it being a "self-evident" object rather difficult to sustain. Attacking a mention of Tasmania is purely an evasion of the main point I made in that paragraph.

*hypersensitivity (where are all these personal insults secreted in the essay above, or elsewhere?)*

I'm not annoyed by the insults themselves, I'm annoyed by the fact that you have resorted to them instead of answering the valid points that I and others made.

*nominalism*

No, quite the opposite: I've not denied signified reality - I'm saying that the reality of the clubs, music and personnel of the past is much bigger, badder, more real, more connected to the world around it than calling it "the nuum" would allow.

*I-don't-want-to-be-here posturing*

Posturing or truth? I *would* much rather not be debating your theory. Rather than be sucked into the "nuum" debate, which *should* be over by now, I would be much better off using my time documenting the histories that show that the key flows of UK club and soundsystem music were and are various and often concurrent. As indeed I am doing. But unfortunately, as I said in response to your other post, you are now part of the establishment, and your words carry a lot of weight, so when my own theories are described by you as "fancy footwork" or as part of a "lunatic fringe" I demand right to reply.

There are so many points I made in my address that you have not addressed: your terror of anything being seen as part of the "international white boy brigade" and pointed writing out of white precursors to hardcore (the first incidence of true sub-bass and rolling breaks in hardcore being direct samplings of LFO and Meat Beat Manifesto, e.g.), your writing off of the UK techno scene as a vital culture and a (Lost, Pure, The Orbit, House Of God, Final Frontier, Colin Dale, Carl Cox, El-B, Goldie, Photek, Doc Scott, Pinch, Peverelist, Artwork, Hatcha etc etc, all thoroughly blurring the "nuum"/"not-nuum" boundaries and having a constant influence on "canonical nuum" music and attitudes), ditto your writing off of the coexistence of the hardcore continuum with the Gilles Peterson jazz-cat continuum, the fact that you are very unclear about where UK Garage stopped being a separate thread (part of the House Continuum?) and became the heir to jungle, the confused roots of bassline, the fact that funky is also both house continuum, hardcore continuum and dancehall continuum, the way key figures' (Noodles, Hatcha, Lemon D) positions as record shop staff provide massive rupture points in the purity of the continuum etc etc etc. These are real historical issues, real ommissions by you in the creation of your theory, but you have chosen to ignore these criticisms in favour of dismissive and sweeping-to-the-point-of-meaningless comments.

"History is written by the victors", as the saying goes, and the current vitality and diversity of club music suggests to me that the real winners are the eclecticists, not the purists: that UK bass is strong enough to take a lot more centrifugal force than you give it credit for.

padraig said...

"pointed writing out of white precursors to hardcore"

dude, that's just nonsense - not to speak for him but Mr. Reynolds has a long history of (rightly)venerating Sheffield bleeps & bass including LFO. as well as championing white junglists from Danny Breaks to Doc Scott to Hype & Zinc etc. (tho, dead wrong on Photek).

not sure about that bit about jazz-continuum either, being that all the jazz/fusion/etc. influences are pretty well acknowledged. & where's the real crossover - outside of a few token things like Peshay on Mo Wax or whatever? I may just not be aware of it but if you're going to make all these assertions drop a few examples please.

a lot of your argument seems to be about blurred boundaries, gray areas & so on. to which I'd say, how is that a criticism? of course things are blurred & messy, as they always are. I reckon a lot of your spite is misdirected - like who are all these people being denied by the nuum doorman? hasn't a big point been that it's not a "who's in, who's out" thing? as far as omissions you make it sound as if they are all insidious & part of some dire scheme to whitewash history. which I'm dubious of, to say the least. how are your inclusions any more or less arbitrary than other peoples' omissions?

I'm also dubious of the supposed assumed merits of eclecticism. also eclecticism vs. purism is a false, artificial dichotomy. it seems anyway like the two should support each other - the purist stuff being the core around which all the eclecticism can float.

SIMON REYNOLDS said...

re. "fancy footwork"

Let's clear this up once and for all, shall we? Put it in perspective. So I'm writing a piece on the overload of reissues for the Wire last autumn for their end of year issue and I'm getting near the end and looking to make a larger point, so I talk about how musicians today are glutted with the ultra-availability of the music past and how that affects their output, making it rather clotted. Then I remember two reviews in a recent Wire on consecutive pages that addressed this issue. An experimental musician from Italy, and Neil Landstrumm, reviewed by you. What I remembered of the review was that you seemed to be trying to exorcise or lay the ghost of the hardcore continuum by arguing that there was so much more going on Landstrumm's music (of which I'm a big fan) as well as the nuum stuff. It was an ingenious argument but I wasn't convinced. But "fancy critical footwork" is if anything a backhanded compliment.

Certainly if someone had said that about me I wouldn't have written a 1200 word letter to The Wire's Letter Pages, an arena which is designed for readers to have their say. If I responded to every diss or misreading I receive, I'd never get anything done! Now I happen to have seen you boasting on an internet forum about having "picked a fight with Simon Reynolds". That suggests all this high-minded stuff you're cloaking yourself in is just pose.

SIMON REYNOLDS said...

Okay, let's examine the quibbles you've gathered:

re "your terror of anything being seen as part of the "international white boy brigade"

What's this "terror"? I merely pointed out that when drum 'n 'bass fell into a techno kind of orbit circa 97, one of the things it shed (along with the reggae feel) was the diva vocals, because they don't compute for that audience as anything but pop R&B.

I'm a massive fan of gabba as is well documented and that's about as white and Euro as it gets.

re. "LFO"

Massive, massive fan of LFO -- I've described Frequencies as one of my Top 5 Electronic Albums of all time. Massive fan of bleep as is well documented. LFO totally fit the hardcore arc in so far as they were into electro, breakdancing and all that before getting into acid house.

re "your writing off of the UK techno scene as a vital culture"

Just not my bag -- in terms of hard techno the direction I preferred was gabba. And before that the Belgian/Beltram stuff.

There was an early phase of hardcore rave when there was a bit of blurriness. I remember Colin Dale occasionally playing a breakbeat tune on his show. I've got a pirate tape from '92 where the non-stop breakbeat is interrupted by FUSE's "FU". You had the odd outfit like Nebula II who were kind of "breakbeat techno" (and brilliant). The odd label like Rabbit City, Rising High and Edge were somewhere in between (and all of which I liked).

By about mid-92 though there was a parting of the ways. That UK techno scene was militantly anti-breakbeat and anti-rave.

re. "the coexistence of the hardcore continuum with the Gilles Peterson jazz-cat continuum"

Show me the actual transfers of energy that went on between the hardcore continuum and the acid jazz scene. I mean, sure, certain drum & bass auteur types enjoyed the music Gilles played on his radio show… But seriously, what were the significant overlaps and alliances between these two musical traditions? I may have mis-remembered this, but I thought acid jazz was originally a kind of anti-rave type move, "acid jazz" was a mickey-take on "acid house".

re: "the fact that you are very unclear about where UK Garage stopped being a separate thread"

My sense is that it grew up in parallel with drum 'n 'bass (garage in the second room at jungle raves) and that a certain point, when it got a big ruffer, a huge chunk of the jungle audience jumped ship. Partly because they'd got older and were into a more sophisticated vibe, and partly because drum 'n' bass had got really harsh and punishing.

re: "the confused roots of bassline"

In my original bassline post on blissblog I wrote about how there was some hard house feel in the rhythm, it was more boshy than the original speed garage.

re: "Noodles, Hatcha, Lemon D) positions as record shop staff provide massive rupture points in the purity of the continuum"

"Massive rupture points" --three record store clerks who might have sold and listened to records other than the genre they devoted all their creative energy to!

Is that the best you can come up with?

SIMON REYNOLDS said...

hi padraig
big up for your words of sense

12 said...

Hmm, I don't recall saying I'd picked a fight. I was joking if I did. In any private discussions about this matter, I have expressed little more than excitement and trepidation about being drawn into this debate. But as I said in the other thread, your comments were not “offhand”. There's no such thing. As you make clear yourself here, you saw my Landstrumm review as an attempt to destroy (or “lay to rest”) your ideas, where I saw it purely as an attempt to expand on them. There has perhaps been over-reaction on both sides, though.

Now, to the specifics:

LFO:

Yes of couse I am aware that you have always been a supporter of LFO, Simon – and in the original, more open formulations of the hardcore continuum there a place for them. But in the ossified creation of The Nuum, as lately in general use on messageboards and as defined in your Liverpool address, the precursors of hardcore became Unique 3, Guy Called Gerald, Shut Up & Dance: conspicuously all black artists or acts with black members. And it feels like the race thing has become increasingly one of the defining points of The Nuum, perversely resulting in the exclusion of the influence of many black techno artists because the techno scene in this country is so white, but inclusion of white artists like Doc Scott that you define as “culturally black”.

Techno:

In the Liverpool address you claimed that it was competition between producers that made hardcore what it was – that they were making music for one another, as well as for the ravers. I brought up the counter-argument to this that Goldie has explicitly said that winning the approval of Derrick May was hugely important to him. And you will find plenty of supposedely pure “nuum” artists who feel the same – El-B being a great example: his background in the sound of, as he says, the “techno scientists” (Mad Mike, Felix Da Housecat, Rob Hood being examples he gives) was easily as important to the way 2-Step sounded as was the adoption of jungle basslines (that'll be REESE basslines, hem hem). Dubstep would quite simply not be dubstep were it not for the express intentions of Artwork and Hatcha to make garage that had the underground, dark room vibe of Lost and Club UK. Techno runs through hardcore, jungle, garage, grime and dubstep like blood.

Jazz:

I don't just mean the limited world of Acid Jazz and Talkin' Loud, I mean the long and deep jazz-funk-soul continuum in this country, to which Roni Size, Shut Up And Dance, Ceri Sunship, MJ Cole, 4 Hero and many, many other important artists would, I'm sure, proudly claim allegiance just as much as they would to anything “ardkore”.

12 said...

Garage:

Your sense may be that it grew up as a conjoined twin to jungle: I disagree. From conversations with its originators and many ravers, I would say that certainly at its roots in 1994-6 its personnel and influences were from house, and that even later “house & garage” went together like horse & carriage. It certainly fused with jungle later, and SOME of the crowd was the same, but by no means all – as with all these scenes the lineage was not direct.

Bassline:

Yes you mentioned the influence of hard house, and – briefly, dismissively – that of “organ house”, but all of this had bassline down as simply “a northern thing”. But not the unique styles of the Midlands, or of London (where, after all, there has been a thriving scene and creative since garage nights stopped being called “garage nights”), nor the symbiotic relationship between (post)-garage and other dance musics, from funky to high-street house nationally. Again, a place where the you can't say where the “nuum” stops and “non-nuum” starts.

Record shop clerks:

You write off the eclectic tastes of Noodles or Hatcha as irrelevant to the development of club music if you like! Not so keen on that – again, dismissive – line, myself. I tend to believe that it is people with broad tastes, connections and influences like these who push forward the development of music just as much as the purists who only compete to out-do one another. And I would say that discussions over record shop counters, and unlikely records pushed by the characters behind those counters, have often had utterly transformative effect on scenes and sounds. Certainly plenty of key artists have mentioned precisely this sort of not-really-chance encounter with records via record shop clerks as direct inspirations.

Now this could go on forever, a never ending pub argument about whether Record X fits into genre Y or genre Z – so I am stopping now. But I retain my views:

The Nuum is not A Thing. To make it so makes it prescriptive and proscriptive, and requires drawing artificial boundaries between musics that were not and are not separate – or reduces its scene to just a few purist clubs, ignoring the raves, house parties and record shops where the boundaries fell, but which were as vital economically and culturally to the scene as were those purist clubs.
Your inclusion of Approved Influences as listed in the Liverpool address (dancehall, house, hip-hop, Belgian hoover techno - but not jazz-funk, not soul in the British soulboy sense, not disco, not the psychedelic/industrial tradition, and not Detroit techno), and your refusal of the idea that these influences are more than “flavas” but are continua in their own right, as deep-rooted or more so than hardcore, is artificial and inaccurate, and creates a skewed history.
Despite your modesty, you are in a prime position as the most-established commentator on this music to influence what becomes widely-accepted history: your choices of what is “nuum” and your definition of “nuum” as better than everything else (yes, I know, you like other stuff too – just “nuum” is better) has ramifications beyond just your articles. This is why it is relevant to me and anyone else who writes about and discusses underground/club/bass music.

I don't know, maybe we are just looking from different places. You spent a lot of time in purist clubs, me less so. You spent a lot of time talking to people who are purist about those scenes, I tend to be attracted to people who are both within and without the scenes, or who have operated at the fulcrum points where scenes change into others. Maybe I am over-egging the outside influences on the music you define as “nuum” as much as you are over-emphasising the structural integrity of that “nuum”. But I believe what I have laid out above, and as I carry on my “other conversations” as you recommend I hope to offer further proofs of my views. Whether we see Nuum or a bunch of continua writhing around one another, though, we are still celebrating the same music, and that's good, right?

12 said...

Sorry, Blogger just wiped out my paragraph breaks there for some reason. For clarity, let me paste those three final points in again:

- The Nuum is not A Thing. To make it so makes it prescriptive and proscriptive, and requires drawing artificial boundaries between musics that were not and are not separate – or reduces its scene to just a few purist clubs, ignoring the raves, house parties and record shops where the boundaries fell, but which were as vital economically and culturally to the scene as were those purist clubs.

- Your inclusion of Approved Influences as listed in the Liverpool address (dancehall, house, hip-hop, Belgian hoover techno - but not jazz-funk, not soul in the British soulboy sense, not disco, not the psychedelic/industrial tradition, and not Detroit techno), and your refusal of the idea that these influences are more than “flavas” but are continua in their own right, as deep-rooted or more so than hardcore, is artificial and inaccurate, and creates a skewed history.

- Despite your modesty, you are in a prime position as the most-established commentator on this music to influence what becomes widely-accepted history: your choices of what is “nuum” and your definition of “nuum” as better than everything else (yes, I know, you like other stuff too – just “nuum” is better) has ramifications beyond just your articles. This is why it is relevant to me and anyone else who writes about and discusses underground/club/bass music.



OK, and I'm done. Apologies if I have offended, but this is a discussion well worth having, I feel.

padraig said...

"culturally black"

1) I think this is some truly nebulous territory you're getting into - who's "culturally black" - or who is being defined as such & how. there's a difference btwn noting the phenomenon of Goldie thinking Doc Scott was black before meeting him (something not limited to jungle - at least as old as white rnr DJs of the 50s & probably older still) & calling him "culturally black".

2) DJ Crystl, again Danny Breaks, Andy C & Ram, Hype, Zinc, Ed Rush & the NUT crew, Rob Playford, Peshay, Skanna. & Omni Trio specifically - a huge nuum favorite/touchstone who came out of the industrial scene, about as non-"culturally black" as you can get. & loads of others of course, tho I'm not sure who has & hasn't been championed. dunno nearly as much about UKG but Grant Nelson immediately comes to mind.

techno:

again, meaning what? so El-B listened to Detroit techno - so did many junglists to varying extents. just like most of them probably listened to Wu-Tang etc. all strands which run -thru- jungle. & garage etc. so you're telling me that there are techno influences on nuum musics? what a shock. really.

jazz:

Well SUAD for one are bboys thru & thru, not jazz-funk guys like the Bristol cru or whoever. read the excellent interview that Droid did w/them over at the (absolutely excellent if either of you aren't up on it) blogtotheoldskool.com.

more generally I'm not sure how a soul-jazz-funk continuum & a hardcore continuum, separate of each other & occasionally overlapping, are contradictory?

Garage & generally

who's ever said lineages were direct? I thought the claim merely was that their were strong links. of course many UKG people were from house, no one's ever said otherwise. it's never been "the same people ardkore-jungle-garage-etc.". it's been a portion of the massive, some producers/labels/pirates etc.

& again I'm not sure why you insist on pitting eclecticism against purism.

I think you're the one making the claim that about people making out what's "acceptable" & what isn't. people have always excepted Detroit techno (the argument here has, ironically, been against purism I reckon), jazz-funk & rare-groove & soul influences. for crissakes all that stuff about soul diva vox sampling.

generally I think your argument is a massive strawman. you set up something that is much more rigid, exclusive, definitive, etc. than anything anyone actually says & then rail against the injustices you've spun out of thin air.

with all respect.

padraig said...

@SR

yeh. I dunno, I was gonna stay out of this latest round of nuum business but hey...