Friday, May 3, 2019

kicky and volky (hardcore, intellectualized)

Intellectualized in an essay by Jeppe Ugelvig titled "Hardcore as Folklore" (at NERO Editions)

It's about the other hardcore though.

The Eurorave continuum - Belgcore> gabber >jumpstyle > hardstyle

The peg = an exhibition, Capriccio 2000. Which "traverses electronic dance music cultures in millennial Italy—particularly hardcore—to propose a sensory tableau: of listless bodies, ritualized gestures and neon hues amidst the detritus of suburban life."

Some snippets from Ulgelvig's essay:

 "Compared to techno and house, hardcore is a type of electronic dance music still waiting to be fully understood. Low-brow, peripheral and nihilistic, it stands in stark contrast to the cultures surrounding its related genres, now firmly canonized and critically recouped for their social, political, and musical importance to cultural history.* Conventionally regarded as non-queer, non-black, and non-urban, hardcore is, in fact, antithetical to the three things that have historically defined electronic dance music. Even so—or perhaps exactly because of this—hardcore seems to have seeped into the aesthetic subconscious of continental European youth culture in the new millennium, becoming integrated as a part of a mass-cultural vocabulary.... . Hardcore, I want to propose, may slowly be developing into its very own example of European folklore, complete with its own set of myths, fantastical motifs, and fabled characters"

Some thoughts on gabber-as-folk at the end...

"From its onset, hardcore was reactionary to the fashionable and opulent party scenes of metropolitan cities like Amsterdam and London, cladding itself in a working-class, anti-fashion aesthetic."

True in one sense - opposed to chic elites. But then again, hardcore of every type has always had its own street fashion look. Gabbers played a small fortune for their favored brands of Australian sportswear. Junglists were style-conscious and similarly coughed up a fair amount of dough to look sharp.

"Hardcore’s one-dimensional and almost childish intensity is often affiliated with the deprived, post-industrial landscapes of Europe, while its participants—dressed in cheap sportswear, and with soft skinhead references—are often referred to as an embodiment of the “chav,” “tamarro,” “dresiarz” or “proll” aesthetic. In Italy, for example, the northern region of Pianura Padana became a hub for the hardcore sound in the late 1990s, as it gained traction in enormous “super clubs” along the A4 highway from Bergamo to Venice (connecting the cities of Brescia, Verona, and Padua)."

The "chav" archetype, as a locus of anxiety and condescension, is a Europe-wide phenomenon - and most likely a world-wide syndrome, given that class structures and tensions recur on much the same lines everywhere. Similar social formations crop up - if not necessarily identical in terms of music orientation.

One example is Catalonia, where the raver mentalist sound of the Nineties was called bakalao - after the local foodstuff bacalao, dry salt cod - presumably it has the same "crudely pungent" connotations as "cheesy," with a bit of territorialised regional patriotism thrown in. Note also the mispelling with a "k" in the lumpen-rave tradition of tekno and ardkore.  All the clubs were clustered along a road in  Valencia nicknamed Ruta Destroy, which became the hub of sleepless weekends fueled by pastillas ye drogas of all kinds, with people driving in from all over the country to party there.

Love the raver style touch here of people cooling themselves with black-and-white fans! I remember the daughter of a professor in Valencia  (who had me over to lecture on UK rave and Ecstasy culture in the late nineties) telling me about the scene: how mental it was, people dancing in the most full-on crazed way, jabbing the air with cigarettes almost like stilettos, the bakalao kids clad in black and white clothes. Just before I flew back home, I went to get CD comps of bakalao from a local music megastore, but they sounded fairly cheesy - in the processed, flava-less sense - when I got back to NYC.

Another example is Córdoba, Argentina, where working class and lumpen youth rally to a sound known as cuarteto - which is not electronic but based around high-energy live-bands. It's territorialized: youth follow a particular band and band-leader (the most famous is La Mona Jimenez) year after year. They go to see these bands perform more or less the the same show - raucous, risque - every week, in all-night parties that really kick off in the small hours and apparently get pretty wild. Raves, then, just without rave music.

Back to Ugelvig's essay:

"With over thirty years of endured presence in European music culture, hardcore can no longer be understood as a mere trend or fad, but qualifies instead as a kind of abstract aesthetic motif recognized by a broad range of Europeans born in the last two decades of the 20th century—from the right-leaning hooligan of the suburbs to the fashion worker of the metropolis, crafting fashion editorials that glamorize its pseudo-skinhead aesthetic.... These plural, contradictory, and mythological connotations of hardcore—escaping exact definition, yet seemingly omnipresent as an aesthetic motif—perfectly qualify it as a kind of folk culture."

One thing I'd add here on the subject of "folklore": there is something going on with the dancing in  gabber / jumpstyle / hardstyle that plugs into folk music traditions in Northern Europe. I don't want to say the music has "reactivated a race-memory," as that makes it sound dodgier than it needs to be. But there is something that's seemingly resurged instinctively within the younger generation (who probably have had only a limited exposure to traditional music and its attendant dance modes) where they move to these Eurocore beats in ways that come from the same place as Morris dancing and Irish "step dancing" (as in "Riverdance") and doubtless forms of Dutch and German etc dancing I'm unaware of. The dancing largely takes place below the knee, and doesn't involve the hips or the pelvis much at all. The body stays perpendicular and straight-spined; the arms swirl around almost like the ribbons of a Maypole, with the body as the pole.  It's not groovy, it's kicky - kicky moves for kick drum dominated / domineering music. Unfunk, perhaps even anti-funk in a sense - but it looks like a lot of fun.

Ugelvig mentions in passing an exhibition in the Netherlands three years ago called "Energy Flash - the Rave Movement"

Now admittedly I don't own the words "Energy Flash" - Joey Beltram does if anyone - but still..


Spiro said...

About 3 years ago I attended the Dutch hardcore mega-festival Masters Of Hardcore in central Netherlands. I was there on guestlist because my housemate was playing in the terror arena, and as a long time UK hardcore patriot, I had never experienced the full force of the euro-hardcore onslaught (if anything I was tribally-opposed to it, and my experience of it live was limited to hearing the odd track played at the end of UK hardcore sets by some DJs*). One of the first things I noticed was the manner in which the terror heads danced - instead of dancing constantly (which given the 200bpm+ pace of the music would be almost impossible), they would stand around in groups and periodically engage in bursts of frenzied Hakken dancing. I was immediately struck by how much this dancing resembled some kind of arcane folk dance, out here, far away from the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Amsterdam, in the middle of the dutch countryside!

(I just typed ‘terror hakken’ into Youtube to watch the dance and the very first result was this short video of a man doing the Hakken to a track which breaks down into a folk/polka section! )

I’d also like to suggest another way in which the music of the Euro-hardcore ‘nuum plugs into folk traditions - there is a strong current of poignant, sometimes Medieval sounding, sometimes twee melody in hardstyle (Brennan Heart ‘Hard Knocking Beats’ is a great example of this). There is a strong tradition of melody focused folk music from North Europe (polka, Schlager, Scandinavian accordion music etc), and this seems like a reactivation of the folk-memory for these kind of melodies. You don’t really see this focus on melody in mostly bass/rhythm focused British genres, whereas it often crops up in continental dance music (trance, hardstyle, hands up, Eurodance, progressive/big room etc).

*Evil Activities’ MOR-gabba anthem ‘Nobody Said It Was Easy’ was, tragically, the go-to for this purpose, always guaranteeing an early exit to the bar/smoking area!


that is fascinating Spiro

i only ever went to one proper Netherlands gabberrave - in Arnhem in 96 i think it was - the other hardcore (meaning non-breaks) parties i went to were in scotland, England, and new york area. The one in Arnhem, i don't recall the sporadic dancing thing, seemed fairly continuous, i think helped the enormous number of pills these kids were on - and the thing i remember most was how dainty the footwork - this real elegance to the moves, very fleet. and not much going on above the waist except the occasional bit of frenzied movement with hands and arms.

the melody thing is interesting, funnily enough i was just about to post something on hardstyle having been intrigued enough to check it out after interviewing a conceptronica act who are actually influenced by that scene and do a sort of warped version of it on some of their tunes. the bits i've come across are very tuneful - too tuneful really!

The Real Segugio said...

Both you and Mr. Ugelvig fail to differentiate between Hardcore and Hardstyle, which is a distinct genre that evolved from Hard Trance. Despite their current close relationship, they are -- and always have been -- separate forms of music. To say that jumping is a contemporary form of Northern European folk dance is convenient, but utterly wrong. Hardstyle was pioneered mainly by Italian and German DJs, it became predominantly Dutch only years later. Jumping is a natural and predictable development, because the human body is limited in the ways it can sync itself to 150bpm.

The defining feature of Hardstyle is a lack of pretense. It is the only form of dance music that is 100% about the music and nothing else. The subculture exists only for the music, and is devoid of any class/race/political issues. A recurring theme, in fact, is to detach from the external world and its social constructs. It can be neither radical nor reactionary, because the entire point is that nothing outside of the music matters. Properly enjoyed, it is a form of meditation, an exercise of mindfulness, with "living in the moment" being the ultimate objective.

There is nothing "lowbrow" about it. The music is pure, supernaturally so. It is the use of modern technology to tap deep into ancient human emotions. Music is an inherent part of our being, it does not require intellectualization any more than food or sleep. It is not "lowbrow" to eat delicious food or sleep in a comfortable bed, and we recommend restaurants and hotels based on this criteria with no thought of being crude. It would be quite odd to judge a restaurant's cuisine by how well it folds its napkins, or a hotel's comfort by the pictures in its lobby. Why, then, should we judge music on its superficialities instead of how it actually sounds?

The predominantly urban, homosexual demographic that the original author cites as important to cultural history was not concerned with being labelled as such 40 years in the future. They cared about how the music sounded at that time and place. There is no way to prove it, but I am fairly certain that 0% of those people went to the club preoccupied with how future journalists would fetishize their recreation. They wanted to dance and enjoy life. We don't know much about that time precisely for that reason; no one was pretending to like the music for external validation. Their color and orientation "defines" electronic dance music for the Marx-inclined outside observer, but they would not have defined themselves by 2019 social obsessions. Likewise, those inside the current scene would regard these ideas of transgression and masculinity as foreign.