Friday, May 22, 2009



"Power" was where I left off last time…

I've been trying to think of a more suitable analogy for the hardcore continuum than "Australia". Some sort of "actually existing entity" that's historical rather than geographical; something of real world-historical heft that lasted for a substantial duration before crumbling away and leaving barely a trace of itself… Then it struck me: the political party. History is full of political organizations that were massively consequential for a period but then gradually disintegrated as demographics shifted and the economy transformed, causing the various interest groups and social alliances that held the party together to dissolve and form into new clusters.

In mid-19th Century America there was the American Party (a nativist, anti-immigration party). Later that century there was the Populists, a major political force who threw their weight behind Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in the landmark election of 1896, but in vain. I'm sure there are some U.K. examples. Political parties of this kind may never get hold of the reins of government, but they represent hugely significant mobilizations of energy---donations, volunteers, political capital, powerful backers. They hold assemblies, draw up manifestos, campaign, and they exert pressure by their existence on other, more successful parties that affect their electoral strategy and sometimes what happens at a legislative or governmental level. But in the end these parties crumble away leaving nothing but yellowing historical documents.

So too with the nuum… one day all that will be left of it will be… records.

I got quite taken with this idea of the nuum as a political party and in semi-whimsical fashion tried to map out its lifetime in terms of electoral struggle *… Hardcore 91/92 as a landslide victory over chartpop; jungle, a sharp turn to the left, resulting in years of exile, despite promising by-election results (Timeless; Logical Progression; a Mercury for New Forms); 2step, tacking back to the pop centre, embracing song and sexy midtempo grooves, resulting in a landslide return to chart power circa 1999-2001; grime, another swing back to uncompromised militancy, looked for a while like it could win power on its own terms but….

I came up with this better-than-Australia analogy thanks to Jeremy Gilbert's contribution to the UEL seminar: for me the most thought-provoking intervention, because the least expected. See I kinda guessed what the other angles would be, having seen the advance blogging, FACT articles and 1200 word letters to The Wire. I also somehow sensed Kodwo & Kode would deal with the nuum…. by changing the subject, talking about something else altogether! (Is that a tactic they got from Sun Tzu? ;) ). But Jeremy's critique came completely out of left-field. His argument was that, as glorious and mighty as the nuum had been as a musical force, it could equally be seen as a series of "failed politicisations": missed opportunities to translate the multiracial unity, localised collective energy and "sense of purpose" that the music mobilized into anything constructive.

I felt the sting of this rebuke and recognized its pertinence even as a gut-level, knee-jerk response--"come off it!"--kicked in. Seriously, could this ever really have happened? Struggle organized at the site of the means of entertainment -- dream on, John!

There's two moments when this kind of politicisation seems to have been faintly plausible: jungle and grime. Both had powerful currents of anti-systemic awareness, seethed with paranoia and rage that it's just conceivable could have been tapped, channeled, brought to mature ideological consciousness. But jungle was still partially mired in the drugginess and dissipation of rave; it was waking up from the Dream to face harsh reality, perhaps, but unlikely to embrace anything that smacked of didacticism or worthiness. The scene was fueled by the anarcho-capitalist energies of fiercely competitive rivalry, and there was also a shady undertow of crime… All in all, its impulses were as close to anti-social as proto-socialist.

Grime, a movement of inner city youth literally finding their voices, seems to have more potential than jungle, whose moments of consciousness were largely restricted to roots reggae samples like "alla the youth shall witness the day that Babylon shall fall". But I can hardly recall any conscious rhymes in grime. One stands out in the memory for being so unusual: a freestyle on a tape someone mailed me and which I titled "Black Man Freestyle" because of its roll-call salute to black icons (one line went something like "Biggie 'n' Tupac two powerful black men")(I think it was by Durty Goodz). Grime did have its positive side, but it was invariably couched in that hyper-individualist, chase-your-dreams, work-hard-you-WILL-make-it mold… pure American ideology in other words… inspiring and poignant with tunes like "Chosen One" , but a long way from collectivism. Far more often you got the opposite: a reveling in socially destructive negativity. Factor in the often rancorous rivalry between crews, the currents of gangsta-bling false consciousness, the 1000-to-1 stacked-odds-against dreams of crossover fame and privatized salvation… It all agitated against a political perspective. The best grime could offer was what Martin Clark neatly dubbed a "reflectist" approach---better than escapism, but resigned to a reality believed to be impregnable to any attempts at changing it.

So my initial response to Jeremy's critique was "let's be realistic, this was always going to be outside the bounds of the possible, and politics is the art of the possible, right".

Then again, as Mark K-Punk pointed out, to say that is to acquiesce to the logic of capitalist realism.

How could it have gone down differently? What were the potentials that were allowed to remain dormant? There were figures in the early days of the nuum who were quite political--Shut Up and Dance, Rebel MC/Conquering Lion/Congo Natty/Tribe Of Issachar, Kemet Crew. Jeremy mentioned Exodus, the sound system organization in Luton, who threw illegal raves but then moved into activism and community work, setting up a youth centre, getting embroiled in local political struggles, becoming targeted and persecuted by local authorities and the police. I'd never thought of them as part of the jungle scene particularly, although hearing Jeremy refer to them in those terms I flashed on that Hackney Festival in Clissold Park, going there in 1994 and hearing Exodus's system play a junglized version of Marley's "Exodus" (presumably their theme tune). But overall they were too peripheral to have an influence on jungle proper.

Why couldn't a pirate station in London have become an Exodus-like force, though--a real community radio station? Pirate radio was a noticeable absence from the discussion at UEL; I wish I'd talked more about the pirates in Liverpool. After all, they got a whole chapter in Energy Flash, celebrated for staging a kind of "power surge" against consensus reality; the pirate MC's creativity and crucialness is bigged up in a kind of foreshadowing of grime. Pirate stations are already political simply by their hijacking of swathes of the FM spectrum, invading the mainstream media and asserting the existence of a subaltern class within the UK. Think also of the considerable organizational skill involved in keeping a pirate running. The pirate station as an engine fueled by volunteerism: DJs and MCs and support personnel not just giving their time and energy but actual money, weekly or monthly dues to keep the station on air.

Pirate radio in other countries is as often, or more often, political as it is about music. In America, the sense I get is that most pirates are short-range broadcasters of left-wing counter-propaganda. I think as always of Radio Alice in Bologna during the anarcho-communist turbulence of the late Seventies, memorably celebrated by Felix Guattari.

In Britain, though, it's always been music that's almost entirely been the raison d'etre of radio piracy, give or take the occasional pirate set up during a strike… from the Sixties beat music and psychedelia beamed into the mainland by the off-shore stations, to the Radio One-neglected black music output of the Eighties tower block pirates (servicing a marginalised community), to the acieed-and-after stations that kept the nuum massives locked on. That emphasis--music taking precedence over politics--seems to encapsulate the role that music has played in Britain: a deflection of radical energy from its proper target, revolutionary impulses and the appetite for change fatally aestheticized.

Pirate radio is where the idea of "underground" in the musical sense shades closest to "underground" in the political sense. (They have also at times been where "underground" shades into "underworld", in the criminal sense). The operations involved in operating a pirate station--reconnaissance, staking out locations, trip wires, maneuvers and raids done under cover of night, dodging enemy patrols--take on a paramilitary or urban guerrilla air. Pirates have been and continue to be treated as enemies of the state. This sort of quasi-militarism runs through much of the nuum: the idea of being a soldier, of the ad break as a "pause for the cause". But for all the antagonism towards the police, the gleeful apocalyptic anticipation of Babylon's fall… the nuum has primarily and ultimately been an aesthetic opposition party. Its objection to the corporate mainstream has not been anti-capitalist but because it believed that major labels represent dilution and blandness, they move too slow to do justice to the protean turnover of the music.

But then, if it was always just about the music, how is it even thinkable for Jeremy to highlight this short fall in potential? What is it that makes it possible for him to pose this issue of the nuum as a series of failed politicisations?

The power.

The power that anyone felt, anyone who was there--meaning 1992, or 1994, or 2002--any year where a new phase of the nuum kicked off.

The power in the music **, at once purely sonic and yet emanating from outside it, passing through the music from the world of the Real and the Social, and going back out there, spilling the bounds of music as a segmented-off category.

I'm thinking of the electrifying sample that kicks off DJ Crystl's "Warp Drive"--"feel the power". (Apparently from the movie The Dark Crystal). The power is the breakbeat--which at the time "Warp Drive" was getting heavy play on the pirates seemed just about the most jagged and mashed slice of breakbeat science yet unleashed upon the world. It feels like a sculpted riot, a paroxysmic portent of social collapse. If I recall right, on "Warp Drive" Crystl was inspired by the ominous humming drone and beats-and-bass minimalism of Doc Scott's "Here Comes The Drumz," a track which samples Public Enemy, the original "fast rap" group so inspiring to the Brit B-boys who would build ardkore from the ground up ***.

There was a feeling this music gave off, not unlike the forcefield aura emitted by "Rebel Without A Pause" and "Bring the Noise" and "Welcome to the Terrordome", a feeling that this was both the ultimate dance music and much more than dance music. I think of Disco and the Halfway to Discontent, the album by Cornershop alter-ego Clinton (whose name--George or Bill?--further plays on the ambiguity of party-hard and party-political). I recall also the sleevenote on Rufige Kru's Ghosts of My Life EP, Goldie writing, "For those who don't quite understand, 'Ghosts' isn't about 'Disco'… It's about life and my experience, The memories, the haunts, the people, the places. All of us have ghosts in our lives." Both these inflections--the idea of a politicized party music, and of artcore, dance music that's both experimental and expressive--are claiming that there's more going on here that just celebration and letting off steam, the temporary utopia of weekenderism.

What was this power in the music, amorphous and yet real like a punch to your gut? It evoked forward-motion, violence given focus and discipline. The feeling of being in the vanguard, in both the artistic and military senses. In other words, the same "militant modernism" recently invoked by Owen Hatherley. Modernism, in its early 20th Century prime, almost always burst the enclosure of Art to take up one form or other of political commitment -- mostly (not always) left-wing, which in those days usually meant Communist.

I think of the hardcore continuum as a flashback to--or unscheduled recrudescence within popular culture of--modernism. But with a muffled or absent sense of the imperative felt by its High Art precursors that art had to escape the category of the purely aesthetic and spill out into the world if it was to truly realise itself. Or as Adorno put it, "in order for the work of art to be purely and fully a work of art, it must be more than a work of art."

You could see rave as a whole, and the nuum in particular, as modernism's last stand, or unexpected comeback, long after the ideals of modernism had been abandoned, eroded, questioned, everywhere else (including in pop music). Various factors enabled the nuum to evade the general drift towards postmodernism (factors perhaps shared by other black musics such as hip hop and dancehall). Amazingly it was able to evade the blight of postmodernity (irony, referentiality, citational aesthetics) even as it embraced and explored to the hilt the potential of what would on the surface seem to be the ultimate postmodern sound-machine, the sampler.

Miraculously holding pomo at bay, the nuum preserved within itself, within its own partially cordoned off space, the heightened temporality of peak-era modernism: a sensation of hurtling into the future. Like modernism before it, the nuum propelled itself headlong thanks to an internal temporal scheme of continual rupturing; it kept breaking with itself, a reactive dialectic that pushed it ever FWD. As a result it qualifies as one of those "steadily fewer" examples of "combative, collective movements of innovation" (Perry Anderson) that managed to withstand the onset of postmodernity and its culture-pervasive sensibility of eclectism, historicism, and cosmopolitanism.

"Pulp Modernism" is how K-punk classes this renegade aesthetic. With my more Subcultural Studies bent, I prefer the term "Street Modernism". But we're basically talking about the same thing.

According to Fredric Jameson, what defines the modernist artwork is a relationship to time. It enacts the break with the past forms of art within itself. "The interiorization of the narrative [of modernity/modernism]…" becomes an integral element of the artwork's fundamental structure. "The act of restructuration is seized and arrested as in some filmic freeze-frame" such that the modernist work "encapsulates and eternalizes the process as a whole."

What could that mean in music? Precisely a genre that involved a kind of suspended clash of sampling/digital processing with the analogue/hand-played, such that the uncanny time-warping of digital technique coexists with and permeates the hands-on, real-time musicianship. Thus breakbeat science captures the moment of superhumanisation, the funk of flesh-and-blood drumming (just eight seconds of G. Coleman's life-force from "Amen, My Brother") mutating into something beyond itself. Likewise with vocal science. Jameson, again: "the older technique or content must somehow subsist within the work as what is cancelled or overwritten, modified, inverted or negated, in order for us to feel the force, in the present, of what is alleged to have once been an innovation." The shock of the new, eternalized.

People regularly refer to Plato's wary conception of music as inherently subversive, his idea that music in its very essence is a threat to social stability, and therefore something the state needs to control tightly. Actually what he wrote is slightly more complicated , and even more interesting, in the present context. In the imaginary philosophical dialogues of The Republic, speaking through the historically real but here fictionalized figure of Socrates, Plato warns that "the attention of our rulers should be directed so that music and gymnastics [dancing, presumably?] be preserved in their original form… any musical innovation is full of danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited... For the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions."

Could that be true? I don't know, it seems far-fetched, at this remote vantage point. It's almost a struggle to remember that this, precisely, was the affective sensation generated by this music, in its various heydays. The shockwaves of the beats and bass passing through your body seemed to herald equivalent tremors passing through the body politic. That must be the promise in the music that Jeremy is responding to with his question about the nuum as a series of failed politicisations.

But if the power was really in the music, intrinsic to it, what kept it from spilling out into the wider world, boundless and unstoppable? What made it in the end a narrowcast transmission? I will return to speculate about this and other mysteries in my final reflection.


* is this a sort of reverse Carmodyism?

** Jeremy tells me that the next book he plans to write is actually titled Music is Power is Music

*** odd that in writing about submerged politics within jungle I should happen to fasten on two producers who are white but could be seen, and were heard as, "culturally black"... that fact in itself could and should be counted as a significant political achievement on the part of the nuum


Joe Muggs said...

Joe Muggs again.

And there we have it. Whimsical, maybe - revealing, definitely. The "nuum" as party-political: doctrinal, factional, sectarian. Something that you either belong to or you don't. After all, you can't be a member of more than one political party, right? And this party is something to which you, Simon, clearly expressed allegiance in your Liverpool speech and implicitly here.

This explains why you refuse so vehemently to acknowledge the degree of ongoing economic, aesthetic and demographic interconnectivity between doctrinally-approved hardcore and the UK's house, techno, hip hop, jazz-funk, R&B and other scenes (not just in the occasional appearance of musical "flavas" but in the shared personnel, ideas, infrastructure) - because to admit that many, perhaps most, of the ravers, promoters, producers, drug dealers, MCs and all the others who make up the body politic of the night-time economy might have split allegiances calls into question the very existence of the "nuum" as political party.

And that is why I find this clinging to, and endless defending of, the "nuum" to be not just tiresome, but potentially harmful to the wider cultural discussion: defenders of doctrines create artificial barriers around them, deny some differences and over-emphasise others. It's historically faulty, and more importantly, these barriers create blockages for those who would show links between the strategies of power and modernism within and without the doctrinally-approved "nuum" - as, just as one example, do Mala and DMZ with their connections between post-junglist UK soundsystem culture and the militant soul of Francois K's Deep Space.

No amount of quotation from Plato can distract from this admission that the "nuum" has become a doctrine, not an observation.

When you started writing about hardcore in the Melody Maker, Simon, there was a music-writing establishment that held it not worthy of serious comment and considered the "Balearic continuum" the only part of dance music worth discussing in any depth; what you did with your work was, in its way, revolutionary. However, like many revolutionaries, you have found yourself at the heart of a new establishment, and the principles of your writing which were once potent substances to inject into an unhealthy hegemony have ossified into a doctrine of their own. I believe you have a duty to the musicians and ravers of today and the history books of tomorrow to question why and how this has happened.


Re: "Something that you either belong to or you don't. After all, you can't be a member of more than one political party, right?"

Not sure about that actually. But It's a semi-humorous analogy. Certainly (if one was to pursue the analogy) you can be a member of one party and attend political rallies and read the campaign literature of other ones. I obviously checked out loads of other dance scenes and sounds during the entire period; Energy Flash is approximately 75 percent about non-nuum stuff. The new expanded edition has a chapter which finds kind things to say about psy-trance!

I'm sure musicians check out loads of stuff too. But it's about where you direct your creative energy, as a DJ or producer, isn't it?

Re: "The "nuum" as party-political: doctrinal, factional, sectarian."

That's a rather melodramatic conception of the political party. They can be those things. But they can also be assemblies of people with common interests pursuing particular aims.

But let's look at the "factional' word -- you're familiar, I expect, with the whole story of the Jungle Council that inner circle producers and DJs formed in late 94because of the controversy over whole General Levy "Incredible"? And that there have been at subsequent stages, attempts to form similar Councils within nuum genres to control the direction of the music--with garage/2step, I believe, because they were unhappy with the rise of MC based proto-grime tracks. And wasn't there talk of a funky house council recently?

That shows that there is quite literally a scene politics, and also a centre to the various scenes.

Not that the Council nonsense was cool or anything-- it was a deeply misguided attempt to steer the direction of the music (which "knows" where it wants to go, I think). But the Council saga happened and it shows "centripetalism" as a force in these cultures.

Re: "and this party is something to which you, Simon, clearly expressed allegiance in your Liverpool speech and implicitly here. "

Clearly, loudly, and with considerable personal passion. Am I supposed to be embarrassed by that? Are we not allowed to be fans of stuff? It's been the most exciting sector of dance music in the UK through this period. Not the ONLY exciting one but the MOST exciting and certainly the most culturally interesting one. Disagree by all means, but make a case.


Re: "the degree of ongoing economic, aesthetic and demographic interconnectivity between doctrinally-approved hardcore and the UK's house, techno, hip hop, jazz-funk, R&B and other scenes (not just in the occasional appearance of musical "flavas" but in the shared personnel, ideas, infrastructure)"

I already shredded this in the first "reflection"!

I'd like to ask you, Joe--what were the pirate radio stations that played a mix of all these different kinds of music? In fact the pirates that are part of this thing I call the continuum played, at different phases, nonstop ardkore, nonstop jungle, nonstop UK garage, nonstop grime. Perhaps there was an occasional off-peak show playing something mellow, but essentially they were full-tilt about the nuum sound of their respective moments. Later on as things fragmented you'd get stations like Rinse with a range of shows--some grime, some dubstep, some funky--but sticking within the continuum-zone.

I'd like to further ask you--what are the clubs and raves you went to that had a mix of all those different kinds of music ("house, techno, hip hop, jazz-funk, R&B")? Cos I went to loads of clubs and raves all through the lifetime of the nuum, and they would stick to one sound at any given phase--98 percent hardcore, 98 percent jungle, 98 UKG/2step, 98 percent grime, 98 percent dubstep. I don't say 100 percent because very occasionally there'd be a crossover tune like that Timo Maas remix 'doom's night' that managed to fit into several different scenes. But that was very much an exception.

It's not about what friendships or associations musicians might have outside the scene, or who dropped by as visitors (in the same way that I visited Megatripolis or Megadog or Knowledge but was never part of those scenes). It's about the scene itself--the social space where week after week dancers gather or pirate listeners tune in; the genre space where producers and DJs battle for supremacy.

You seem to have a problem grasping this.


Re: "potentially harmful to the wider cultural discussion… a new establishment… unhealthy"

Where is this new establishment and how can I get in there?

Seriously, though, what is the institutional structure of this establishment? What does the hegemony actually control? Magazines? University faculties?

Basically you're talking about me, aren't you? Me, my blog, and the occasional piece I write (very occasional these last few years--I'd pretty much dropped out of the nuum-journalism game in 2006-2007-2008, bar the odd record review.)

"Establishment" = one individual with a persuasive line of patter.

Some people are persuaded. Slightly more people are interested, but have disagreements or a different take. The majority of people into dance music are blissfully unaware of the concept.

Ironically, WAY more people are now aware of the hardcore continuum concept than they were 18months ago, when the kvetching first started.

I simply don't see this legion of doctrinally-correct disciples out there. But there are plenty of people who lived through the era in much the same way that I did, took a similar path and had similar experiences and essentially know what went down. A few of them, those who write about music, will use the concept now and then. And sometimes come up with different results than I would (I don't always agree with what K-Punk says, believe it or not).

The "unhealthiness," it seems, to me is all in your head (and take that anyway you please).

Look, Joe, if you find it "tiresome", just move on. Don't spend any more time writing carefully composed 1200 word letters to the Wire in response to imagined slights (one sentence of mine in a Wire piece not even about the hardcore continuum or dance music, but about reissue overload). Don't spend any more time writing doggedly-missing-the-point, bizarrely thin-skinned commentaries in comments boxes. Don't troop off in the middle of a working Wednesday to a conference way out in Zone 6 to deliver a speech, prefaced by the profession "I don't really want to be here". Because then you just look disingenuous.

Start a new conversation. There is nothing standing in your way. There never was. You and the other guys should just do it. Formulate your own system. It's as easy as that. Really.

But spare me this pompous cant about "duty" and "history".

Joe Muggs said...

Oh come on, the "owe it to history" bit is so obviously a rhetorical flourish - as was "I don't want to be here", as you very well know, Simon, given that that was followed in my address by a detailed run down of precisely why I was actually pleased and honoured to be there in a room with Kodwo, Steve, Martin and the others, and pleased and honoured to be discussing your ideas.

If anyone is being disingenuous here, it is you, in your joky refusal to acknowledge your established position - the world of rave and bass music might be a small one, but it is one in which you wield a lot of influence, and your words mean a lot to a lot of people, including me. Your words carry weight. Which is precisely why your "offhand" comments (we all know there's no such thing as "offhand" from a writer as thorough as you, Simon!) accusing me of deliberately misrepresenting the Landstrumm album and the musical lines of influence therein, and of being a "lunatic fringe" stung. And no, this was not "bizarrely thin-skinned": plenty of people remarked unprompted on your "offhand" accusations. It also appeared to me (and others) that in your Wire comment you were writing off Landstrumm and a whole huge host of other, younger, artists as “clotted music”, which was far too much of a sweeping and dismissive statement to let go without comment.

Now, regarding the integrity of the “nuum”: you say you went to clubs playing 98% pure “nuum” music. Yes, so did I! But also through the 1990s I went to many big clubs and bigger raves where pure “nuum” was played alongside all the other styles of the Greater Rave Continuum, and where I witnessed “nuum” DJs socialising with “non-nuum” artists like the old friends or even relatives they often were. And of the people who went to the 98% pure clubs, of course there were diehards who listened to nothing else, but in my experience, many of the regulars were also regulars at definitely “non-nuum” nights, and what's more their closest friends, partners, housemates, relatives often were deep in other scenes, and when it came to socialising outside the clubs, at houseparties, warehouse parties and the rest, music got mixed up like anything. And of course the promoters, studio engineers (who were as responsible for the way records sounded as any of the DJs who told them to make it 'more bassy') and drug dealers – the people who made up the scaffolding of the scene – were frequently completely involved in other musics outside their professional interest in the 98% pure “nuum” clubs. We are not the USA, we are not ghettoised, people live on top of one another, and our music has always reflected this. Point being: if, as you claim, the “nuum” is the totality of people and their actions, you cannot draw a line around it without becoming proscriptive and prescriptive to the point of insanity. There is no point where “nuum” stops and “non-nuum” starts. It is not, as you say, “a thing”, and to claim that it is is to draw an arbitrary line on a map and say “I have decreed that this is a thing”. I have precisely the same issue with anyone who chooses to hold up Britpop as a Thing. Hm, I'd better stop there, as that is an analogy I could pursue at REALLY unnecessary length.

Joe Muggs said...

I will reply in the other discussion thread about the specific examples of artistic influence, then I will leave it, because I'm not going to change your mind. But please, don't think this is some big, crazed tilting-at-windmills thing. Like you, I'm a writer and for me as I'm sure for you, it's no big deal to construct an argument, 1200 words or otherwise. I and others ARE perfectly happily making our own conversations meanwhile – not “formulating a system”, though: things are more fluid these days, and we don't need to do that old NME / Melody Maker thing of branding every movement and sub-movement within the wider system of music now. I'm not pointing out the illusory nature of one attempt at over-systematising the wild world of club music only to try and impose another one!

I hope that this discussion has not built up too much rancour, and I perhaps shouldn't have reacted quite so snarkily at your offhand dismissals. As I've consistently said I admire your work, I liked what the continuum represented before it set solid into The Nuum, and I love, very very deeply, the selfsame music that you use it to celebrate. All of which is very clearly why my reactions are from the gut as well as from the synapses...


Everyone's entitled to have their different memories of an era. I must say though that yours don’t correlate much with my own. It's not that things have become artificially clearcut through hindsight or theory-ossification, because I can remember it seeming clearcut at the time--- the UK rave/club scene was separating into strands even as I got into it. I probably caught the last little taste of it being still somewhat amorphous and semi-unified and then through 1992 and 1993 it just became all these different paths that steadily grew more divergent.

When I'd go out with my crew, it was very much "which sound are we going to have it to tonight?". Clubs had distinct sounds/vibes and to an extent distinct crowds. Most of my gang leaned towards house, I was very quickly leaning to hardcore/junglism, so we'd alternate. We'd also check out loads of other places like Knowledge or that club in Wandsworth (Club UK?) or Drum Club at The Soundshaft (both of those progressive house i guess) or Megatripolis or Trade. Loads of places whose names I can't remember and probably don't deserve to be remembered. But generally it was amazing how little overlap there was with tunes across the scenes.

Bigger clubs or one-offs like things at Bagleys you'd get a second room or a couple of side rooms, with different flavor-options. But all the action was on the main floor with the big sound system, and that would be focused on the core sound of whatever scene it was.

That sense of something fragmenting into different vibe-tribes (a sort of combination of centrifugal process -- in terms of rave/club culture as a whole splitting apart -- and centripetal, each vibe-tribe becoming tightly focused) has really lived with me since then.

The cross-scene fraternization stuff is interesting. But it's honestly hard for me to see that it had much consequences musically.

There's definitely scope for and value in shining a spotlight on some of the subnarratives and neglected pathways within dance music history.

I haven't responded to your latest set of "ah, but…"'s over in the comments to Nuum Discontents #2, because there's no point in getting bogged down in a quibbling with each other's quibbles back-and-forth.

I will say though that you really are a committed centrifugalist! A real compulsion to find the exception and edge case. Now these kinds of things are not insignificant, and indeed many of the odd pathways people took to get to the nuum-zone are interesting, as is the cloudy prehistory of speed garage, or of bassline. But to me they are smaller truths that obscure the larger ones.

Anyway, er, go in peace, young man!

Joe Muggs said...

Thanks. Peace, love, unity and having fun, as a pre-"nuum" dance music guru once recommended.

Committed I may be - I'm not a centrifugalist, though. I'm not interested in pulling things apart any more than I'm interested in forcing them together. I'm just not into party lines. Call me a Groucho Marxist if you must find a label.

Domuseswords said...

A good sign!