Over the last ten years, the music journalist Simon Reynolds has developed the concept of the hardcore continuum ('nuum' for short) to describe a scene which began with rave and progressed through various styles including drum n bass, jungle and 'ardkore through to dubstep and grime, then to 2step to funky in the present day. He draws out connections between genres in terms of labels, dubplates producers, pirate radio stations and places. But he's missing out as much as he leaves in.
I'm more concerned with underground music than following fads, and despite dabbling in therory, Reynolds seems to ignore the fact that capitalism consistently recuperates any challenges to its hegemony. Thus labels and people sell out, pirate radio stations become mainstream to develop an audience, free parties become recommodified as commercial festivals like Lowlands or Glade or Bangface. Just because pirate stations like Rinse used to play drum n bass and now play garage, or certain artists have developed in the same direction, doesn't mean that garage is in any way hardcore.
Whilst I like some of the ideas behind the nuum I'm not sure how relevant it is to me, since I'm more interested in dark fucked up sounds and sonic experimentation (the real progression of hardcore, surely). The last time the nuum got me going was dubstep and I don't think there's anything hardcore about funky.
To be fair, Reynolds did say in 2009:
It's even not the only dance continuum I'm interested in as a listener or as a writer, for instance I've written a lot about another music called hardcore, the gabba tradition, European four to the floor kick drum pounding terror techno, I'm a big fan and defender of that
... but then he hasn't mentioned it much lately. At a 'Critical Beats' talk in 2012, he even seemed rather dismissive of gabba, possibly because he has lost touch with its offshoots through living in New York and listening to shit like Burial.
Yet as we all know, one offshoot of rave, the faster hectic strand hardened into gabba which then itself influenced many forms, such as happy hardcore, french tekno, speedcore and breakcore. Various subgenres have splintered off and sometimes form into valid scenes themselves eg flashcore.
Where does that leave us now? Well, we are in the future. You tell me. Having gone through explosion then death, whatever breakcore now means nowadays still throws up a shitload of good stuff, since experimentation and sonic deviance is explicitly welcomed by its broad parameters. Wrong Music pioneered a return to weirdness and now bassline (Kanji Kinetic, Figure, Warlock) is getting people raving on the dancefloor again.
Personally, what I'm hoping for would be just as dubstep bass infected dnb basslines, we'll end up with a fast return to the darkside, with massive basslines anchored on 220 bpm beats.
At the Critical Beats talk the heroes seemed to be Zomby and Burial. I'd prefer to sit down and talk about Venetian Snares, Enduser, Shitmat, La Peste, No Name and Mouse. Vsnares is on mu-ziq records, Enduser is on the consistently interesting AdNoiseam (among other labels) but these names didn't get mentioned once.
That's a bit weird, since these people really are maintaining some sort of hardcore continuum (although that name's taken already). For example, VSnares frequently drops in references to allsorts of stuff in his tunes (commercial drum n bass in 'Fuck Toronto Jungle' and 'A Lot of Drugs',' punk in 'Abomination Street', rave in 'Husikam Rave Dojo' and 'Calvin Kleining', gabba all through the Winnipeg album and so on).
Reynolds is correct to identify how a scene develops in reflexively self-referential style, which can be almost impenetrable to outsiders who don't know the heritage of the scene. But he is wrong to track continua as they mainstream and become commercialised. It's personal choice I suppose, but surely it's much more interesting to stay underground.
Flint Michigan wrote in the initial manifesto for Datacide magazine that it was:
A communication tool of the trans-european Undo*round, it is intended to give the a deserved coverage to those who do things, not for the kudos, prestige and cash it might bring in but for the buzz of inter-activity and mutual respect
There is an underground quietly bubbling away, partying at the weekend, communicating through zines like this one, creating music of all sorts with a seriously anti-capitalist and anti-commercial attitude. That's what gives me hope and what I see as the real hardcore continuum.