Sunday, 26 December 2010

Top ten tunes to kettle-break to

From the free-party and rave scene of the early 90s through to dubstep, grime and UK Funky today, there has been one force, one culture at the heart of Britain's alternative electronic music scene. This cultural phenomenon has been called the Hardcore Continuum ('nuum'), taking its name from the early days of Hardcore Rave and a simple time-line of it might read Rave>Hardcore Rave>Jungle>Drum and Bass at which point (sometime in the mid-90s) a lot of the big names and the mass of fans found things getting stale, moved into the second floor of the club, which played American Garage House, made it faster, bassier, darker, better, and then we get Garage and eventually its bastard daughters and sons; Dubstep, Grime, Bassline and more recently UK Funky. It has in other words pretty much contained every exciting strand of electronic music to come out of the UK this last 20 years. It is a continuum, or rather culture, because although its constituent parts sound nothing alike (rave and garage, grime and jungle), it has the same demographic (multi-cultural working class), the same hubs of activity (South and East London, outposts in Bristol and the North East), often the same DJs and producers (Steve Gurley who went from Jungle to Garage to Dubstep, El-B who went from Garage to Dubstep to UK Funky etc) the same means of distribution (pirate radio, small record shops, giant raves) and alongside an intense look-to-the-future Modernism, and sense of its roots in those that came before.

Another defining feature of this culture has been its almost total lack of political consciousness. Despite its roots in the self-assertion of the most marginalised sections of British society, despite the fact that the music itself is dark, anarchic and avant-guard to the extreme, despite how much energy and passion goes into the creation and expansion of this music (check this for an example of the insane lengths people went to to set up pirate radio stations), despite an explicitly combative stance to 'the mainstream', despite its energy and innovation deriving from the collectivity of the 'scenius' (good ideas are generated randomly, spread rapidly, with no question originality or providence) rather than the auteurship of select genius individuals, despite it's hyper-modernist dedication to progression - moving forward, the scene was never overtly political.

This has been to the immense detriment of the Left. Politics happens when an intellectual understanding of what is wrong combines with an emotional impetus and arrives at the anger to act. Culture, for many, is this emotional impetus. It's a love of cultural traditions that makes Nationalism such a potent and WHY WONT YOU DIE persistent force in the face of its obvious, objective falsehood. But culture is also at the heart (as opposed to the head) of the best movements of the Left. Thatcher killed off the mining industry - that was so economically successful that it subsidized the rest of nationalised British industry - because it supported a way of life and culture that was antithetical to her plan of creating an island state of island people. That this large body of angry self-organised, self-consiously outcast, intimidatingly creative people never in a moment of bass endued madness decided to leave the club and clobber and burn down the buildings of Parliament Square, is a waste of potential and talent on a (failed) apocalyptic scale.

But something new happened in November. While 5,000 of us assembled outside of the TORYHQ at Millbank, kids with boomboxs blasted out wub-wubbing dubstep and bmttsttskkattskatsskabmttsbmkatsts of Drum and Bass. It worked really well and ever since British Bass music has been a recurring feature of the student protests, often brilliantly accompanied by live drum groups. The most radical music to come from Britain since Punk is finding its place within radical politics. This is proof of the novelty of our movement. When the drop comes in we charge. Smash the window in time with the bass.

But there is one problem. The kids with the speakers - their taste is shit. Richard Dawkins help the university student who thinks they know better than the sixth-formers, who thinks they can lead the way for those living life on the edge of this governments axe, but I will allow myself the patronizing tone - not an older and wiser-political entity, but of a massive geek - when I say, wipe the Pendulum and Rusko from your Protest Playlist, and try out a couple of these:

DJ Crystal - Warpdrive - 1993

Omigosh, this is the sort of tune which makes one baffled to think of how the Hardcore Continuum didn't achieve the revolution. The beats talk of destruction, the melody of creation.

DJ Tango - Think Twice - 1994

It's dark. Play this. Set off flares. Confuse Police.

KMA Productions - Cape Fear - 1996

The squelching bass kind of reminds me of a crowd pushing and being pushed. The 4x4 beat keeps you pushing. I also think you'd get points for get battoned to garage.

Photek - Smoke Rings -1997
Photek - Smoke Rings at Hype Machine
Makes you want to hit things while writhing on the floor. Which come to think of it isn't especially wise considering the police's medieval cavalry tactics of late. Maybe it will help you violently roll away.

ES Dubs - Standard Hoodlum Issue (Z Bias mix)

Wriggle right past the police line.

Vex'd - Angels - 2005


Burial - South London Boroughs - 2005

I think this is a good one for those times when you've been re-kettled on a bridge 5 minutes after leaving the last one.

Distance - Traffic - 2006

The ravey high parts sound like the sound of sirens come, the bassy roars sound like wolves or bears or something.

Code 3 - Response Call - 2010

For plotting.

Jack Sparrow feat. Ruckspin - Dread 2010

I'm pretty sure the vacuum-scuffle-boom sounds the right temp for heave hoing a metal fence.

Bonus Track (not British, not Bassy) for those who like their riots with 20 minute build ups:
Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Providence - 1998

Bibliography of others talking about music and politics

Simon Reynolds (coined the phrase Hardcore Continuun, started all of this, is the most ravey of the academics and the most academic of the ravers - this blog is essentially 90% ripped off him)

An early Wire article of his
A pre-protest blog on the failure of the 'Nuum to politicize

BBC Article on dubstep and protest

An [incorrect] counter point

Counter-counter-point/wider view (Good article~)

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