Thursday, November 3, 2011

Netlabel culture

Re-reading Ed's (not really) recent posts on shitcore got me thinking about a related topic that I cultivated quite an interest for a few years back.  As the internet proved itself to be a a) game-changing outlet for people of all types, backgrounds, interests, and skills to exhibit said backgrounds, interests, skills and b) an (arguably) truly libertarian and anarchic playground for self-expression, easy distribution and subculture-breeding, lots of new paradigms cropped up.  New avenues for business, for publishing, for networking, for computer games began to breed rapidly.  We all know the story.

Netlabels are one of many stories that make up the annals of fringe internet culture.  Let's assume they first came into existence in the late 1990s.  In essence, they release music for free in completely digital formats.  This means no costs other than a modest amount of server space.  Pair this with all manners of "difficult" electronic music, and you have a match made in heaven.  It's a way for a small group of like-minded individuals to bond over a common interest (aka, what the vast majority of the non-commercial entities on the internet are all about).  You see similar paradigms in other media: independent video game developers, amateur photographers, DeviantArt, SoundCloud, the blogosphere in general.  People not only want to make their art, but they want to share it and not necessarily for profit.  They just want to share it.  And they want to be part of a community.  That's what forums are for.  That's what social media is about.

The biggest difference here isn't that it's a self-selecting community, or that it's a fringe interest because it hasn't picked up steam.  It's definitely both of those.  The biggest difference is the afore-mentioned nature of the music: difficult.  It's abstract, often obscene, often with low fidelity sound, highly repetitive, grating, annoying, silly, offensive.  It already draws from the most abrasive and fringe styles of music: breakcore, grindcore, industrial, noise, power electronics, 8-bit, chiptune, death metal, black metal, drone.  It's a community that never ever wants to be popular or well known.  It's even a community that often will deny it's affiliations with any of the aforementioned styles/genres (especially that of breakcore, which I'll get to).  It's a community without a center, without a cohesive style-guide.  You can "distill" it because then you'd just get something that sounded like a better-known artist of one of the styles many of these artists freely and playfully draw from.  You can't take gabber-infused 8-bit noise and make it sound good.  I guess if you really wanted to and really wanted to force the public at large to accept these strange noises, you'd really have to get some really polished producers and some A-level vocal talent to make some really catchy hooks over what would have to be really dumbed-down, antithetically stripped netlabel music.  That said, one of the joys of the "style," if we can call it that, is that there is no style.

There are moments of incredible bliss, of melodic and stylistic perfection scattered throughout these badly tagged (often the ID3 tags for genre read "Blues"), perversely sarcastic albums.  Smack in the middle of an album of hectic, chopped up, fuzzed out breakbeats set over pornographically guttural pitch-shifted vocals, there can be moments of shockingly thoughtful and complex beats and/or melody/harmony.  It's these joys alongside the hilarious ridiculousness of the totally spastic gabber-fuzz-bullshit and absurdist song titles/album covers that make these artists worthwhile.  That, and my belief that no artist isn't worthwhile, they're just worthless to me or to you or to whomever.  So you do end up with moments that really could be even minor underground hits if they were distributed in "real" or "legitimate" or "normal" avenues.  But they're not.  They're released in hard-to-find, intentionally badly-designed and visually grating websites reminiscent of something a fourth grader would have made using nothing but HTML back in 1997.

Two things to consider at this point in this...essay...rant...piece of writing...let's go with that: Two things to consider at this point in this piece of writing: a) didn't Ed already write this a few months back and isn't all of this just shitcore? and b) who gives a crap, most of the music sucks.

To the askers of the first question: yes, it basically is shitcore.  But shitcore tends to have less emphasis on harsh noise and power electronics and more emphasis on speed and sheer strangeness.  But if you want to call a spade a spade, go ahead, I won't stop you.  Sonically speaking there is very little difference between the average output on say Shitwank (Australian shitcore artist Passenger of Shit's label) and say...Trashfuck Net, among the more well-known of netlabels.  And there are a million labels in between that do a combination of free digital releases and purchasable physical releases in styles similar to either of the aforementioned labels.

As for the second part, I'm not really sure.  The people who make it are in a spectrum from those who genuinely care about their craft and see their work as part of a sociological, musicological, political trajectory or chronologically-evolving network and those who make it to piss people off and laugh about it:  the musical equivalent of Youtube trolls.  And then, there are plenty of people who just suck at making weird and/or bad music and their output can't even be listened to by so-called enthusiasts of the style.  And this happens in every genre all the time.  And then finally there are those who simply don't have an ear for this type of music and wouldn't or couldn't understand it's merits if they hit them in the face.  Like any type of art.

At some point, I'll put a list of my favorite netlabel releases

For more:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Playlist #2

When Nat and I decided to bring back this blog as somewhat of a method of forcing ourselves to actually write instead of dicking around on Gchat and talking big about how we're gonna start some sort of awesome blog and THEN start writing, we decided that it would contain a few main things:
  • Terrible run-on sentences, apparently.
  • Wanky art history major-style prose (that's him, not me. I'm actually quite engaging).
  • Playlists of what we're listening to recently.
Well that means that it's my turn to write a playlist...EVEN THOUGH I THOUGHT WE WOULD BE WRITING THEM TOGETHER YOU HEARTLESS BASTARD. I also thought that we'd be doing individual songs instead of albums, but communication has never really been one of my strong suits (seriously, just ask my girlfriend! Heyoooo!). Anyway, here's a list of what I've been listening to lately. At some point in the future we'll probably do some sort of thing where we make actual playlists and put them on mediafire or whatever for people to download, but that's, like, hard.

The Olivia Tremor Control - The Sylvan Screen

Yea, I've been getting back into a lot of the Elephant 6 stuff that I was so obsessed with in High School and ditched so unceremoniously a few years later for grinding electronic noise. I guess The Olivia Tremor Control had kind of an effect on my future music tastes, what with their penchant for dense found sound/noise sculptures and complex instrumentation. In fact, whenever I'm asked to describe them, I say "they sound like The Beatles, if they were less talented and Yoko Ono was actually talented." I keep expecting people to laugh at that, because I think it's funny, but no one ever does. Anyway, I've put this song on every time I've gotten in my car for the past, like, three weeks. It starts off slow with some, umm, nature sounds, but it soon changes into one of their ballsiest tracks, with crunchy guitar riffs punctuated by sparse banjo picking and beautifully harmonized vocals. Good stuff, pitch-perfect pop with enough complexity to bear up under repeated listens.

Drink Pairing: Tecate, outside on a fall night with people you don't hate.

Madness - House of Fun

Another band that I'm revisiting after a long hiatus. When I was real young, my dad basically had four bands which he played on a rotating basis on every car trip: Madness, Squeeze, The Clash and Led Zeppelin. Madness is probably the one that stuck with me the most, especially this song, with it's rollicking, carnivalesque chorus and non-stop catchy energy. I was stuck a few towns over on a rainy day last week waiting for my car to be repaired, and ducked into a small record shop. While there, I found an old Madness compilation album in the used bin, bought it, and have been bumping this shit nonstop ever since.

Drink Pairing: Bitter, with several soccer fans with shaved heads and boots who are being kind of casually racist, but it's ok because no one seems to mind and they're doing goofy dances.

Nirvana - Oh The Guilt

Seriously, I'm a fucking nostalgia fiend these days. I used to be one of those creepy Nirvana (let's be honest...Kurt) obsessives, but kinda outgrew it around the time my acne began to clear up. But I still hold a soft spot in my heart for them, and after having a fairly intense argument with a loved one about their merits, spent a few hours listening to a few of my favorites, this being chief among them. I mean, seriously, for a b-side this is a ball-crushingly awesome song. With its intense-as-all-hell guitar riff and abstract, gritty vocals, its kind of surprising that this got buried in the archives instead of blowing up the charts. 

Drink Pairing: The tears of everyone who made fun of you in middle school.

Venetian Snares - The Identification Circles Levitate

New Snares EP. Abstract reggae-based glitch. Nuff said. 

Drink Pairing: Lots and lots of weed, with a whiskey chaser for anger.

Toecutter - Come on Barbie

Toecutter has always ridden that knife edge between being too cutesy and lo-fi and being too ADHD and complex. Honestly, probably like 99% of breakcore artists either carve themselves a comfortable niche on either side or fall pathetically off this edge and slice themselves up the taint and into the vitals. He's one of the few who can walk this line, with crusty pastiches of cheesy pop standards holding their own against bare noise and mind-numbing chopped breaks, making his pop culture-addled deconstructions something more than the sum of their parts. Mix that with the awesome video for this song, and you have something which I can totally watch every day.

Drink Pairing: An overpriced vodka cocktail.

Well, there you go. Yea I made a playlist which is only, like, five songs long. What, do I have unlimited time to write a bunch of stuff that no one is gonna read anyway? Shit.

On Weird Music, Part 2

So last time I left you all wondering “this kid clearly thinks Taylor Swift is a) awesome and b) weird music.” Part A is true. Part B is not. Fear not loyal (hah!) readers.

Let's take a step back and go back to high school. As most kids did, I grew up idolizing the rock and roll stars of my parents' generation, thinking that they were not only the bees' knees, but that they were only thing really worth delving into. I honestly didn't delve much into music from later than 1995 other than some metal (Tool, System of a Down). I still thought I was fucking cool (knowing full well that a) I wasn't and b) no one else thought I was). That said Bob Dylan bored me (and still does), Jimi Hendrix was too much for me and Nirvana didn't really register until like the summer after 9th grade. So I was basically just pumping The Clash, Madness, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Ramons, The Sex Pistols, The Grateful Dead, Creedence, Crosby Stills Nash and Young until around 10th grade.

In 8th grade I had discovered Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and that had a huge impact on me. I couldn't believe the outright and blatant sexuality and perversity of the album. It was dark, depressing and scary. From the pulsing, throbbing synths, to the crass lyrics and the excruciating noise buildup in “Hurt,” this was brand-new sonic territory for me and it instantly became a favorite.

In 9th grade this awesome punk rock girl came to our school and we instantly bonded over feelings of alienation from the majority of the school. She quickly became a staple in our group of misfits and nerds. She gave me all this awesome music that I instantly fell in love with: The Adicts, Dead Kennedys, X-Ray Spex, The Stooges, amongst others. This was also brand-new territory for me. The last three are still amongst my favorites and regularly get spins (if you can call it that), especially X-Ray Spex. X-Ray Spex had this incredible energy and Poly Styrene's vocals are so shrill and angsty, yet verging on soulful that I just couldn't get enough. It's really a shame they only released one full-length.

It was also in 9th grade that I got my first dose of hardcore punk. Another punk rock girl who later became another of my closest friends was also wearing Leftöver Crack t shirts and was always talking about them. So I went out and got their first album. I HATED IT. I couldn't deal. It was fucking scary. So much noise. So much anger. What was going on. I loved the Sex Pistols, I loved the Stooges. Why was this so different. I thought it was punk rock. I wasn't wrong. I just wasn't aware of what punk meant then. When I came back to it around 12th grade I was hooked. It's raw, it's all over the place. It's got classical interludes, death metal breakdowns, hilarious samples, real anarcho-punk grit and surprisingly great musicianship. It's almost the perfect hardcore album for me in that it's not just “loud fast” but “loud, fast, and smart.” Smart lyrically, smart instrumentally; a very thoughtful album that I can't tell if it was meant to be smart or just ended up that way.

11th and 12th grade things started changing. I discovered indie music for the first time. Of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Walkmen, The Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party. The big names sure, but for me this, again, was brand new territory. It wasn't all for me (and still isn't), but I do love a great indie pop album. And Neutral Milk Hotel routinely brings me to tears. It's beautiful stuff. Interpol too was a huge influence on me. Their first album was just such a great New York album. Made me feel at home somehow. It was dark, but well-crafted. Of Montreal would later greatly influence my pop sensibilities, especially during sophomore year of college and the year after college. Satanic Panic in the Attic and Sunlandic Twins are great psych pop albums.

But we STILL haven't really gotten to the crux of all this. More next time, kiddies.

Coming up: Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk; How Experimental Music Changed My Life.

On Weird Music, Part 1

One question I seem to never tire of being asked is “why do you listen to such weird music?” I've never had a good answer. And I'm usually drunk when I'm asked it so I really can't make anything connect. But I really do like the question, and I think maybe I like it because I don't have an answer and it forces me to constantly evaluate my interests and ideas. Which is something no one does nearly enough. People need to stop, breathe, re-evaluate and either make alterations or decide the path they're on is the right one for them and continue on. Either way is fine, as long those considerations are made and accounted for every so often. Be a crazy-ass murderer. Just WANT to be a crazy-ass murderer. Don't do it because your parents pushed you to follow in their footsteps.

Back to the topic at hand. Music is what you make of it. Music sets the mood, it sets the tone of the day, of the hour. Really fun music can be great. It can also be really boring. Or really grating. Or just not what you need. Sometimes you need to be depressed. Sometimes you need to feel like your brain is being slowly and inefficiently worn down by the rhythmic ripping of a dull cheese grater. Sometimes you need to get angry. Sometimes you just need to dance. Sometimes you need to feel as insignificant as possible. And sometimes you just need to get LAID.

But what about when you're not looking to “set a tone” or get some drunk chick to feel sexier than she probably looks. What about when you're just at home. Alone. Nothing to do except listen to music. No real mood to set. No depression to feed or stave off. I'm rarely trying to completely numb myself. Everything I listen to ends up being a lesson. A lesson in myself, in the world around me, in my friends and who they are and why they're like that, in forces greater than we can know. Music has this incredible power to not only shape our moods and define our emotions but to give weight and viability to concepts and ideas. It's more than just feeling good. I know this sounds stupid because it always does no matter how it's said or who says it but music is truly mind expanding in ways that few other things are.

By mind expanding I mean to say that music can show you not simply new paradigms with which to create music, but full-fledged maps of social, political and philosophical realities. Sound itself is simply a medium, stuff, material, in the same way that paint and paper scraps are the “stuff” of painting and collage respectively. A red dot means nothing on a canvas until you ascribe meaning onto it. Even a fully-realized, figurative painting means shit without some context. The less context you give it then it becomes the audience's job to interpret. The more context (aka, “meaning”) you impose the less interpretation and the more concrete it becomes. That's not to say that the best figurative painting doesn't have loads of hidden messages and interpretable content. It just means that it's more outwardly understandable. With sound it's very much the same. The more easily-apparent structure that's imposed the more easily interpretable it is. That doesn't mean that great music isn't well structured and seemingly nondescript. It's the interpretation of subtleties, the hidden messages, the slight differences between one song and a similar song that make one or the other more or less interesting.

With modern, radio-friendly pop music, there's rarely much to talk about. Bump-bump-bump-bump. That doesn't mean I don't listen to Britney almost every morning (these are hard facts, people). But at the same time for some people they find a lot of pleasure in listening to nothing but pop music. Music that speaks on a very simple, but emotionally/psychologically resonant level.

Taylor Swift is a great example. She makes really sweet, beautiful (let's not call it country, because it's not) pop music that's heartfelt and emotive. She talks about issues that most of us have endured or at least fantasized about (also we've all fantasized about her so it's not hard to think of yourself—if you're a guy—as the guy in each of her songs): bad break-ups, new crushes gone bad, budding romances, and the uncomfortable truth of seeing your ex move on whether you have or not. It's powerful stuff and she's got a killer voice and a great set of producers that really help build beautifully sappy pop gold. I listened to her new album CONSTANTLY for about 4 months. I listened to it in the car. With friends (yes, in a room full of guys). Playing Call of Duty. Writing job applications. Cooking dinner. Me and a couple friends got hooked to that shit. And that's because it's great. It's silly, it's cheesy, but it really allows you to visualize the stories and the stories really connect. And so with pop music you have the heartfelt music and the strong story-based lyrics to draw you in. Either that or a great hook, a catchy beat and some awesome synth or guitar work to get GROOOOOVIN'.

More on this in part two, in which I talk about the stylistic origins of my tastes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

On TV Shows and Background Music...Part One in an Ongoing Series of Appreciations

Since I first became interested in music (ehh...9th grade or so), I've always loved hearing shit that I recognize on TV. I remember getting a giddy rush of pretentious high-school-music-nerd delight running down my spine when I heard Rapture Rapes the Muses playing in the background of some episode of MTV Cribs. "Well," I proclaimed to no one in particular, since I was awkward, highly unpopular and usually alone, "it looks like someone at MTV has some taste in music." And I promptly high-tailed it to an E6 message board, finding that I wasn't the only scrawny 15 year old who had heard the ten second keyboard riff.

Anyway, since then I've always gotten something of a pretentious thrill out of recognizing snippets of respectable music on the tubes. So I've figured that I would call it out and give credit where credit is due, in a regular series (aka just this one post) of articles highlighting the best of background music.

And the first show to be highlighted: Top Gear UK. Not only is this the best show ever (fuck you Nat, just admit it), but it also has this awesome habit of using really high-level, complex electronic music to buffer its standard car-porn shots.

For example, skip to 2:19 in this video (can't figure out how to do the whole automatically start at a certain time thing when embedding video, so bear with me here):

That's "Nightlife" by Amon Tobin! No shit, they had the taste to throw in one of his jazziest, most melodic and wonderfully creepily reverb-drenched tracks. Bloody fucking brilliant.

And they get even nicer, check this one out (audio starts later, but just watch the whole thing, I know you're not busy):

Come to Daddy (Pappy Mix)! Aphex Twin! Perfect music for watching some car go screaming down a track. Sheeeiiiit, I used to bump this monster back in the day when I was crawling through rush hour traffic to try to make first's just straight up driving music.

Those are the only two examples that I'm gonna bother to demonstrate, but just today I've heard them play a few of my other favorite Amon Tobin tracks (Saboteur especially), Windowlicker, and some Boards of Canada.

Get nice BBC, get nice.

And...we're back // Playlist #1

Hey.  So we're back.  For now.  I'm in India, Ed's back from China.  We're both bored and disappointed in ourselves for letting this get away from us.  We're using this as a platform for talking again.  We're gonna take a slightly different approach and we've made a pact to update 5 times a week (each), no matter what.  So that's like 50 posts a month.  The format is definitely not the same, but the sentiments are.  Fuck off.  Get stoned.  Take a nap.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Sooooo.  Without any further ado.  I'm gonna go do the last part and pass out.  Before I do that, I will leave you with some choice music nuggzzzzzzzszszzszszzszszszszszszszszsz.  No.  I am not high.  I'm not gonna provide mediafire links this time; you can do that on your own, it's too easy.  I might in the future, but not now.

Poison // Into the Abyss // 1987

Nope, not THAT Poison, but a super angry German thrash/black metal demo from the late '80s and early '90s.  Long songs (nothing below 7 minutes), excellent musicianship and song structure, and just really fun, riffy angst.  These guys sound pissed as fuck.  I'm usually not much of a thrash guy, but the vocals take this above and beyond the typical thrash sound that I can really groove to it.  By groove I mean sit in bed (I'm sick) and rock the fuck out.  Plus there's awesome moments where it completely drops out and builds up in this maniacal, devilish way.  It's awesome.  Go find an mp3 of this four-track demo.  Here's a taste:

Choking Victim // Crack Rock Steady EP // 1994

I woke up to this today.  It was awesome.  A total classic.  Anti-establishment ska-hardcore at its best.  Silly, irreverent, angry, and not afraid to be outspoken, these guys set the standard for American anarcho-punk in the mid-90s.  As many of you probably know, a few of them went on to start the hugely influential Leftôver Crack circa 2000.  This is the entirety of their first EP in a single, 9-minute youtube video.

ACxDC // He Had It Coming // 2005

These guys sadly split up before they could release a full-length, but this is just such a killer fucking first attempt.  Grindcore/powerviolence at its absolute best.  Star Wars Imperial March breakdowns, laughably over-the-top anti-Christian sentiments and completely unintelligible vocals with some killer start-stop timing and super-short songs.  8 songs, not even 10 minutes.  Every second is worth it.  This is one of my most played albums ever.  EVER.  Fortunately for us, they just released a second EP called The Second Coming.  They're both free at their bandcamp.  But the first one is better.  Listen below:

Thursday, June 17, 2010


So, according to Wikipedia--a newspaper of record, I assure you--Aaron Funk's new record, My So-Called Life, "sees Funk returning to concepts explored as early as 2005, revisiting themes from such albums as Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett and Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding," two ridiculously wonderful albums. I guess this mean that we, or at least I, can enjoy some wonderful orchestration, dense textures, and fucking ridiculous breakbeats.

I, for one, am down in a big way.

There are two tracks on his myspace, both hearkening back to the Funk of old. Of course I've loved everything he's done in the past few years, but my true affections will always lie with the orchestral complexity of Rossz Csillag Alatt Szuletett--which is pretty much entirely responsible for making my musical tastes what they are today--and the neo-jungle complexity of Detrimentalist--which pulled me back from the brink of becoming a fully-fledged Joanna Newsom fan and reminded me of just why I love breakcore.

Shitcore Part 3 - In Which Something of Substance Will Maybe Finally Be Written

So: From whence Shitcore?

Let's start in the 50's. Think about 50's Rock and Roll: a bunch of skinny white men standing stock-still on a stage, playing undistorted guitars, singing vaguely sexual/subversive lyrics to throngs of screaming teenage girls. You see, this was considered a moral outrage, to be so far beyond the pale as to be a scourge on society, a gaping wound through which the invisible bacteria of Communism could enter and wreak all sorts of malignant mischief.

In retrospect, this was all not only not subversive, but was actually rather stupid. Take a gander, for example, at some of the lyrics to Bill Haley and His Comets' non-hit "13 Women (And Only One Man in Town):"

I had two girls every morning Seeing that I was well fed And believe you me, one sweetened my tea While another one buttered my bread Two girls gave me my money Two girls made me my clothes And another sweet thing, bought me a diamond ring About forty carats I suppose Well, thirteen women and only one man in town There was a-thirteen women and only one man in town It was something I can't forget Because I think of those thirteen women yet Well, thirteen woman and only one man around

So...nuclear apocalypse, only people left on earth are 13 women and one man...and what is lacking? Sex. Fucking. Anything which is even slightly morally repugnant (at least not from a feminist view, but that point of view is safely ignored). Don't even get me started on how much more racy (again, relative to the 50's) the African-American music that all this was stolen from was. That was considered to be a moral H-Bomb of Soviet proportions, and was safely kept away from the nation's fragile young white women with a vigor usually reserved for homosexuality and meth.

Regardless of how lame all this was, it is interesting in the context of this discussion for being the first time (discounting the 20's, because those ended in such a spectacular fashion that their cultural developments were largely irrelevant post-1929, at least in my opinion) that threatening culture was viewed as a mass-marketable cultural development in its own right. Namely, this kicked off a rapid succession of generational conflict, in which young people embraced pop-culture which, at least superficially, appeared to be just subversive enough to assure them a distinct, rebellious identity. This was only in its fetal stages, of course, being far away from any sort of genre which produces lyrics like this:

Bash my intestines up my anus!

Diarrhea from my penis!

A A A A A A...

Diarrhea on my penis!

Obviously, there are a host of cultural and technological developments which made such music possible. So, we have to jump forward (ignoring the 60's and 70's, which sucked...I don't care how you feel or what you think or what your stupid yuppie parents told you, the 60's and 70's sucked, they were stupid and unproductive and we're all worse off for them, you fucking tie-dye wearing wannabe douchebag protoyuppies) to Plunderphonics, which in my mind is the logical fork in the road where electronic and experimental finally branched off into their two closely related, yet quite distinct, camps: the masturbatory and the fun.

Plunderphonics was the first genre truly dedicated to repackaging other music, to taking that which other people have made and mashing it together as a sort of aesthetic prerogative, turning pop culture into something obscene, exposing a sort of incongruously disturbing/absurd quality to pop that isn't quite obvious when viewed on its own terms. Simply put, it was both masturbatory and fun. If you are--as is quite understandable--bored with my overwrought prose, then check this shit out as a sort of oasis in the desert of wanky liberal arts undergrad bullshit that I'm spewing:

That is John Oswald's seminal (haha...semen) song "Dab", a pastiche completely sampled from Michael Jackson songs. Simultaneously experimental, pretentious, and entertaining in a sort of novel way, it was copyright infringement as artistic statement, a realization that the old could be transformed into the new without being derivative or subject to an easily described hierarchy of aesthetic/cultural development. Instead of following such a clearly defined path, it branched off at a a sharp right angle and defined a new niche from which a whole new hierarchy could develop. This goes far beyond the sampling of rap music, this is no Chuck D pretending to be in court being yelled at by "The Man" for using other people's music.* It is from here that I trace the beginnings of the wildly complicated electronic music scenes that seem to pop up every couple of weeks.

From these beginnings, there are several genres and subgenres of electronic music that are integral to the development of Shitcore: 8 Bit, Jungle/Ragga Jungle, Digital Hardcore and Breakcore. 8 Bit can be saved for last; that is probably the most peripheral, and is most important for its effects on the internet-based Breakcore/various other -core sub cultures which have popped up over the past few years. Of primary importance are the -cores; which are the most direct spiritual descendants of the ideals underlying Plunderphonics and the most virulently in your face (I hate that term) genres to gain even a modicum of popular awareness since the early days of punk.

Let's start with Jungle, which marks the beginning of lo-fi break cutting at high speed and mind-numbing complexity. The history of Jungle has been written time and time again, if you're here (and I doubt anyone is), you probably don't need me to tell it to you. Also, I am lazy, and have no desire to do so. Suffice to say, this is where it all started. Jungle was where cheesy Europeans with ill-advised dreadlocks first started to deal sampling as a means of creating uber-complex rhythms and beats that were, to say the least, acquired tastes. Where people first began to seek out largely ignored (at least in the west) foreign genres and combine them with modern technology and already established western genres to create something both familiar and novel. It is from the high tempos, rolling snares, and oddly sequenced everything that we move to the -cores.

Digital Hardcore...what is there to say that isn't obvious when one listens to just one overly sincere, disgustingly German ATR or Ec8or (or whatever, they're all the same) track? Think amens that no one even bothered to clean up or make interesting, sampled metal guitar tracks, sincere ultra-left wing rants calling for revolution without ever offering a coherent reason why disguised as lyrics. Trashy, stupid, confrontational, confusing in the extreme...I don't care what people who actually know what they're talking about say, this is where Breakcore started. Of course, it would be a few years after the advent of Digital Hardcore that digital music technology would get to the point that anyone with a decent computer, an internet connection and no qualms about stealing software/music would be able to make passable music without any sort of real training, and disseminate it without a label or hitting the pavement with a vengeance; but in DH one sees the beginnings of individuals being able to make sincerely fucked up music within small niches, and to view true (no matter how lame) subversion as a efficacious niche within a stagnant and homogeneous pop culture. That last sentence was terrible and pretentious: DH was fucked up, stupid, hardcore, and delightful. All told, within it wank and sincerity met entertaining and hardcore, setting the scene for the widely varied and usually fun-as-all-fuck breakcore scene.

***It's late and I'm tired. Tomorrow, or whenever, a few overwrought paragraphs about breakcore and 8 bit, then I'll actually do some research on shitcore and wrap this ill-advised venture the fuck up.***

*Chuch D might have the most blatant victim complex in the history of popular music; a rich motherfucker who just loved to pretend like he was being constantly held back. I mean, he's cool and all, and It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back was fucking ill from first to last, but come on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shitcore Part Deux - From Humble Beginnings

Ok. I'm back from Pittsburgh (for the love of God, never drive all the way across PA...just don't), back from work, and a few whiskeys deep...time to actually finish what I started for once.

Type "shitcore" into Google. Does anything useful show up? No. Nothing. No one really seems to know, or at the very least care to put into words, the who, what, when, where and why of Shitcore. In a way, that is what makes it so interesting; one must walk a mile in the moccasins of experimental coprophiliac noisecore to truly understand it, viewing its birth less as the painless c-section of most musical genres* and more as a back-alley abortion sought by scared teenagers in response to the failure of genres which make most people plug their ears and look at you askance to be truly, uncompromisingly uncompromising. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE ALERT: There are thus two problems to be confronted. The first, obviously, is to situate Shitcore in some sort of continuum starting with the earliest avant garde electronic pioneers* and incorporating punk, breakcore, metal, noise and the innumerable other -core's that pop up every couple of weeks on the internets. The second--and to my college-addled brain, most important--problem facing us, is to figure out whether or not it is pretentious. Does being intentionally bad, intentionally unlistenable, etc. etc. naturally make a certain type of music pretentious? To what extent is Shitcore derivative, and does that really matter? Am I a douchebag?*

***TOMORROW OR MAYBE LATER TONIGHT: A poorly researched article on Shitcore's pretentious ancestors.***

* A.k.a stolen from black people and marketed well.

* Who I will actually mostly ignore in favor of starting with Plunderphonics (you'll see...), since (with the exception, at times, of John Cage) that really marks the beginning of wanky electronic experimentation having a sense of humor.

* Yes

Friday, June 11, 2010

Inside the Wonderful World of Shitcore - Part 1

A week or so ago, I was hanging out with some friends on my back porch. In order to shift the conversation away from a heated and terribly misinformed argument between two people about the legal intricacies surrounding an underage person throwing out empty beer cans being stopped by cops and given an underage citation (don't ask), the topic of "favorite driving music" was proposed.

I, realizing the shitstorm I would be walking into if I chose to give a completely honest answer to this question, hemmed and hawwed somewhat, acknowledging out loud that my answer would seem to be pretentious. You see, my favorite thing to listen to while driving is Shitcore. Specifically the godfather of Shitcore, a certain Passenger of Shit. I'll be posting an album of his, but if you don't want to be downloading a whole bunch of stuff then here is a quick taste.

I know what you're thinking: " are pretentious. Ass, go get some skinny jeans and an ironic mohawk and write for Pitchfork where you and the rest of the hipsters can pretend to like things that are inaccessible." Hear me out though. This shit is brutal. I mean, it's like unadulterated, balls to the wall brutality without a shred of self-consciousness. As a complicated means of self-justification, let us take a walk down Shitcore lane, exploring the many wonders of one of the more, umm, unique of the homegrown, largely internet-based subcultures on the fringe of the electronic music scene.

***Because I have to get my shit together and start a 6 hour drive across the entire godforsaken hellhole that is Pennsylvania, Part 2 will come in a few days and will attempt to flesh out just how the hell Shitcore came to be***