Thursday, June 17, 2010

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.

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