View Full Version : Structural conservatism in post-ardkore dance music

28-01-2019, 09:25 PM
Stop me if this idea is as boring as the thread title

The first dance music that I bought on vinyl and regularly mixed and raved to was drum n bass - which was structurally speaking extremely formulaic and predictable. It almost always went more or less like this:


Most dance music follows a formula like this, I'd guess - dubstep certainly did, UK garage similarly, and house... Even jungle, post say 93/94 was following this A / B / C / B / D formula.

I can see the appeal of this formula, ofc, from both a DJ's perspective and the crowd's - part of the fun is knowing what to expect, perhaps having that expectation slightly subverted or played with, but ultimately knowing you'll get about 2 solid blocks of proper drums/bassline with some quieter bits inbetween to give you a rest and/or build up some tension.

But ardkore didn't, or didn't so much - the average tune seemed to have more sections to it, more switch-ups, less resting on laurels.

So my interest is

1) Why WAS ardkore like this? (culture, context, technology, etc.)
2) Why hasn't anything else since (to my knowledge) been like this?
3) Examples of structurally less conservative dance choons from any era would be welcome

28-01-2019, 09:57 PM
it's true what you say

there's certain hardcore tunes where it's just a sequence of different segments, that never return

or perhaps one of them returns but there are segments that just happens once and then it's gone

the one that always springs to mind is DJ Trax's "We Rock the Most" in terms of generosity of ideas but there's others

whereas with D&B it got very standard in terms of the structure you mention

i remember somebody pointing out to me that if you looked at a 12 inch you could often see by the pattern of the grooves where the - tediously extended, seldom interesting musically - intro would end

it did mean though in the record store you could skip through a tune very quickly and establish whether it was any cop at all, just had to dip into it in three places for about 10 seconds each

i wonder if with the hardcore bods it was something to do with not knowing whether this would be their only ever tune or something, just shoving everything they had into it

whereas later on people would ration out ideas over many more 12 inches, put out a greater number of mono-idea tracks

or just a more chaotic time, less career oriented, less professional, mad throw downs of ideas, neurons firing

28-01-2019, 10:05 PM
D'Cruze was one of the worst for the constant switch up but it's endemic across hardcore along with badly quantised breaks, out of key samples, badly played/out of time melody/basslines, extra bars and beats in weird places etc... the answer (or part of it at least) is fairly simple. A lot of people didn't know what they were doing an there was no established formula so producers just did whatever they felt like.

Still a fair amount of unpredictability through to '95 in jungle, but the linearity really kicked in from 96 with jump up probably the last nail in the coffin.

28-01-2019, 10:09 PM
Dear corpse, I like this thread a lot

28-01-2019, 10:15 PM
There's a set of criteria you could probably apply to creeping conservatism in dance music.

Stage 1: Musical conservatism - elimination of clashing melodies based on ear, later moving on to 'musicality'.
Stage 2. Compositional conservatism - Simpler, more formulaic & linear structures, easier for DJ's, more predictable for audiences.
Stage 3. Aural conservatism - Shinier, better defined and produced sound, less variation between production styles and technology.

28-01-2019, 11:08 PM
God bless you corpse.

a savant and a visionary.

you've touched on something profound. it has the potential to be as big as the dematerialisation thread.

i'm cleaning the kitchen so don't know quite what to make of it yet.

8 bar grime...

28-01-2019, 11:17 PM
usually there's a correlation between populism and structural conformity.

classical music doesn't repeat much does it?

in jazz you have chin-strokey post-bop which is very loose with structure and then free jazz which eventually abandons it.

so why is hardcore an aberration? the nuum's most populist moment was it's least structured.

28-01-2019, 11:33 PM
Can you equate structure with predictably? Formula with marketability?

Barty, why dont you do an audit of top 40 rave tunes 89-92 and analyse them along a comparative formulaic axis with non-chart examples?

28-01-2019, 11:51 PM
Structure probably does collapse into predictability in some sense. You might not know exactly what comes next admittedly but you know the type of thing. The drop fetishiation of 1999 was regressive in the extreme

28-01-2019, 11:52 PM
the notion of ‘temporal disorientation’- a distorted perception of time- which in turn leads us to notions of the suppression of structure and narrative.

a quote from my pitch to the psychedelic society.

28-01-2019, 11:53 PM
1999 There was a moron pavlovian aspect in d&b completely absent from house& garage

28-01-2019, 11:53 PM
endless succession of nows

some cleaver bloke called simon

29-01-2019, 12:06 AM
a rather endearing interpretation is that hardcore arrived at this culmination point of SO much new stimulation that arrived in the late 80's. it was just people so excited about so many different things that they just had to cram it all in.

there must've been this frothing-at-the-mouth excitement at all this new musical stimulation arriving at once; tons of different dance music genres as well as the innovations in dancehall and rap.

29-01-2019, 12:10 AM
there are two archetypal psychadelias. the womb and orgasm; cognitive obliteration through tranquility and through over stimulation respectively.

structural orgasm

29-01-2019, 01:26 AM
the answer is quite simple actually, it's that hardcore as a defined historical period didn't exist until late 94 into 95 when that split really happened and jungle became jungle proper.

Before that it was hardcore house, hardcore techno, jungle techno, ragga techno, breakbeat techno, deep hardcore, even have randall on one of his kiss fm shows saying something like this has been 3 hours of mature hardcore, this was early-mid 94 when it was all pretty much jungle for all intents and purposes!

on an awol tape i have GQ says something like who is feeling the house music over terminator, a far cry from Joe Smooth!

To use a Deleuzian term, hardcore later became reterritorialised when initially it was deterritorialised. this is not like 'deconstructed club' that is trying to grasp at deterritorialisation within already existing reterritorialisation, where deconstructed club is just another subgenre like house or techno. hardcore wasn't really like that really, hence when the splits happened so many people went so many different ways,including the very early 89-91 crowd splitting from 92.

Yep, wicked thread corpsey, been waiting for this for ages after old gits moaning about no new new music, well fine, just get old shit, we have 100 years of recorded music to dig through, maybe there is some weird amazonian stuff from 1930 tha sounds like ur in a k-hole who knows.

29-01-2019, 01:31 AM
like political revolutions can only be conceptualised as definitively revolutionary or counter-periods after things have dialectically succeeded into more a passive state. In certain respects (though don't stretcch the analogy too far) hardcore can be seen in that way.

29-01-2019, 07:42 AM
Thanks for all responses! I'll read through them today at my desk instead of working for a living.

It's struck me that, although the structure is much simpler and more repetitive, perhaps the only music that (to my knowledge) breaks with the post HC structure found in most dance music (perhaps because it wasn't dance music, though it's since been used as such) is 8 bar grime.

29-01-2019, 10:10 AM
hardcore wasn't really like that really, hence when the splits happened so many people went so many different ways,including the very early 89-91 crowd splitting from 92.


Yeah, I guess what happens is that one group likes X bit of a tune more than another groups like Y bit, and ultimately new subgenres form dedicated to X and Y. Again, I sort of appreciate why this happens and sympathise - you sacrifice variety for intensity, although with HC variety is intensity.

29-01-2019, 10:15 AM
I'm sceptical of thirds historical and retrospective revisionism here!

29-01-2019, 11:12 AM
A lot of people didn't know what they were doing an there was no established formula so producers just did whatever they felt like.

Reminds me of this Aphex quote from a Pitchfork interview

I used to love jungle. I still think it's the ultimate genre, really, because the people making it weren't musicians. The best artists are people who don't consider themselves artists, and the people who do are usually the most pretentious and annoying. [laughs] They've got their priorities wrong. They're just doing it to be artists rather than because they want to do it. And a lot of jungle people were actually car mechanics and painter-and-decorator types, like, pretty hardcore blokes. I wouldn't want to get into a fight with them. I know a few people who were like that, and I don't think that really exists any more. Maybe those sort of non-musician types do some dubstep stuff, or grime. But it didn't exist in jungle for long. There was only a couple of years where people didn't know what they were doing, and you got all these samples that are just totally not related in pitch. I really hunt down those records. They've got this ridiculous mishmash of things that totally don't go with each other at all. Obviously, after they've done it for a couple of years they learn how to make chords and stuff, and it's not so interesting now.

That's one of the reasons this tune was so influential and exciting - it was so amateurish, but only an amateur could have made something like it


29-01-2019, 11:35 AM
just picking up on a couple of barty's strands; this abolition of narrative is achieved by two means really either a lack of repetitiveness or extreme repetitiveness (pedal points and drones, etc.). that's where 8 bar grime fits in.

it's not a coincidence that lots of wayne shorter's modal compositions are based on these alternating 8 bar motifs just like early grime.

that's great. exactly.

29-01-2019, 11:37 AM
you should be called rascalbarty

29-01-2019, 12:04 PM
8 bar was a platonic example of 'the loop' as a means to an end and the end itself. Obv parallels with hop hop, but also with hardcore, in which the loop was key. You have one loop to increase tension, one loop to release tension, one loop to roll out, one loop to break it down... all in one bar chunks, or maybe 4/8 max. Musical sophistication usually means looking at bigger chunks of sound, creating progressions over longer bar phrases (32/64 etc), so the discrete units increase in size and there is less granular space to change things up, and therefore less unpredictability.

Count the loops and the length of the loops:


All compelling sample based music has the loop at its heart. Everything else is window dressing. If you can master the loop you can do anything.

29-01-2019, 12:15 PM
I'm guessing that the tech they were using to make hardcore had a big role in that the sample lengths were much shorter in those days - so you're automatically working with a lot of fairly short samples/loops, you're probably going to be looking to throw them together in combinations, that patchwork/collage effect.

Also sampling I think opened the music up to a much wider range of sounds, cos they were using their record collections (or their parents or whatever).

29-01-2019, 12:46 PM
yeah, the S1000 had a total sample length of 23 seconds expandable up to 90 secs in mono. Length of a bar at 130 bpm is 1.846 seconds, a 4 bar loop is 7.38 seconds - so you could have 3 of those in your tune or 12 one bar loops.

Incidentally a 4 bar loop at 164 bpm (classic jungle speed) is 5.85 sec, so you can do more with the same sampler at a faster tempo, though by that stage most producers had moved onto the S2000, EMU E64 or newer.

30-01-2019, 05:15 PM
I'm sceptical of thirds historical and retrospective revisionism here!

Revisionism in terms of what?

30-01-2019, 05:17 PM
Reminds me of this Aphex quote from a Pitchfork interview

That's one of the reasons this tune was so influential and exciting - it was so amateurish, but only an amateur could have made something like it


Believe me once you've heard it almost nonstop for 13 years it really gets so fucking boring. this is like inverted crowley though isn't him, cussing out Dillinja but would probably say the same here. the problem is luca wants to think he's god but only the historical communist party which does not know votes, personalities, democracy or arbitration, (the totality of all organised proletarian activity) can correspond to that great godly rhythmical breath.

I always prefered Pulse Y anyway in terms of sheer excitement.

30-01-2019, 05:25 PM
as for 8 bar.


and all that purpose maker stuff.

actually the most minimal dance music is the very industrial german techno on e-com from around 97. literally one bar looped over and over again.

I think 8 bar was always dance music otherwise you'll start turning into ash sarkar corpsey and that would be a dreadful shame.

30-01-2019, 05:36 PM
I'm sceptical of thirds historical and retrospective revisionism here!

I'm not saying the hardcore period from 90-93 didn't exist, it obviously did otherwise we wouldn't be talking about it. I'm saying that within that period when things were in flux people saw themselves putting their own takes on house, techno, dub, industrial/ebm, ragga and hip hop.

It is that convergence that we call hardcore now (and that is correct) but I'm not so sure if people at the time actually saw that convergence as its own distinct sound let alone scene, (although of course it was.) Colin Dale and Frank Da Wulf and Lenny Dee were still playing at raves into 92, 93, 94. That's the only retrospective element to me defining it as a retrospective historical period. Don't forget that one of the hardcore labels also later became the first IDM label (in the most ironic of ironies.)

The problem is i get a feeling you want to confine nuum to the injection of soul and acoustic values, but fine let us do that, we can all agree that techstep et al was very white and hardly qualifies, but then techstep was just a certain intensification of 93 darkcore which in turn was an inner city multiracial rebellion against 92 'plinky plonky piano' stuff, as SUAD call it. but then 93 was a recontextualisation of 91 which itself was an intensification of the machinic and trippy aspects of 87-90 to appeal to a more lumpen psychedelic audience. where do we stop? we could get caught up in knots and knots.


30-01-2019, 05:55 PM
for my theory not to hold you have to argue that hardcore was not deterritorialised, but then that begs the question. why was noone making old skool in 95? in all its spin offs, be that jungle, happy or hard techno. each went down their own processes of internal evolution.

people only started making neo-oldskool when 90-93 oldskool become something to revive.

30-01-2019, 07:01 PM
I always prefered Pulse Y anyway in terms of sheer excitement.

I'm with you there, I can barely remember which is which out of the alternate mixes though. There's Y, Y Remix, XYZ, X VIP and probably a bunch of others too.