As an amateur cultural observer (critic would sound too pretentious) I have to notice that Free Jazz, Punk, and Underground Hip-Hop face similar situations.
is quite dead. in fact it was pretty close to being dead 20 years ago, though in the strange way that forms of cultural rebellion do retain some life beyond the dead, it keeps kicking. This is actually a slight lie, and as we’ll cover soon, there are some interesting things going on with Punk.
Underground Hip-Hop faces a similar situation as Punk and Hardcore, with many artists and acts churning out endless clichéd repetition of established forms, or established themes, with less creative ferment and a desire to simply become famous.
This isn’t always the case, there are some interesting underground Hip Hop acts, every local scene has one or two MC’s of talent and note (I refuse to dredge out the pretentious ’emcee’)
Free Jazz has sort of become an artistic ghetto, and an excuse to simply play with low-fi recorded skronk, so atonal as to not only lack a key or scale, but in undisciplined fiddling around on a broadly conceived chromatic scale, producing sounds that seem simply not to fit any broadly defined idea of a musical sound. I like this, atonal noise makes me perk up and sometimes I’ll just turn on off-tune AM stations and listen to the static.
But listening to people trying to, over and over again, marry Sun-Ra to Napalm Death simply grows old after a while. Some experiments in dub like manipulations and the marriage of many Free Jazz acts to other noise and Industrial circles may produce interesting material and artists in time to come.
I am noticing a new wave of hardcore bands, sometimes called metalcore, but listening to them I really don’t hear the metal at all. I think metalcore is just a sloppy marketing term, back in the 80’s they used to call “metalcore” crossover thrash. There are some interesting acts out there like Dark Day Dawning, or Purity’s Failure, or – of course- the now totally clichéd Poison the Well, about whom little more will be said.
Here is one thing that I find interesting is the emergence of a mix of electronica gabber and deconstructed happy hardcore, a sort of twisted rave music, with a punk aesthetic and attitude.
Realicide Youth Records, a small DIY label in Cincinnati consisting of several extreme projects, including an electronic noise band, Realicide, an occasional guitar based grindcore act, a couple of rather twisted DJ’s, a deconstructed Rap MC, and other things that defies classification, is the closest thing to real punk I’ve seen in almost 2 decades. I’m sure that statement will piss some people off. Cincinnati has an interesting experimental electronic, noise and Industrial scene, including other such luminaries as C. Spencer Yeh, Ron Orovitz’s various projects, and many other unconventional and creative explorers at the boundaries of music.
There are still local hardcore scenes that evolved from the late 80s (Washington DC is a good example, New York as well) whose music displays authenticity, and some of the later new wave of hardcore bands (like Poison the Well) have some interesting fire behind them, but I think that if Punk as an overarching attitude of rebellion against artistic modes and commercial norms has any future, it’s not in Crusty kids churning out stuff that sounds like Discharge, Crass and The Exploited, but in creative urban kids taking electronics and abusing them in a DIY environment coming up with something so new and strange it defies easy classification.
Electro: Electro is more of a European thing, that said, there are some interesting electro acts out there who defy genre classification, and even who display somewhat of a punk like attitude as far as a defiant rejection of, and opposition to, music industry norms. I won’t discuss it much further because it’s discussed to death in other quarters.
At the end of the day, my opinion is that Western culture obsession with popular music and artistic expression borders on neurosis, and most new and original forms are quickly snatched up by corporate establishments for re-packaging.
Teenage rebellion sub-culture and the romance of the unconventional and bohemian is one of those themes that for almost 200 years has simply given a safe outlet for social pressures. I mean, step back and look at how conforming most non-conformists are. Beyond a few who set their own path and trail, you have millions who ape a neo-tribal lifestyle, a dress, piercings, mode of rejection of communal norms, and pre-packaged radical politics because they feel the need to rebel and not conform but cannot articulate it, so others articulate it for them.
Realicide are guys who step outside of the norm and set their own path and trail, and who live their art. This isn’t to engage in literary fellatio, it is simply my respect for them.
I respect their attitude and approach greatly. They are more punk than punk, and their DIY attitude reminds me of the creative ferment that characterized labels like Dischord Records in the80s and early 90s. Anyone who wants to see the future of Punk, may see it in the evolution of Realicide.
As for legions of others simply doing the scene, and finding some mammalian warmth in clustering around others who look talk and act like them, this isn’t non-conformity. But it is human, so very human, you see we seek to belong to those who are like us and share our values. It’s a very natural thing, only a few people seem cursed or blessed to perpetually blaze their own trails and they end up, by stint of irony, leading other herds whether they like it or not.
Realicide are such trail blazers, expect many imitators in the future, but none will match the original. If the sound of Buicks being crushed at high volume while you are being tasered is bearable to your aesthetic senses, then give Realicide a listen or better yet catch them live, they shine live, and also catch their members, like Jim Swill, or Mavis Concave, or Evolve’s deconstructed Hip Hop, doing their own thing.
Many cities have similar artists and scenes brewing, when I was in Vancouver I noticed some interesting acts brewing in Van. Look around and I’m sure you will find, in marginal spaces, interesting people doing interesting things with sound that defy the safe and bourgeois definition of “art.”