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Hardcore Garage: We bring you the future, the future

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Steve Goodman
London Hyperdub HQ
Originally published in 2000

As the typical 31 seconds of London summer draws to a close, the brooding sound of hardcore garage is stealthily limbering up as the sharpest sound of 2001, emerging from the bubblin’ basslines of late 20th century uk garage, adding the inflection of distortion to the smooth sonic sinew of 2step’s hypersoul.

If soulful uk garage was the sound of summer in 1999 and 2000 then will Hardcore garage navigate us through impending climatic and economic winters? Is the London underground diving back down into the valley of the shadows ? Did it ever leave?    listen to the hardcore garage hyperdub plates here

Hardcore Garage 1
1. Murderer
2. London Streets
Hardcore Garage 2
1. Come Back to Me
2. Hardcore Garage
Hardcore Garage 3
1. Sex on the Beach
2. I Have a Dream

Hardcore Garage is 4 12″ records, only 3 of which have been released at time of writing. It’s a sound which promises to bring together segments of the jungle, garage and hardcore scenes. But the process is stealthy rather than spectacular. Only 1000 of each of the records have been pressed. While they have sold out quickly after going in ever supportive shops such as Blackmarket, Puregroove and Citysounds, some London garage shops have been very wary of taking these 12’s for fears that the sound is too dark. Spoilt for choice, London can often be too fussy in its selection criteria, though predictably, the records are going down well with the more open minded rave crews outside and to the North of the often precious capital. In Germany, where the R&B Hypersoul massive is less sizable, the records have been disappearing in batches of 150 to some shops who have been taking only 30 of big MJ Cole releases

None of the 12’s carry any track information or catalogue numbering, but merely state the label name (Ibiza Records) and the producers, 2 Wisemen. 2 Wisemen are otherwise known as Paul from Ibiza Records and James of 3rd Party and the Kemet Crew. Their name seems to derive from both their early impact on the uk hardcore continuum and from their ongoing study of its mutations. This double act first worked together in 1991 on ‘Box Space’, the first record on the influential Ibiza imprint. After 5 jungle compilation albums released in mid 1990s Japan with David Stone, 3rd Eye (Chris Mac [of ‘Dub Plate Style’ fame] a.k.a. Potential Bad Bwoy) and Kemet in addition to a series of warehouse parties, the label took a break between 1996 and the year 2000. They are junglists with immense staying power and an open mindedness to new sounds which is highly creditable within the closed circuits of the drum’n’bass and garage elites.

Hardcore Garage 1 (the blue sticker) sets the flavour for the 2 Wisemen’s prototype sound. The tracks are entitled “Murderer” and “Love for the London Streets” and clearly are striving to reassert London as Planet Earth’s hardcore capital. Hardcore garage accelerates the 2step rhythym into a rougher soundscape of flashback mentasm stabs, skunkadelic rap paranoia loops and of course, timestetched rastafari. On some accounts, hardcore garage could be considered a tactical maneouvre- a sound bomb thrown by ravers into the champagne and designer label tribalism of club rockers. The beats are more cerated, giving the bustling 2step syncopations a broken glass edge as the breaks tear open your skin letting the warm sub-bass sooth your exposed nerves. Hardcore garage simulates all the urban paranoia of classic darkcore.

If you’ve found it impossible to escape the virulent 2step/uk garage hyperdub mutation as it hunts down every remaining square inch of cobranding opportunity, then you may be pleasantly surprised by the fresh sound of the 2 Wisemen. On one level, Hardcore Garage is a drive-by on the Ayia Napa cybersoul massive. Both sides of Hardcore Garage 1 consist of skunkadelic 2step, old skool timestretched rastafari vocals: “Murder style”, “Champion of champions” etc. the ominous vocal refrain of “Comin to Get You” repeated until it ticks as a treble line, grating, paranoid horror loops, jump-up 2step breaks, hoover warp basslines. Welcome (back) to the darkside.

Hardcore Garage 2 (the red sticker) features the tracks entitled ‘Hardcore Garage’ and ‘Come Back to Me’ (featuring Paul’s brother on vocals). Hardcore Garage 3 (the green sticker) features tracks ‘Sex on the Beach’ and ‘I Have a Dream’ and Hardcore Garage 4(only time will tell the colour of this sticker) is laced with a remake of the old ‘I Bring You the Future’ Breakage track straight out of the Ibiza Records back catalogue, and the heavily jungle influenced ‘Jah’.

2 Wisemen’s prototype production line (Paul reckons they will have hit the sound by Hardcore Garage 7) is another classic example of London hardcore’s ability to schizz and synthesize new mutant strains out of not just a world of music, but more importantly, cannibalizing its own legacy from hardcore, through jungle and drum’n’bass and now into garage, shredding vocal samples into the rhythmic climate dominating the massive at a certain point in time.

Chatting to Paul Ibiza, down a mobile, it is obvious that Hardcore Garage emerges out of both a dissatisfaction with the sounds of now and from the brain of an astute hardcore business strategist. When Paul observed Glastonbury in the Summer 2000, he recalls how the drum’n’bass tent was one of the biggest he could ever recall and was totally rammed and jumpin’. However he felt the garage tent had a somewhat lacklustre crowd and nowhere near a comparable vibe or energy. Paul has witnessed a similar dynamic at the World Dance raves in London and has picked up a general sense that something is missing. Several times he refers to the ‘sharon & tracy’ aspect of city clubbing which, to their ‘credit’ (read irony here if you wish), artists like the Dreem Team have exploited, creating what Paul descibes simply and accurately as ‘modernized disco music’. Paul saw the now infamous Casualty uk No.1 as essentially a Hardcore track. With his business strategy head on, Paul suggests that the garage elite may eventually regret its dissociation from the track and its corresponding endorsement of predominantly song based material.

There is a strong sense of the ongoing ‘Club vs Raver’ tension which comes across speaking to Paul, and it’s very clear where his allegiances lie. Despite a respect for the Hype Williams stuttering audio-visual aesthetic, Paul claims “never to have been influenced by America” particularly Timbaland’s hypersyncopations. He became involved with what he calls the ‘music syndrome’ from the reggae scene, initially promoting events where there was a productive friction between a reggae soundsystem in one room and a jungle soundsystem pumping out reggae samples through tearing breakbeats in another. But it’s not just US R&B influenced commercial garage that has prompted the 2 Wisemen into action. Like many he detects an inevitable staleness within drum’n’bass, biggin’ up Fabio and Bukem, if only for following their own strains of the sound. Paul considers drum’n’bass to have reached a speed barrier suggesting that in its acceleration from 150-160 up to 170-180bpm it now has to face facts: “any faster and you are in gabba!”

There is a sonic fissure which separates the garage and drum’n’bass sounds and it is into this niche, this uncharted border territory that the Hardcore garage records are exploring. 2 Wise Men are probing the future of London hardcore, bringing back new assemblages of sound from the journey. Paul describes part of this schizophrenic synthesis process. He relates how at World Dance he would stand in between the drum’n’bass and garage rooms imagineering a new mutant recombination. It hurts your head to be split along different velocities, then the perceptual system gets used to it and an integrated sound begins to emerge. A new shape a new sound. 2 Wisemen have taken this interscene sonic tension and are using it as a postive productive impetus. On an important level, this issue is one of speed differential between garage and drum’n’bass. But for Paul the core divergence is the traits of each scenes’ respective soundscape. For him Hardcore garage is trying to reintroduce, alongside a recognizable hardcore jungle tekno soundscape, those imperceptible sounds which ravers can only hear on E. In their Hornsey studios, the 2 Wisemen are prototyping techniques for the reintroduction of the amen break, the rhythmic engine of hardcore jungle, into the bustling, trebly, garage beats of between 138-141bpm.

Hardcore garage is negotiating another tension as well, an often taken for granted one in the hype of multicultural London. . .race. The term Hardcore Garage itself, (what some consider to be a paradox) is a microcosm of the network of urban myths which surround the racialization of London’s dance scene. With hardcore garage, 2 WiseMen are trying to ride that narrow dividing line of a massive which is 50/50 black/white. The logic is that to some ears (rightly or wrongly) Hardcore is thought of as a predominantly white scene and garage as predominantly black. Obviously the reality is always more complicated but the point which Paul wants to make is that Hardcore Garage is a “Metropolitan sound”, rather than a white or black one.

Paul is also a hyperdub pioneer, being both heavily involved in the early hardcore scene and its subsequent global transmission over the internet. Paul worked on the promotion of key events for Interface (pirate-radio.co.uk) and now plays a key role in South London’s UK-rumble internet radio station which beams underground garage 24 hours a day direct from Balham to the global massive. For Paul, London will always be capital of global hardcore no matter what some may about Germany and Belgium.

This music is edgy. It’s riding a razor between garage and drum’n’bass. It is the hardcore sound of post-millenial tension. 2 Wisemen bring you the future, the future. . .

Check the sounds of Hardcore Garage at London’s no.1 net pirate radio UK-Rumble

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Copyright © Hyperdub 2001 – Reprinted with permission.

Category: Hyperdub

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