Over at Leaving Earth, a new and very interesting post from the enigmatic Taninian... who's been posting sporadically (very long gaps in between each one) to take the measure of what T feels is the absurd bounty of the last seven or eight years of post-dubstep action... what T prefers to call "post-step."
In T's account, it's been an almost non-stop flood: so copious, varied, and on an individual unit level so intensely detailed, as to be barely digestible. T's over-arching claim is that this approximately 8 years long stretch of diffuse, hyperactive productivity - which ranges from Nightslugs and Rustie-style maximalism to weightless grime, and out of which T singles out as exemplary figures like Jam City, Jameszoo, Starkey, Montgomery Clunk.. , it all amounts to an era of wildly innovative, form-bending music on a par with postpunk or the early Nineties surge of hardcore rave, jungle, gabba, first-phase IDM...
In this (final?) blog post, T pauses to ponder - perplexed and fretful - as to why this upsurge has not been shouted about sufficiently.... Why the discursive short-fall? Where is the persuasive narrative around the eruption that would enable it to be accepted widely as an on-going full-blown phenomenon - something that everyone needs to pay attention to? Even the exponents don't come over as proponents that strongly: the post-step producers aren't talking themselves up as anything that radical or remarkable - seemingly don't feel that's the case.
In short, the question is: what if you had a revolution and nobody noticed?
Good questions, and T teases out possible answers and analogies with other eras and their different fates. The argument is too involved and extensive to summarise, but the gist - or one of the gists - is that there's something about the media economy of the present era that works against consensus forming, a centrifugal tendency driving people into smaller niches. There is also a failure of will, of rhetorical drive.... and there is also this pesky retromania narrative that has gotten in the way...
Obviously, I'm not wholly on board with the fundamental premise, i.e. T's fervour about this stuff. I haven't viscerally felt the post-step output to be shaking things up, or shaking me up (what I feel viscerally is the lack of viscerality, in fact). But taking taste out of account, objectively I think it's fair to say that post-step hasn't created or attached itself to new kinds of social energies, it hasn't opened up new subcultural spaces or generated new behaviours. Rather it's too easily and neatly slipped into the existing structure, occupying much the same sort of space and (non)function that was once filled by IDM.
I also think the advocates for it have not necessarily done it any great favours: whole lotta insight, not a lotta incite.
One thing that T doesn't really consider is the idea that for all its abundance of ideas, the work that's gone into it, the startling sound-shapes and rhythmic angularities... that despite this apparent plenitude there might be something deficient in it - or at least absent - that explains the lack of take-up on a wider-world level.
If I was to try to put my finger on it, I'd say it has something to do with the way the energy in the music doesn't explode outwards... doesn't burst into the world. Rather, it's implosive.
It doesn't feel like anybody or anything is being released through this music.
In that sense it is attuned to its era (as is so much post-indie fare, or conceptronica generally), is the perfectly logical product of it - it is shaped at the deepest level of sonic structure and texture by the same kind of neurotic everyday processes that make modern life so self-repressing and asocial.
Breaking with the rave model, post-step is music that doesn't brock out - cut loose, slam, smash it up...
The fact that "rock" is a buzz term in rave music (and in hip hop) suggests to me that there is a greater spiritual and libidinal affinity between the hard rock continuum and the hardcore continuum, than there is between prime-era nuum (rave, jungle, UKG, grime) and the music of the postdubstep diffusion.
So a second-division rave anthem like this
actually has more in common deep down - despite the surface dissimilarities, the totally different means of construction and production - with a second-division rock anthem like this
than any post-step release, even though you can draw a much more logical-seeming sono-historical lineage between early-90s dawn-of-nuum and the last seven or eight years of whatever-you-call-it.
It's not just the physicality of the impact and the response - rocking, slamming, banging - it's a historical parallel as well. Both the second-division hardcore rave track and the second-division hard rock tune are instances of, sub-units, of a Grand Cultural Project: each track or tune is a microcosm enactment of "a program for mass liberation" (the subtitle to Lester Bangs's famous Stooges essay). Each is in miniature the promise of freedom - the herald of a non-alienated existence.
So long ago was it, and so very different in feel is our tense present, that the Promise probably seems like it must always have been a lie - the sensation of unbridled movement in the music just false energy. But relics from those times are still capable of making it feel real, if only for the duration of their unfolding.
One of the only places where this kind of unleashing-feeling can still be registered as a force in contemporary music is rap. Where - no coincidence - the language of rock and rock-star has bubbled up as a self-descriptive, a displaced ancestry to be claimed and flaunted: "Future Hendrix", "Black Beatles", etc etc. And - no coincidence either - surrounded by all the old rockist 'n' roleplay trappings of macho and misogyny, the ugly fall-out of all that self-glorifying excess and breaking free of all constraints.
A backward step... what was great about the "brock out" era was that all the wildness and cutting-loose was kept, but most of the retrograde claptrap got chucked to the kerb.
A discontinuum of liberation-through-energy artifacts, aka the Brockism Canon - or at least a - partial - canon according to one brockist:
And yes in case you're wondering I do include disco in this discontinuum - disco and house - or at least place them very close, virtually adjacent in their fundamental affinity of affect and aim. The emphasis with discofunk and house is less on slamming or brocking, true - more on gliding and swirling - as you'd expect, given that it is less coupled to a heteromasculinist / phallocentric libidinal economy - but disco-house is still absolutely about transport and release and self-escape - about access to a state of non-alienation. "Only when I'm dancing do I feel this free" to quote La Madge.