This being the Year of Dubstep, there is a massive great piece on Dubstep in the new issue of Signal To Noise, loads of pix and in-depth interviewage with major players like Loefah and Kode 9. The writer, Cindy Chen, starts off by discussing my concept of “the hardcore continuum” and does quite a nice job of explicating it. But while totally sympathetic to the notion herself, she does note en passant that the concept has faced “accusations by many as being too Brit-centric, pompous and self-referential”.
Really? I mean, I can’t say I’ve noticed particularly. My impression was that people either seemed to more or less agree with the idea or give Nuum-talk a wide berth. But perhaps there is a whole squadron of back-biters out there quibbling and complaining. Either way, never let it be said I'll flinch from wrestling with a straw-man!
“Pompous”: okay, fair enough, I mean if you are the kind of person who is averse to theorizing per se, you might well find the notion somewhat bombastic. “Self-referential”: I don’t understand this, especially as the referent (ie. the scene itself) does not bandy the term around, release tracks with titles like “Nuum Ting Dis”. The referencing is coming from selves who are slightly outside the referent! “Brit-centric”: now this is the daftest one of the lot. It’s Brit-centric to the extent to which what it is talking about is a British phenomenon. No one would accuse funk carioca (which is totally a ‘nuum in its own right, going back to the bailes of the Seventies) of being Brazil-centric or Rio-centric, or complain about a treatment of dancehall that located it in the specifics of Jamaican sound system culture and political-economy, struggles between garrison communities, etc etc.
For sure, there are outposts across the world of Anglophiles (sophisticated Anglophiles who have learned to get past stage 1 Anglophilia, ie. the equation of Englishness with sophistication/refinement/literateness etc and embrace this nation’s avant-lumpen ruffage industry)… outposts of stage 2 Anglophiles who dig the music and try to build scenes modeled on the UK original. But the motherlode is the motherland. There are plenty of other continuums out there, even hardcore ones (the Euro-hardcore Belgium>>>>Rotterdam>>>>Frankfurt/PCP>>>>Scotland/Rezerection gabba-nuum>>>>); America has its post-electro Southern diaspora of city-based gangsta booty musik. But this particular Nuum, it’s a UK thing.
That said, dubstep marks a new stage in the nuum's evolution in so far as it teeters on the verge of dis-placing itself. More than any Nuum-output of the last 15 years it seems to have the potential to go internatty. It doubtless will remain nourished by the indigenous tradition, sourced in London and similar UK cities like Bristol. But being instrumental and far less local-colour oriented than grime, it has a greater fit with all those old Nineties notions of techno as postgeographical music, or the related macro-dub/hyperdub idea of dub as virus. And therefore has the potential to re-root itself in other urbanzones across the globe, where earlier offshoot scenes--2step and grime--failed to transplant themselves in foreign climes.