by: Zero Sharp
A Beginner's Guide To Digital Hardcore
- part 1 of 3
In the early nineties, on the ever-so surly streets of Berlin, a group of people who saw both the brilliance of jungle and its relative tameness was helped create a genre that fell somewhere between punk and techno, digital hardcore. A few of the bands that came from that scene are relatively known still; the best examples are probably Atari Teenage Riot and Ec8or. This little set of reviews is not about those bands. Instead, in the next three reviews, I'm going to mention more electronica-ish solo albums put out on Digital Hardcore Recordings that fell under the radar for many people who would probably appreciate them. It's claimed that digital hardcore is an acquired taste at best, but in the end, the sounds these people explored don't differ too much from experimental electronica, drum and bass, breakbeat, IDM, or noise. So with that in mind, let's go back to the golden years of the late nineties.
The first album I'll talk about is perhaps the best known of the three. Alec Empire, who at that time was known from Atari Teenage Riot, released a solo album in 1996 called "The Destroyer". Turning away from ATR's signature guitars and vocals, Alec Empire shows genius through brilliant use of samples and fresh ideas. The drum programming is diverse, imaginative, innovative, and rockin all the way through the ep. He uses his samples very well, and most of the tracks on this album still get me on the dance floor. "We All Die" is one of my favorites, complete with time-stretched vocal intro that leads quickly into nasty jungle beats (not amens) and sampled screams running along the track. "The Peak" is also brilliant in a similar vein. He really explores many different breakbeat styles here, cycling from down-tempo to super-fast drum and bass, but the album is cohesive and all of the tracks stay hard without coming off as mindless. Unlike much of the other dance music out there, this album really did push the boundaries of what was possible, instead of sticking to any particular formula. The tracks are intelligent, and it's possible to dance to them on different levels, finding different patterns in them, and they also evolve quickly, in interesting ways. Unfortunately, Alec Empire seems to have stagnated some since then between finding fame and the death of another member of ATR, keeping his music more toward the noisy ATR sound instead of how he shines here. However, even if you don't like ATR, I still highly and vigorously recommend this album.
Go on to part 2... or skip to to part 3...