I was never into hardcore in my younger days. For better or worse, the scene up here in Scotland was dominated by Happy Hardcore, that strain which seemed closer in spirit to gabber than anything else. I’m sure there was more to it than that, but I was even more of a musical snob in those days and never really bothered myself with checking it out. That was probably a mistake on my part. Even though I did eventually come to make discoveries of my own the hardcore shelf of my collection remains woefully understocked.
Even so, one of the more interesting revivals of the last few years has been the growing interest in hardcore and rave. It was always bound to happen, particularly when you take electronica’s current hunger for its own past into account, but what is perhaps worth considering is that while a lot of the current exhumation of genres seem to be taking place because they hark back to what might perhaps be thought of as a safer or happier time, The energy of hardcore tends to set it apart. It has always felt subtly different; more politicised, harder, and less willing to comfort. It is then, in its own unique way, very much suited to right now.
Hardcore Edits Volume 1 hails from Germany, may be the work of someone connected to the Klasse Wrecks gang, and contains four edits of early 90s hardcore tunes. That, my friends, is all I know about it. Not that it matters much, and in fact the anonymity feels very much in keeping with the record’s overarching vibe. This really isn’t music designed to delight with careful shifts of rhythm or tone, and in that it is the antithesis of so much modern house and techno. The fun in the music comes from its raw functionality; the tight rolling breakbeats, the thick, serrated bass, and the sense that, at any moment, it can blow out into unhinged lunacy.
Whether or not these are edits of genuine early 90s tunes or something cooked up today I have no idea; either way, they mostly convince, and they certainly go further than join-the-dots reproductions of a long gone sound. What the record lacks, perhaps, is something of the slight nativity inherent in a lot of the original music. In this sense that nativity wasn’t a handicap. Quite the opposite: It empowered the music, freeing it. When you don’t know how far you can go, you tend to go as far as you can. Hardcore Edits misses a little bit of this attitude, as might be expected, and the four tunes on offer tend to feel slightly too knowing, a little too sure of what buttons they are trying to push and, as a result, they miss the mark slightly.
This is only a slight criticism though, and in the larger – and more important sense – they succeed pretty well. The Two tracks on the A side hit their stride quickest with sharp breaks and perfectly weighted vocal snips. Track 2, in particular, with its playful, bleepy, melody drags other influences into the mix. It’s a surprisingly gentle roller; lazy and fun, scuffed at the edges, and a welcome respite from a lot of contemporary club music’s cloying self awareness.
It’s the last track which comes closest to hardcore nirvana whilst perhaps staying at a distance. Weaving a light-hearted poppiness in with the razor-sharp beats, and colouring everything with billowing synths, it pushes beyond simple nostalgia to create something which renders the functional haunting.