igital hardcore. These two words, because of one man’s influence, have come to encompass an entire genre of music that was once regarded as the next big thing- electronic music’s answer to punk music. It was odd then, that digital hardcore would soon have much more to do with providing a solid beat to be able to headbang to, rather than something full of the chaos that it claimed that it brought to the table. The appointed architect of digital hardcore, however, never felt any sort of problem with the militancy of the beats that were produced. Alec Empire, in fact, released numerous recordings that varied stylistically from a Mille Plateaux released avant IDM record to the electronic jazz mess of Hypermodern Jazz 2000.5. These experiments were successful, to a certain degree, on name alone. Paired with Hanin Elias and Carl Crack; Empire released the finest Digital Hardcore statement with Atari Teenage Riot in Burn Berlin Burn, which expertly mixed punk rock riffage and jungle breakbeats. The success of this record is what made his experiementation on other labels possible- and profitable. With the flaccid 60 Second Wipeout and the general disinterest in the rest of the Digital Hardcore roster, however, it looked as though Digital Hardcore, the movement, had reached its logical end. I mean, even punk’s most visible band the Sex Pistols died soon after it started- it’s almost the law of the genre that bases its ethos so much on nihilism. To think that lines such as “This is our world/and there is no future” does not draw from the same philosophy is merely naïve.
2002, though, appears to be the year that Digital Hardcore is attempting a full scale comeback to prominence. After a seemingly long absence from releasing music, we have both a 3 CD set of American groups that have sent in demos to the record label entitled Don’t Fuck With Us and this, Alec Empire’s new double LP release Intelligence and Sacrifice. And, well, considering the variety of solo releases that Empire has put out in the past, it’s almost exactly what you would expect from him, at this point. The first disc is, quite simply, a new Atari Teenage Riot record; minus Nic Endo, Carl Crack, and Hanin Elias. The beats are hard, infectious, and subject to change at anytime; while the surrounding architecture of each song features loud and fast guitar playing and electronic squelches that attempt inflict a sense of urgency upon the listener. For the most part, it succeeds. While sometimes the beat becomes a little too mechanical and plodding- you can tell these are the singles, as they aren’t too “hardcore”- Empire will soon offer up the goods on the next track where Destroyer-esque jungle mixes with the grindcore guitar loops sounding like an updated Burn Berlin Burn. The main problem with the first disc, in the end, is that it can’t be taken all too seriously. Empire has produced these tracks, albeit not as polished or focused, many times before. His urgency of being and angriness comes across as a bit forced and cartoonish, at times. On the other side of the coin, however, this is exactly what makes him so great.
The second disc is primarily for fans of Empire’s more avant garde productions. It begins with a nearly half hour jazz inflected acid bassed workout entitled “2641998”. The energy wanes, at points, during the song but Empire seems to have a knack for identifying this and kicks in a new element to be digested. The entire second disc, however, is in direct opposition to the first, which in a marketing sense is genius; as lovers of Empire’s more odd work will have to buy both discs to enjoy either of his two immensely different recording styles.
In the end, Empire actually sounds more punk rock on the second disc; when using traditionally non-punk instrumentation. Both discs, however, are very accomplished and worth a listen, if you come across them. Digital hardcore may be standing on its last two legs, but one gets the feeling that if anyone can support the genre by himself, it’s Mr. Empire.