What is Speedcore?

Origins and Influences:

Speedcore as a genre emerged in the mid-to-late 1990s as an evolution of hardcore techno, gabber, and industrial music. The inception of the genre can largely be traced to Europe, particularly Germany and the Netherlands, regions known for their thriving hardcore techno scenes. The specific influences that shaped speedcore are diverse, including elements of punk rock, heavy metal, noise, and even classical music.

Characteristics and Sound:

The most defining characteristic of speedcore is its extreme tempo, with most tracks surpassing 300 beats per minute (BPM) and some even exceeding 1000 BPM. This intensity is coupled with aggressive percussion and bass lines, resulting in a music style that can feel chaotic, confrontational, and relentless. Although it is primarily rhythm-focused, melody, when present, often takes on a distorted, abrasive tone.

Structural Elements:

Speedcore tracks can have diverse structures. Some artists incorporate melodies into their tracks, creating somewhat more accessible compositions, while others focus entirely on rhythm and percussion. At its highest tempos, the rapid beats of speedcore can blur into a continuous drone, a characteristic that has led to the creation of the subgenre known as “extratone.”

Sampling and Themes:

Sampling is a common practice in speedcore, with artists often drawing from horror movies, political speeches, and other unexpected sources to add layers of complexity and shock value to their tracks. Thematically, speedcore tends to lean towards the anarchic, the subversive, and the provocative, with many tracks exploring dark or controversial themes.

Artists and Releases:

Several notable artists have helped shape the speedcore genre, including DJ Sharpnel, m1dy, Hellfish & Producer, and others. DJ Sharpnel, a duo from Japan, has released numerous albums incorporating speedcore, characterized by its use of otaku and anime-related elements. m1dy is another important figure in the genre, known for pioneering “extratone,” where the BPMs are so high that beats become indistinguishable, creating a singular tone.

Subgenres and Variations:

Speedcore has spawned a variety of subgenres and offshoots. “Extratone” is one such subgenre, characterized by extremely high BPMs. “Lolicore” is another subgenre that emerged from the speedcore and breakcore scenes, using anime samples to create a chaotic sound. Another notable variation is “flashcore,” which combines extremely high BPMs with atmospheric and experimental elements.

Cultural Impact and Reception:

Speedcore, due to its extreme nature, remains a niche genre, even within the electronic music community. The intense sound and aggressive themes may not appeal to mainstream tastes, and its live performances can be intense experiences. However, the genre has had a surprising influence on various other music styles, and its focus on boundary-pushing has sparked a great deal of creativity and innovation.

Notable Speedcore Artists

  1. DJ Sharpnel – DJ Sharpnel is the collective alias for Japanese electronic artists Jea and Lemmy who often incorporate speedcore into their tracks. They’ve been active since the late 1990s and have released numerous albums. Their work is characterized by the use of otaku and anime-related elements, resulting in a subgenre some refer to as “J-Core.”
  2. m1dy – Another Japanese artist, m1dy, is known for creating “extratone,” a sub-genre of speedcore defined by BPMs so high that individual beats become indistinguishable from one another, creating a tone.
  3. Hellfish & Producer – These UK based artists have created several tracks that fall into the speedcore category, often under the banner of “Deathchant Records.”
  4. Lolicore – This is more of a sub-genre than an artist, but it is worth mentioning. Lolicore takes influences from speedcore and breakcore and combines them with anime samples, creating a unique and often chaotic sound. The scene is decentralized and many artists release their music for free online.
  5. Venetian Snares – While not strictly a speedcore artist, Venetian Snares has made tracks in a variety of high-BPM genres, including breakcore, and some of his work has speedcore influences.

Speedcore represents a fascinating intersection of culture, technology, and art. Despite its fringe status, it offers a unique lens into how musical genres can evolve and push boundaries. From its intense tempo to its provocative themes, speedcore continues to leave an indelible mark on the landscape of electronic music.

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