Dr Chris Christodoulou presents ‘Speed Limits: Accelerationism, Popular Futurism and the Decline of Jungle Drum and Bass’ at Dance Cult 23.

The parallel development in the 1990s of jungle drum and bass as one of the most recognisable electronic dance music (EDM) genres to emphasise speed as a core experience, and the accelerationist movement, whose exponents, such as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), promoted the social, economic, and libidinal forces that constitute the process of acceleration, suggests a coterminous acknowledgment of the desirability and inevitability of speed as a popular technocultural discourse. Indeed, the CCRU claimed in 1996 that jungle was ‘not just music’ but ‘the abstract diagram of planetary inhuman becoming’. While the genre’s time-stretched breakbeats, powerful bass riffs, and accompanying sonic, visual, and lexical references to both speed and a pervasive ‘dark’ thematization,suggesting the potential of acceleration to unleash future states of dehumanisation, the radical futurism of jungle drum and bass has since dissipated, paradoxicallyrevealing that the techno-capitalist driving force behind accelerated culture has succumbed to stasis and inertia. 

This paper will examine the diminished cultural profile of jungle drum and bass – a genre that had previously been considered at the vanguard of sonic futurism based on its articulations of post-human speed – ironically, at a time of intensified cultural acceleration and interest in post-human subjective states. It will address tensions and contractions in accelerationist debates about the future – now signified as a settled set of concepts, affects, and associations that had largely entered the cultural consciousness through film, video games, and other image-based media, rather than specifically through EDM – to suggest that the speeding-up of culture by techno-capitalism is accompanied by a schizophrenic temporality that eliminates the possibility of transcending the past and the human, and, consequently, short-circuiting the ability to forge new futures.

Find out more about the conference on the Dance Cult website.