You probably don’t own many extratone records. Extratone, an electronic genre with a 1,000 BPM speed that can sometimes approach 10,000 BPM, is an acquired taste to say the least. Extratone is real and has a history in extreme hardcore. It has a community, DIY punk-like mentality, and unique look.
London-based artist and Slime City label owner Rick describes Extratone as extreme sound art. Zara Skumshot and Skat Injector are aliases. “It’s not about pounding kicks, but rapid kicks that have become tonal beasts. They’ve transformed. Evolution. Depending on manufacturing, it reminds me of harsh noise and HWN. The production has more synths and samples.
When kick drums are organized at rapid tempos (quarter notes or 16ths), pneumatic sledgehammer beats associated with ultra-speed music genres no longer exist. It’s a textural, tonal whirlwind. Extratone perplexes the senses when uncompromising (see the work of Gabberdoom). But the genre has numerous melodious examples (also see the work of The Quick Brown Fox). The stark contrasts are the essence of each extreme music style.
Neil LAR, founder of U.K. label Legs Akimbo Records, which closed in 2017: “That’s the trouble with tough music.” “It may be gratifying and harsh. Extratone music features both high distortion and complex sound design. It’s more varied than Frenchcore.”
“I regard extratone as pure power/pure frequency that you squeeze in your fist,” says Riccardo Balli, artist and founder of Italian label Sonic Belligeranza. “It’s so hard it’s easy. So fast that it’s no longer fast. When rhythms go so fast you can’t hear them, you experience aggression and chill.”
The earliest evidence of ultra-fast hardcore in dance music (not including grindcore) is Moby’s “Thousand” from 1993, which clocks in at 1,015 BPM and is the fastest documented production. Other examples include “Human 1000 BPM De Rebel Va Te Faire Enculer Rubik” by Explore Toi and “Killer Machinery” by DJ Dano, DJ Gizmo, Buzz Fuzz, and the Prophet (both 1994), but Balli describes them as reactions to hardcore’s developmental state at the time, not the seeds of a new genre.
“These songs reached the ‘impossible’ 1,000 BPM level,” he says. They’re more like an EP’s bonus track. I can see them as moments of furious, extreme madness in a context that celebrates madness.
DJ Einrich helped the genre flourish in the late ’90s. In Balli’s book Frankenstein, Or The 8-Bit Prometheus, extratone artist Ralph Brown (born Daniele Rossi) identifies Einrich as the genre’s founding instigator, revealing how Einrich used oscillators to transform kick drums into actual notes, in octaves.
Rossi explains that extratone was created by merging the German words extrahieren and tone. “A subgenre with so much BPM it seems extradimensional. So Einrich changed his name to Einrich 3,600 BPM (his ideal BPM) and released recordings on his own Immer Schneller Records. Extratone’s conceptual and mathematical approach originated here.
Speedcore has been at the center of ultra-fast electronic music since the ’90s. It has spawned sub-styles including splittercore (speedcore that exceeds 600 BPM and is under 1,000 BPM), flashcore (an experimental style of speedcore that doffs its cap to IDM), Frenchcore (a toughened, 200 BPM kind of hardcore that emerged from France in the late ’90s), or terrorcore (an abrasive extension of the Dutch and Belgian hardcore mothergenre gabber). Not all speedcore musicians and fans embrace or like extratone.
Neil LAR, a speedcore fan since the mid-1990s, first heard of extratone in 2002/2003 on the Speedcore.ca forums. People loved or hated it even then. I’ve noticed how petty and childish speedcore folks can be. Cliquey BS involving mature males is embarrassing.”
Emma Essex, aka The Quick Brown Fox, head of Halley Labs, adds, “stuff became faster and didn’t stop getting faster.” “A few styles stuck—especially in Europe, where speedcore is macho, violent, and angry. My belief is that speedcore must be angry or violent. Regional variances have mixed it up, but hostility remains a mainstay.
Extreme hardcore is known for its tongue-in-cheek humor and sarcastic knowingness, whether it’s the provocative crudities of Passenger Of Shit and his label Shitwank Records, the fun of Legs Akimbo, or the ludicrous conceptions of Sonic Belligeranza.
Balli describes how he hears super-hyper-mega rapid sound. “That fist-clenched-in-front-of-the-crowd gesture is humorous, but also serious and ironic, etc., in an ongoing game with the audience.”
Neil LAR doesn’t take anything seriously. “I could point you to others who love this, but I doubt they’d talk to you. By answering these questions, I’m probably “selling out.” I have little time for that mindset, and I’m sure I divided the Legs Akimbo fanbase by not caring and releasing whatever I wanted.
Essex says extratone creators make mash-up extratone, minimum extratone, noisy extratone, and “straight-up funny extratone.”
Essex: “You can just make it.” “Entry is easy. People who like odd music can start with a style that requires little understanding. Because of this foundation level, you hear bizarre musical decisions that a’versed’ composer or producer wouldn’t contemplate. I think that’s great in any creative scene; extratone just gets a bad rap for being that.”
Extratone’s pace, texture, and conceptual qualities set it apart from other styles
Balli and Ralph Brown’s Tweet It! Bologna artists noticed parallels between Twitter’s (1,456,000) and digital audio’s (1,411,200) data per second and created a 14-track EP in 2012. 1,400 BPM, 140 Hz, 140 characters per song text. Balli disagrees that extratone’s strong conceptual approach focuses on sound art and experimentalism.
Working with tonal/textural audio introduces a mathematical domain of sound, which Balli finds interesting. “This differs from sound art, though.” I think it’s primarily self-celebrating and rehashing avant-garde cliches. Most ‘experimental music’ isn’t really experimental. Extratone is ‘drone-ish’ but has a dynamic afflatus. Its noise isn’t static. It’s dance music, though. This makes it interesting to me.”
Neil LAR believes that extratone shines on the dancefloor, calling the performances of Jensen, Skat Injector, Gridbug, DJ Mucus, Extratrolls, Licho, Hersenerosie, HateWire, Junkie Kut, and 10Jonk-T “monumental.” Balli says the genre can offer unique dancefloor interactions. While not exactly an extratone artist, he has his own unique performance method that involves cutting pure tone records in a “hybrid, abstract turntablism no man’s land.” He feels the future of electronic music lies with performers who disprove the traditional laptop/Ableton pairing.
“Can’t forget Ralph Brown,” he smiles. His act is 100% adrenaline and he doesn’t use Ableton Live. He plays with serial killer eyes. Fun! It’s scary and funny.”
Skumshot says, “To truly enjoy extratone, you must see it live.” “It’s like entering another planet with a crushing atmosphere. You’re thrown into a severely strange sensory overload. Altered States garbage. You could be in a glitched-out computer program when lasers blind you and ‘tone’ fills your ears. Searing note bursts, lasers, strobes, and smoke throttle you out of existence—in the finest way.”
Extratone seems scary just from its description. Extratone is really real and is being investigated and developed by interesting and authentic artists since it transcends any net-based ecology.
Essex claims extratone’s underutilized, misunderstood toolbox is based on tenfold quicker kick drum sequencing. “People who think it’s ridiculous should examine it further”. Your extratone record collection may be small. But there’s more to it than the acquired taste (and ear).