If this were my usual column, I’d probably tell you that
last weekend’s hip-hop show at Pitzer with Anderson.Paak and Frak (aka Alex
Fraknoi PZ ’16) was a really fun affair and you should have been there. But, alas, even though those are both true statements, I’m growing increasingly tired of
the ‘you should have been there’ approach to writing about events.
Besides, with the hype-wagon for this year’s South By
Southwest festival in Austin in full swing, I’ve got more exciting things to
talk about. This year, KSPC is throwing its second annual showcase at the
festival, featuring the wonderful Elvis Depressedly and GRMLN.
I figured I’d use last week’s announcement of what
is by far the festival’s most anticipated showcase to chronicle the wonderful
and wacky world that is PC Music.
If you’re already giggling with glee, expect a tiny summary
of their story. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s fine because I’m here
to explain how a few art school kids from London got the entire music world in
a tizzy over their cute, glossy and accelerationist take on pop.
Since I hate
doing that thing where music writers tell everything like a neat little story
with a bow on top while namedropping releases like the reader
will actually look them up, I’ll restrain myself to just six key releases (mostly
singles too!) to string it all together.
For the uninitiated, it all started with SOPHIE. Well, not
chronologically or technically speaking because he neither began producing
first nor is he an actual member of the label. But in terms of popularity, he has
without a doubt been the highest profile proponent of the sound since his proper
debut in 2013 with “Bipp.”
It’s like a skeleton of a usual dance track, almost entirely
lacking anything you could really call ‘drums,’ but it remains one of the
catchiest songs of this young decade, having been repped by everyone from Kode9
to Skrillex. Impossibly befuddling in its simplicity, SOPHIE sounds like a
factory of violently happy androids who tried to make pop and actually succeeded.
Dux Kidz is one of the many aliases of PC Music ringleader
A. G. Cook and his longtime friend Danny L Harle. Along with wildly
experimental lovergirl GFOTY, they had been cooking up absurd pop experiments
on Tumblr since 2011 under the Gamsonite umbrella, but it wasn’t until these
Dux Kidz tracks that a clear aesthetic of 2000s
maybe-sincere-maybe-not-whatever pastiche really emerged. This one also helped
them hook up with SOPHIE, the results of which I’ll get to in a minute.
Cook ditched the Gamsonite name in 2013 when he launched PC
Music with GFOTY’s tragically aloof Bobby
EP. With the early releases staking out an aesthetically grounded niche, he
easily caught the attention of fashion-focused music publications like DiS and
TANK. Collaborating with the former, he dropped this DJ mix, which remains one
of the best things the whole label has done. A genuinely bonkers vision of
fantasmatic bubblegum universes, it’s just on point—even the stupid “Latch”
PC Music was really just an ephemeral art experiment until
Hannah Diamond happened. Produced by Cook, HD became the figurehead for the
whole label, a real pop star for a real (fake?) pop collective. She’s even got
a full-length record coming, the label’s first, and it all started with the
synthetic tears of the too-perfect “Pink and Blue.”
So I’m cheating again. This one actually got released by big
indie label XL instead of PC, but it’s an important step in the story because it’s
both the first SOPHIE and A. G. Cook collaboration and the crew’s first step
toward actually trying to hit the charts. The whole thing lacks their often
tongue-in-cheek, sometimes avant-garde approach, but I’ll be damned if it’s not
a successful clone of ’90s Eurodance.
The label’s most recent release, Cake Mix, showcases just one of the
vanguard members solidifying her sound even further. Full of jarring melodies
and wacky samples, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s even got a cover of “All
the Small Things!” Just like last year’s impeccable Secret Mix, it uses pop tropes as a base for experimentation and
And there you have it: an abridged guide to PC Music. Of
course, there’s a ton of releases and artists that I had to skip, but I’ll
leave further exploration up to you. The world of bubblegum-y, post-internet pop
has exploded in the past year. With sympathetic labels like Secret Songs,
Activia Benz and Manicure popping up left and right, and club nights like Jackdansu
and Creamcake providing the sound space to exist live, expect to see a lot more of
this URL sound IRL.
Gage Taylor PO ’16 is majoring in media studies and philosophy. He is the electronic music director for the 5C radio station KSPC, and his first concert was *NSYNC.