Sophie, PC Music and the Post-Ringtone Era
June 4, 2014 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Last year, Sophie's "Bipp" came out and blew a bunch of people's minds. It was XLR8R's best track of 2013 ("On a very basic level, it's almost impossible to define exactly (or even approximately) what 'Bipp' is.") Now the mysterious Sophie is going to be working with equally unusual J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (of "PONPONPON" fame/notoriety), pointing toward something singular and unprecedented on the horizon. On some level "Bipp" might be a pop manifesto of sorts, or a distilled blueprint for the future - global and k-/j-pop influenced, strange and disorienting, candy-coated and synthetic to an uncomfortably garish extent. A lot of people are wondering what happens next. Well, a post-Bipp (or post-ringtone) era might be underway: enter A.G. Cook, Hannah Diamond, and the rest of the shadowy collective PC Music.

Pigeons & Planes: "PC Music is an independent music label that started last year whose output, at this point, resembles an online art exhibit. Headed by A.G. Cook, a London producer in his early twenties, PC is developing a stable of artists and sounds to provide a manic vision of modern pop that comes out like our best guesses at what the status quo could be in 2025. The music is bright and inane, intoxicating and dumb, catchy and bizarre—considered together as a vision of what’s to come, this combination seems both futuristic and vitally current at the same time. The label’s driving sound is ostensibly pop, several steps sideways from what has dominated the Top 40 for the past twenty-odd years and deconstructed, melted down into something unrecognizable and captivating. It’s as if someone tried describing what pop music sounded like to an alien—major chords, catchy hooks, danceable rhythms, young women singing about love or sex—and then told that alien to try to make a song. PC Music tracks largely follow the same rules as a Britney Spears or Katy Perry song, but the results are utterly divorced from what we hear on the radio."

Influences include Scritti Politti, "J-Pop, K-Pop, Nightcore, Ark Music Factory, Hudson Mohawke and Nadsroic, Frank Zappa." Vaporwave and James Ferraro, the uncanny valley creations of Hatsune Miku, and Tumblr / internet aesthetics also seem to heavily inform this music.

Noisey: Trying to Make Sense of Hannah Diamond and Post-Ringtone Music

A few choice singles:
Keri Baby
Beautiful (Stereogum, Tiny Mix Tapes reviews)
Attachment (FACT, Pitchfork reviews)
Pink and Blue (Portals review)

Or enjoy a 30-minute SoundCloud set: PC Music

(Small note: Try not to knee-jerk dismiss! This stuff consciously straddles the line between repulsion and delight, so approach with an open mind and give it time to sink in.)
posted by naju (48 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
This is just...delicious Glassy, sweet, spiky strange. Thanks for posting, I had no idea.

I love it.
posted by freya_lamb at 12:42 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

[...] a group of artists connected by a sound that should be described as post-ringtone.

There is nothing ring tone about this music, bad description on that articles part. What an amazing label and collection of artists though. Thanks for opening my ears.
posted by Taft at 12:45 PM on June 4, 2014

Playing PC Music 30-minute set simultaneously with Joy Division creates that perfectly chaotic, irritated and awesome Lego Batman in Cloud Cuckoo Land -feeling.
posted by Free word order! at 12:58 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Repetitive circuit bent candy pop?
posted by Redfield at 12:58 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is a lot more, um, something, than the inanity of whatever pop stuff is being played in shops and restaurants now.

But still. Music like this makes me want to burrow into the safe darkness of shoegaze, drone, and dark ambient.
posted by Foosnark at 1:00 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I want to be part of a shadowy music collective so bad.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 1:06 PM on June 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

I love Bipp. I was one of the minds blown when I heard it. PC Music is a great idea in concept but in execution it's been hit or miss for me. I love noise and pop decontextualizations quite a bit but some of the PC music stuff has crossed over into just annoying with no redeeming features (see: Lipgloss Twins). Maybe I need to be in a better frame of mind next time.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:15 PM on June 4, 2014

I should've included the TANK interview with A.G. Cook because it's really fascinating.

"What interests me about pop music and commercial imagery in the first place is that it has the potential to be overwhelming, extravagant and banal all at the same time. Not only that, but mixing 'high culture' with pop culture has lost its radical edge to the extent that it's more or less mainstream. Challenging something's commercial nature is a commercial tactic in itself, and authenticity is a tricky currency that is often swayed by branding and advertising. I have nothing against this, and many people respond to this kind of stuff in a sophisticated way. Though it means that there is room for a subtler and possibly more compelling way of engaging with these ideas, where shock value and direct irony is replaced with ambiguity and uncanniness. My work's constant use of instantly gratifying elements such as kitsch imagery, catchy hooks, synthetic colours and fun sound effects feels inevitable, it's almost a compulsion rather than a choice. Saying that, I try to be thoughtful as to how and why I'm using these things, and I think my over-the-top use of structure and layout is a result of this. It's also what makes the work feel ambiguous. It's sort of communicating something, but there's all this extra stuff going on. By the time you try to figure out what it's about, you've entered a sort of immersive world of ideas and references. Making it difficult to navigate not only adds to this effect, but it's also a way of giving it the overwhelming, extravagant and banal potential of commercial work. It's a particular style of craftsmanship that I could perhaps afford to ignore if I ever ended up doing large-scale commercial work, but it's definitely a way of making a bigger impact with limited resources, like a virtuoso playing on a simple instrument or an outsider artist obsessively using a tiny object to make an enormous piece. Maybe it gives my work a kind of manic individual quality, despite the fact that it's also basically a slick collage."
posted by naju at 1:28 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I will say that the "cloud-to-butt" plugin makes reading this FPP about twelve thousand times more intriguing:
Or enjoy a 30-minute SoundButt set: PC Music
posted by scrump at 1:28 PM on June 4, 2014

Wow. These are......yeah. Kinda really awesome. Thanks for the hat tip naju.

(The sped-up cartoon female vocals remind me of UK happy hardcore or the melodies of some 90s dance tracks, but without the crazy heavy beat, just computer glitching noises instead....yeah)
posted by atlantica at 1:30 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm really enjoying this. Bipp is a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by marginaliana at 1:35 PM on June 4, 2014

Who knew there'd be a day where I'd want to listen to Green Gartside as an antidote to the sugar rush?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:55 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Alright... there goes my good night sleep.

Thanks, naju!
posted by bigendian at 3:17 PM on June 4, 2014

cool to see pc music show up here! I think they are the most interesting of the bunch of this new wave happy hardcore stuff. Most of the rest of it is super jersey club inspired or like seems to have blown out of the diplo brostep stuff. I don't know where this came from, but uk bassline feels like the closest. I guess dance music is all super cross pollinating, so it is hard to say that group is better than other.

my favorite of this kind of stuff (other than pc music) is:

dj paypal, dj warlord, and this hyperbaloid records release. I know there are others, because I listen to SO MUCH of this stuff, but that is probably ok to continue with if you are looking for more.
posted by jonbro at 3:55 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm epileptic. Well controlled. I haven't had a seizure in 15 years at least. But clicking the "Bipp" link just now made me feel like I was about to have one. This isn't a "get off my lawn thing" -- I love a lot of EDM and electronica and I even like candy pop in the right mood. This is just an observation: I have never had a seizure triggered by anything auditory (or visual) before, but the swoop/spike/whatever about 4 seconds into Bipp gave me a massive aura and I had to turn the thing off after about 90 seconds of what felt like living on the serious edge, because I was afraid my brain would explode. Weird.
posted by The Bellman at 4:08 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

What's striking to me about this music -- and Lorde is kind of in this category too -- is how spare the production is. Every sound is pointillistic and distinct and there's no attempt to swath sounds in a cocoon of reverb and effects like so much modern EDM and pop. Bass isn't as important as you'd expect and not everything has to sound huge. It's okay for things to sound small. It's the complete antithesis of the "wall of sound" aesthetic that has reigned in pop for decades. Though you could maybe trace it back to Bjork's Vespertine (which she said she wanted to sound good on tiny laptop speakers).
posted by speicus at 4:20 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Awesome. Bipp was one of my favorite songs last year but I had no idea PC Music existed. Also, love that the PC Music website has a .info domain.
posted by mosschief at 4:24 PM on June 4, 2014

This is beautiful; like late '80s twee rebooted with available technology.

Unrelated to PC Music (as far as I can tell) but with the same vibe: ▶ friend by bo en
posted by scruss at 4:34 PM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the old touchpoints that came to mind - thinking of the comments about pointillism that speicus made - is early 00's Mouse On Mars, like Actionist Respoke.
posted by naju at 4:37 PM on June 4, 2014

Thanks for this post! I fuckin love Bipp but I haven't had the time to delve into this scene yet.
posted by scose at 5:22 PM on June 4, 2014

some of the PC music stuff has crossed over into just annoying with no redeeming features (see: Lipgloss Twins).

Lipgloss Twins - Wannabe

Funny - I was going to chime in and say while all of this is vastly intriguing, the Lipgloss Twins are the standout for me (really A.G. Cook, who did "Beautiful" linked above, according to Stereogum). Also, I second the similarity in some of these PC Music tracks to Happy Hardcore without the pounding constant kick drum.

It's funny though, I've rarely encountered a musical genre/subgenre/whatever that I honestly can't decide if I vehemently hate or vehemently love. I hate the crap-pop music it's emulating but I love the way it's decimating it with Raster Noton level electronic minimal deconstruction.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:31 PM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

As a lifelong fan of electronic music, I'm always interested in hearing new sounds, and I'm glad for the post. I'm still exploring the genre an hour later, so I guess it's doing something for me.

That said:

I'm probably just an old codger who doesn't get Kids These Days, but sometimes I really don't understand what the Internet is doing to electronic music.

You know how old studio engineers complain that everyone listens to MP3-compressed music on crappy PC speakers and cheap earbuds and ringtones these days, and how it's hurting music? Well, I'm gonna be that dude, except I'm gonna complain about the setting and framing through which our music comes to us these days. Which is, of course, the Internet.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love the shit out of the Internet, and all the new music it makes available to me.

But if you think of the evolution of musical styles as a process of natural selection, then the main selection pressure on that process these days is music's ability to stand out in the tsunami of media that comes at us every day. And what wins in that game? Memes. Stuff with a "WTF" factor. Jarring juxtapositions for the sake of jarring juxtapositions. Animated GIFs. The aesthetic of "virality". In a word, gimmicks.

And a lot of that stuff's fun. But there isn't much substance there. I hear it, think "well, that was new", and move on. It's digital cotton candy: it dissolves almost as soon as I've registered that there's something in my mouth. There's nothing to chew on. It doesn't reward repeat listens. Its main value lies in its novelty—which is fleeting, and provides few emotional or intellectual rewards—just distraction.

And I'm not saying "oh noes; music is over; the Internets killed it"—but it really does seem like people are less interested in crafting artful, emotionally nuanced things, and more interested in creating the musical equivalent of jokey Photoshop memes.

tl;dr: i'm old and unhip and postmodernism scares me
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:37 PM on June 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

(and by "animated GIFs", I mean lulzy pop culture references in general)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:49 PM on June 4, 2014

There's totally a 10,000 word Medium post waiting to be written about how The Kidz are experiencing music and art within a fucked up attention economy and cultural environment where authenticity is a fool's game and everything happens in this weird refractory hall of rebloggable mirrors. And are managing to do interesting things and make waves in ways that Olds like me can't even conceive of. I'm not the person to write that post, because I don't really know what I'm talking about. Just saying. Maybe some 20 year old kid out there can explain.
posted by naju at 7:30 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Am I an old codger for not really getting the point of this music? It sounds like 80s pop meets kids music to me!
posted by divabat at 8:26 PM on June 4, 2014

I'm probably just an old codger who doesn't get Kids These Days

The kids are alright. "Bipp" is more than alright. And I think your argument would apply to a lot of the electronic music I listened to in the 90's. Odd noises, very random samples, stuff jammed together at a mile-per-second into this lovely stew. Even though they're very different stylistically from Sophie's song, your criticism made me think of 80's / 90's groups like Negativland, Meat Beat Manifesto, Atari Teenage Riot, the Avalanches, etc. Artists who applied the photoshop / meme / lulz aesthetic before such an aesthetic was mainstream. "Bipp" is new, and yet, nothing new at all.

And the thing about this current generation of music, electronic and otherwise, is the sheer variety of it. Soundcloud is always a rabbit hole for me. After "Bipp" was done, Soundcloud made a playlist of songs played by people who liked "Bipp" and the very first one was something very different . People who listened to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's awesome silliness also listened to the experimental mayhem of Vampillia. The kids aren't locked in to just one style of music, any more than we were when we were kids.

Maybe I'm just too much of an old and seeing the new things through old lenses, but honestly, it all seems like more of an evolution from the music I grew up with and not yet a completely new paradigm. Sure, back in my day, samples and recontexualization had to be done by walking 5 miles in the snow, uphill both ways, but it's all doing the same thing now, just more, much more, because the media trickle from my day has become a torrent, and Tumblr/Soundcloud/Facebook/Reddit offers a much faster feedback loop than the zines / usenet / random Geocities pages of our past.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:01 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Holy crap "Bipp" is so.

posted by egypturnash at 9:21 PM on June 4, 2014

honestcoyote: oooo I like Kwabs a lot, thanks for the link!
posted by divabat at 9:28 PM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Agree on the raster-noton-ish pointilistic aspect of this music. Very interesting combination of sparse production and hyperglossy, infantile PoMo antics. I do have an irrational hate towards electro house and dubstep inspirations though, which is very obvious in the distorted "epic"-sounding bassline/lead-thingy of Bipp. Slightly ruins it for me, and make it feel a lot less futuristic than what it supposedly strives for. But i'm all for the intense, MDMA-like smurf vocals and pop deconstructions. For those interested, is probably the closest visual equivalent to this music.

There is nothing ring tone about this music, bad description on that articles part. What an amazing label and collection of artists though. Thanks for opening my ears.

That ringtone comparison probably stems from James Ferraros seminal album Far Side Virtual, which was coined album of the year in 2011 by The Wire. The concept of that album, as elaborated by Ferraro himself, was to be 'a collection of ring tones'. The uncanny, hyperglossy aesthetics of his album was then repeatedly summarized by the superficial and catchy lightness of ringtones (or this idea of the ringtone, anyway). So post-ringtone is really just post-far side virtual here, which really isn't that far off, soundwise.
posted by hypertekst at 4:53 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't deny the addictiveness of "Bipp" and "Bipping", though. I've listened to them at least a dozen times since last night. It's kind of making me insane.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:51 AM on June 5, 2014

> I want to be part of a shadowy music collective so bad.

Okay! You're in mine!
I think.
Do I have one?
I'm not even sure, myself. It's that shadowy.

posted by ardgedee at 6:42 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Man, Bipp is keen. I'm gonna have to dig into more of this.

I've fallen super hard in love with CHVRCHES' album lately and it's interesting how this almost sounds like an alternate-dimension de-lushed b-side off of that that stayed up all night drinking coffee with some New Orleans Bounce.
posted by cortex at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2014

Also, GFOTY - Secret Mix is bizarre and wonderful and manages to get away with a couple of dead-eyed pop schlock references in a way that makes me want to start a slow clap crowd scene.
posted by cortex at 8:21 AM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

So in "Bipping", in the last line of the chorus, when she says "bip, bip-bip, bip-bipping", each "bip" (or at least some of them; it's hard to tell) lags ever-so-slightly behind the beat. For me, anyway, it's the main hook of the track.

What's that musical technique called? Is it just syncopation? It's like the rhythmic equivalent of blue notes.

Also, is it just me, or does this track not have much to do with the others featured in this FPP? Aside from the cheeky Interblog-referencing quirkiness, it's a pretty straight-ahead house track.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:44 AM on June 5, 2014

Can any DJs or clubbers here comment on Bipp's effectiveness on the dance floor? It seems a little too unstable but its also super catchy and fresh...
posted by scose at 9:29 AM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, is it just me, or does this track not have much to do with the others featured in this FPP?

Yeah, I don't think it has anything to do with this scene. It's just a weird framing device used by that Noisey writer.
posted by naju at 9:53 AM on June 5, 2014

This is cool, the first 10 seconds I was sure I wouldn't like it (generally only like pitched up vocals when they are more of an instrument than an actual song, like UK Garage style), but after the next 30 or so minutes of listening, I'm hooked. Thanks!
posted by cell divide at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2014

posted by azarbayejani at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jeez, I've been listening to this shit nonstop since yesterday. The mix at DIS Magazine is my favorite. Although "favorite" is kind of ambiguous because I still don't know if I love this or lovehate this or what.

I do know that, at some point soon, I'm gonna have to listen to a whole bunch of Appalachian dulcimer ballads as an antidote.
posted by neroli at 1:30 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seriously, it is unhealthy how many times I have listened to some of these tracks in the last 24 hours.

I just listened to "Pink and Blue" 5 times in a row.
I'm listening to the DIS mix for the 3rd time today.

I just contemplated making a sadcore cover of Pink and Blue.

Please send help.
posted by azarbayejani at 2:15 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

oh my god i just keep on replaying bipp it's so dissected

maybe i should try some of the other tracks listed here

but bipp is just so fucking perfectly matched to some rhythm in my brain

it's probably a hyperstimulus and is bad for me but so good
posted by egypturnash at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

It feels like "Bipp" has always existed, somehow. It was just waiting for someone to turn it into a recording.
posted by naju at 2:43 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

so yeah my theory is that this is not actually music generated by a "shadowy collective"

it is a series of fragments of Something being born on the Internet

that is creating these sonic trinkets designed to (1) make humans want to share them and (2) borrow our brains to do some kind of processing. Maybe we are thinking tiny fragments of an AI's thoughts. Maybe we are just mining Bitcoin. I don't know. I just know that it is taking physical effort to stop myself from replaying this thing again and again.

I might also just be really stoned. That could be an explanation too. But I could probably get a short story out of that theory.
posted by egypturnash at 3:34 PM on June 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Currently listening to stuff by Danny Harle -- A.G. Cook's childhood friend, and the other half of "Dux Content." Not very shadowy and rather legit, high-culture-wise. I like his Dowland arrangement for saxophone quartet. These are interesting people, I think.
posted by neroli at 3:43 PM on June 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's a good theory, egypturnash, but as a counter-argument let me just say that buy me a drink and I'll drink it drink it, because if your friend's your lover then your love is undercover.
posted by cortex at 3:47 PM on June 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Too deep, cortex.
posted by azarbayejani at 9:09 PM on June 5, 2014

posted by cortex at 8:34 AM on June 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by cgc373 at 9:48 AM on June 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

« Older "Let's go get 'em, boys," he said, arming himself...   |   Rocky Mountain High Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments