Every now and again, something totally unexpected will unleash itself on the music world and force you to re-evaluate everything you thought to be true. In 2011, Vaporwave drifted into consciousness as a critique of 80s consumerism and a parody of the most sterile genres ever to exist: lounge, smooth jazz and muzak, yet ended up producing groundbreaking artists like Saint Pepsi. In 2012, Farrah Abraham of 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom fame made her musical debut with the melodramatically titled My Teenage Dream Ended, which, sonically, is the album Skrillex might have made if he had retained his “emo” leanings of yore and let his heart break into a thousand EDM pieces, yet remains undeniably compelling in places. And, in 2013, PC Music was born.
If you have yet to circle the galaxy of PC Music, you’re missing out. Starting up just last year, PC Music is a London-based record label whose output is focussed on “personal computer music.” Right now you’re probably asking yourself: what does that mean? And you’ll probably find yourself asking that same question repeatedly and with increasing agitation after spending weeks with their Soundcloud. Is it music? Is it noise? Isn’t that what our parents said about punk? Everything about it is so confusing to the point that its existence is almost indefinable, but I would go as far as to say that “personal computer music” is more a ~state of mind~ than it is a genre of music. It’s a weird, cosmic place where acid house odes to blogging are not only allowed to exist, but do so on the most ridiculous terms, with lyrics like “Wearing the denim!” and music videos that are introduced by a pug in a bucket hat (which I have a lot of time for tbh).
On face value, the PC Music aesthetic may feel like the most plastic aesthetics of the ’90s regurgitated as glitch music and garish graphics, but behind its lip-lined, clinical exterior lies as much heart and intent as any other form of music. In an interview with Tank Magazine, label founder A.G. Cook said “I particularly enjoy recording people who don’t normally make music and treating them as if they’re a major label artist,” which contextualises the aesthetic pretty neatly despite all its mystery.
The PC Label roster is comprised of everyday millennial’s whose emotional milestones are held within chat logs and sentiments are expressed primarily in emojis. Like the memes and virals that will come to define their generation, they make the kind of songs that are instantaneously awful but end up on repeat in your head for days and days and days until you either accept it as genius or kill yourself.
Or maybe, everything about it is really simple. Maybe as an audience we are too eager for “deeper meaning” and plagued by that which doesn’t seem to have any. Maybe some things exist just because. Like Vaporwave, it feels far more deliberate and self-aware than, say, Farrah Abraham, but when quizzed about her musical endeavours Abraham replied that she was just “messing around with music,” and ultimately, that’s what PC Music is doing too – messing with our pre-conceptions of what constitutes “a song” to the point where the end product is simultaneously hailed and hated.
The artists on PC Music are diverse but they move under the same label for a reason. For one, they are all brilliantly happy. It’s as though they were unsatisfied with “bliss” existing as an abstract concept and wanted to transform it into something you can listen to on the bus. Much of the output sounds like shimmering chiptune versions of ’90s pop anthems, landing somewhere between Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’, a Nokia ringtone, and the kind of song a children’s TV show would come up with to illustrate the importance of sharing.
The PC Music family utilises the Internet as an infinite and constantly changing time capsule for their art. In a realm where literally anything is possible, their surrealism makes them attractive and there is a tenderness to their schizophrenia. It’s pop music filtered through a Lynchian lens, and I feel bad for anybody who can’t enjoy that on some level.
*Note: It has come to my attention that Noisey published something v similar to this article and I’d just like to clarify that this was pitched and written before that went online and in no way did I try to re-work it and pass it off as my own. Anyway the Noisey article, written by Ryan Bassil, is super dope and features an interview with PC Music artist GFOTY in which they describe their music as ” a state of mind which can only be achieved by the deepest level of meditation on a beach in Barbados surrounded by cute jetski instructors”. Read it here.