Release Date: Nov 18, 2016
Record label: N/A
PC Music first presented its ridiculously saccharine and relentlessly weird dance-pop to the world three years ago, and were greeted with a mixture of fervour, revulsion and skepticism: was it a deliberately crap parody or digital music taken to bracing new extremes? It never quite disrupted the mainstream, but has made inroads into proper pop through collaborations with artists such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX. Now, with the hype muted, this second compilation provides an opportunity to appreciate the music on its own terms – and it feels more beautiful and progressive than ever before. Highlights include Hannah Diamond and her slickly plaintive musings on online life, GFOTY introducing nu-rave and industrial influences into the PC universe, and head honcho AG Cook’s sublime postmodern pop song Superstar.
The response to PC Music was always balanced between delight and disgust, but at some point in 2015 the scales tipped. Perhaps it was thanks to Pop Cube, a "fake reality TV network" sponsored by Red Bull, at a time when opinion was turning against art that tries to critique consumerist culture by simply aping it. Or maybe it was when GFOTY made a racist joke in a festival review, revealing her persona to be a thoughtless provocation from a position of privilege.
Three years out from PC Music’s inception, it would be rash to deny the label/genre/cultural microphenomenon’s influence—not just in terms of the sheer number of think-pieces generated in its wake, but in the trickle-down of its aesthetic signatures. Take, for example, the breathy single “3 Strikes” by maybe-Kylie Jenner-fronted teen-pop act Terror Jr. The song’s otherwise unimaginative pop skeleton (lilting beat, insipid lyrics) is rendered magnetic through chilly vocal manipulation and melodic elements, which are at once dreamlike and austere.
The strangest thing about the PC Music dance collective is how little dancing is actually done when it’s played in the club. This was most apparent to me at Pop Cube, last year’s Red Bull Music Academy event devoted to the label and subgenre–as the squiggly electronica pounded from speakers, even the most devoted dancer in the room could only muster a head nod or half-swivel. Not even the power of the piles of nostalgia invoked—’90s Eurodance, TRL aesthetics, the gleeful nihilism of happy hardcore–could engage the crowd on that primal level.
The latest project from A.G. Cook’s stable of cyber electro-pop chemists is endearingly self-aware. Cook and co. know that PC Music built its fan base around their marriage of pop hooks, rubbery synths, and beguiling female vocals, and Vol. 2 offers up an uncut dose of exactly that, with a few ….