This past week I was in the midst of compiling a playlist for a friend’s birthday and found myself tasked with the problem of re-interpreting the meaning of ‘punk’ using contemporary electronic music. The knee-jerk response would be to gather a bunch of insane dubstep trills with the loudest mix possible to annoy the shit out of your neighbors but I wanted to dig deeper than that. Punk, to me, is not only a celebration of loud sounds (which it is) but making the listener uncomfortable and question the norm; its subversive of both society and medium. So this week we’ll focus our attention on some tracks that embody the new punk aesthetic.
Mysterious OWSLA-signed trio Phuture Doom that seemed to come out of nowhere in 2013 with torrent-encoded messages and mysterious glitched out video teasers that had low-key satanic vibes. They have since seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet but not before leaving a head-banging thrasher of a debut album. “Black Acid Reign” starts off with an apocalyptic speed metal intro that gets pummeled with an aggressive acid drop. The clash of shredding guitars and biting synthesizers constantly battle for dominance in a clash of epic proportions. Phuture Doom was one of the groups that at first terrified me but I grew to love, at the time no one was making music like this (and no one still is to be honest).
Speaking of speed metal, Oneohtrix Point Never’s latest album, Garden of Delete, has easily become one of the most celebrated electronic records of 2015. It was Oneohtrix’s strongest release to date, albeit one of his more left-field creations. The album in its entirety covers a large swath of aural landscapes interspersed with vignettes that bridge the gap between songs that make the whole work flow seamlessly. The lead track “Ezra” is a frenetic chopping of vocal samples into a feverish melody that trips over itself until it becomes growling dog noises over speed metal drums. It took several listens before I was able to make out the structure of the songs on the album; the standard verse, chorus, melody, breakdown are all in there but presented in such a manner that you need to re-learn how to listen to a song before you can pick them out.
I have extolled the virtues of REZZ countless times before in this very column. She is one of the freshest faces in techno with a sound inspired by industrial rock and hard-hitting progressive-electro from 2010. Her debut EP, The Silence is Deafening, has her refining this sound into a finely tuned weapon. One of the strongest cuts “Edge” juxtaposes winding guitar plucks with a speaker-breaking drop. The feedback-like trill has the same massive effect as Skrillex’s bass screams did in 2011 but in a way that carry’s the gravitas of a tuxedo clad Gesaffelstein smoking a cigarette on stage. REZZ is injecting new life into one of the longest standing genres in dance music in an era where it feels like things are more and more of the same.
Lil Data is yet another faceless figure to come out of the PC Music camp but one with a less traditional approach to music making than the rest of the roster. Not much is known about him/her/they outside of their releases on the UK based label. The Sup EP was the closest PC Music has come to ambient with syncopated rhythms and obscure motifs buried in micromelodies. Their latest release on Spinee’s Apocalypse Survival Kit runs the gambit between broken minimal beats to a bouncy 4/4 bridge with a catchy vocal hook of “so, you sold your soul to satan”. The whole thing collapses in on itself in spectacular fashion and tries to regain composure for the rest of the song but gets torn between too many different ideas, as if the track itself can’t figure out where it wants to go. “Financial Crisis” is weirdly alluring and demonstrates the extremes you can take the PC Music movement to if you distort and contort convention to your will.