Thursday, 6 February 2014

Pattern Recognition Vol. 10: Pon! Cuter Love

v cute illustration by inka gerbert
The latest Pattern Recognition is on the spread of cuteness in the UK and US electronic music undergrounds, especially the influence of the Japanese kawaii aesthetic (click here to read). Featuring JACK댄스, Power Lunches, AG Cook, FELICITA, SOPHIE, DJ Paypal, Tielsie, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, nightcore, j-core, Kanja, ZOOM LENS, Slime Girls, Yasumiyasumi, i-fls, SPF420 & MEISHI SMILE. Includes a rare occasion on which I actually report back on an actual live music even I actually went to. Survived online cold turkey for several hours. The intense cuteness helped.

I think Power Lunches is my favorite club in London right now. The place is like a weird light blue diner and it’s always full of aliens. It’s got flamboyant artificial plants and avant-garde beer bottles and its sound system is proper good—it loves to make a parping noise that sounds like the universe ripping open. Weekend before last, I squeezed myself into its basement and had my brain scrubbed by digital damagists Brood Ma and Recsund, then soothed by the elegant dream-dance of Emotional. Last weekend I dragged some friends down there with the promise of cuteness...

Oh yeah, Sophie, who you might have heard of. Well, we all thought Sophie’s set was one of the best things we’d moved our tushies to in ages, and it was cute, too. The set sounded like it was full of new material—wiggly synth lines and pushy pop divas with their voices pitched up, like grime all painted pink. The other acts played all kinds of tunes—I think we heard Avril Lavigne and a rave remix of the Fireman Sam theme tune. So yeah, it wasn’t a dubstep night or anything...

Cuteness is coming up. Seems like a network of younger producers and DJs are not particularly inclined towards the more po-faced and straight-laced tastes and traditions, be they the screwface macho mainline of the old UK hardcore continuum or the leagues of frowning analogue avants or the Right and Proper Preservation of House. They’d rather have the even more euphoric, poppy, often faster-paced melodic hardcore with pitched-up vocals—the whole thing pitched up really, often so’s there’s no real bass to speak of—and a pinch of weirdness thrown in...
Jack댄스 flyer
While you might have feared that Kyary’s music, videos and performances are little more than a raging torrent of soft, small, pastel-colored objects and lurid affirmation, what makes her art supremely cute is not ultimately the intensity of the cute imagery, but the subtle and charismatic way she wears it. Underneath all the sets and costumes, the slightly restrained, modest, almost shy way she performs the songs and their dance routines cleverly makes her both human and even more cute, since cute things are sooooooo much cuter when they aren’t aware of their cuteness...

I think the essence of cuteness is not just in being cute, in being diminutive, young, pastel-colored, sweet-tasting per se. It’s in being made cute, in having to perform cute, and perhaps in getting it slightly wrong in the process.. I think Kyary dresses up as ‘dressing up’... When you remember that the figure at the center of all these parades is a representation of a pre-pubescent child, the videos can become remarkably poignant...

The California-based Zoom Lens label has a japanophile and cute flavor in much of its imagery and music, which blends dreamy indie with 8-bit and rave euphoria. Slime Girls’ Vacation Wasteland offers really well-composed melodic rock album rendered in 8-bit, yasumiyasumi’s Tokyo Digital Love is a more diverse, almost cinematic take on the same, while i-fls’s Residential Town Loneliness skirts vaporwave with its endearing lil instrumentals... One of the more prominent hubs of middling-to-strong cuteness has been the TinyChat (a free online chatroom service) gig platform SPF420, where gigs have an overwhelmingly warm and upbeat atmosphere and where the track selection mixes underground sounds with songs so unashamedly poppy you wonder whether you’re at a school disco...
Meishi Smile - Lust
If 2014 is going to be a year of cuteness in the online underground, it represents yet another in a series of severe challenges the area has posed to the tastes of more traditional music undergrounds. First there was seapunk, then vaporwave, and now this?! All of them are ridiculous affronts to classic cool and bearded vinylologists—it’s like they don’t yearn to be taken seriously by the establishment or something!...

No comments:

Post a comment