Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Online Underground: A New Kind of Punk? (Resident Advisor article)

 
Resident Advisor suggested I write an article for them about the emerging online underground, and the result was my most comprehensive (and polemical) statement on the topic to date (click here to read). It's running theme was a comparison to late-C20th punk and indie, and it went into the aesthetics of vaporwave and PC Music too. The piece appeared alongside a (controversial but, I thought, pretty brilliant) podcast by #Feelings boss Ben Aqua.

How many times has the concept of punk been redefined? Far too many to count, and besides, no one seems to want to label music any more. Even in the early '90s, barely 15 years into its life, the definition of punk had been broadened and warped in surprising directions—punk could mean naive pop, heavy metal in the charts, or even doing something yourself, whatever that might be. In a new music culture where guitars have been replaced by cracked copies of Ableton, bands have been replaced by anonymous individuals with SoundCloud accounts, and where rock as such hasn't really been on the underground agenda for years, what significance does punk still have?...

In each of these areas, the processes and problems of the online underground were those of the punk underground in the late 20th century. Building a musical culture on SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Facebook might seem new and strange (if only due to the technology involved) or—more negatively—unimportant or a sign of decline, but these paradigm shifts have happened to the underground before, and they hint at the opportunities and difficulties of the current situation....
Just like the classic punks, PC Music can be heard as dramatizing the decline of good taste at the hands of modernity, and in 2014 that means noble underground traditions like all that monochrome club/post-club music that rakes reverentially and melancholically through 30 years of analogue production all being displaced by digital decadence, rampant excess and fucking children. PC Music are trolling old ravers, the generation that built the hardcore continuum; they're trolling old punks and their insistence on realism. They're saying, "We might as well sound like this. In a world of gloss and accelerated desire, this is what society made us." And in this regard, they're punks...

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