By Cody Kenner
Hint: It’s not PC as in “politically correct.” It’s also not music made by a “personal computer.” Actually, it’s very easy to describe what PC Music isn’t. What exactly it is is much more difficult to discern.
PC Music is kind of a record label, but not really. Their releases are almost solely digital, and most of these releases are free tracks available on SoundCloud. You could call PC Music a collective, but that isn’t quite right either. The musicians involved in the label do collaborate with each other, but prior to performing as a showcase at the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, most had never even met in person.
What does define PC Music in a cohesive manner is its aesthetic. Taking cues from artist Ryan Trecartin, DIS Magazine, Japanese pop music, “Internet art,” and the most synthpop songs, PC Music’s vision is tangible both audibly and visually. The artwork for releases and the label’s website help fill in the image that is PC Music. When you go to the label’s homepage, you are greeted by a bright blue list of band names in Arial font, as well as a cheesy nineties Go Daddy-evoking image of a note and sound wave in the bottom right hand corner—the silly logo that somehow manages to capture what PC Music is all about. Peruse further and you will find pages of net art and fitting tracks to accompany it.
PC Music is sort of an art project, but it’s also much more than that. To describe the label as “art” would deny the pop sensibility inherent in its work. This quality is readily apparent in the names of its signed musicians: easyFun, Girlfriend of the Year (GFOTY), Hannah Diamond, and Lipgloss Twins.
Equally important as PC Music’s life as a pop art project is its existence as an internet project; artists like Dux Content, Life Sim, and Lil Data pay tribute to that with their names and the labyrinth-like mazes of hyperlinks on their personal webpages—links that lead to strange JPEG artifacts and MP3 files.
What’s more, PC Music’s artists have backgrounds that stray far from the realm of music composition. Label head A.G. Cook has produced for the likes of Charli XCX, and musician Hannah Diamond once worked for Logo, a dubiously authentic pop art branding agency that became legitimate when big-name brands like Louis Vuitton and Nike caught on to their work. QT, in addition to being a musician, is even a spokeswoman for an energy drink created by the label. Hayden Dunham, the face of QT (it is rumored that QT’s music is in fact a collaboration between A.G. Cook and the musician SOPHIE) claims to be, in the words of The Guardian’s Sam Wolfson, a “‘product designer’ whose background is in chemistry and ‘elixir creation.’”
As for the music itself, PC Music is pop, but not quite the pop you’re used to. Everything that is a staple of pop—the catchy beats, simplistic lyrics, synthetic, electronic melodies—is amplified and exaggerated to the extreme. Associated musician SOPHIE takes the pop formula and crafts his melodies out of harsh, tight, bubbly (yet also bassy and metallic) sounds. A.G. Cook takes the most basic, artificial keyboard sounds and meticulously arranges them to create sophisticated pop beats. GFOTY takes the hedonistic lyrics of modern pop songs and gives them a dark twist (“I’m so ready to bone / Like Medusa on a party phone,” from “Friday Night”). Each artist on the label twists a facet of pop music in a way that exhibits a unique, untreaded, and often sinister take on the beloved genre.
So PC Music is making a statement on pop culture…or is it? Label head A.G. Cook denies any hint of satire in the label’s music. “We take it seriously,” Cook stated in an interview with Rolling Stone. “This is a big part of our lives. There’s no way that satire could be at the core of anything.” Whether or not this mentality is true for the rest of the artists on PC Music is unknown, but it’s undeniable that PC Music pushes the envelope on pop conventions and content.
When it comes right down to it, PC Music isn’t simply one thing. It’s all sorts of things: a record label, internet art, a brand, a music scene, even a movement. And somehow, in all of their mystery and oddity, they manage to excel in all these capacities.